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England will visit Pakistan for the first time in 16 years when they play two T20 Internationals in October 2021, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced on Wednesday.

The short tour will serve as a build-up to the Twenty20 World Cup in India that is scheduled to start the same month, and comes as international cricket returns to Pakistan following an attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 that killed six policemen and two civilians.

The matches are scheduled for Oct. 14 and 15, both in Karachi.

“This will be the first time since 2005 that an England team has toured Pakistan and as such it represents a significant moment for both nations,” ECB Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison said.

“As always, the safety and welfare of our players and staff will be paramount. We are working closely with the PCB to ensure all the necessary plans are in place, especially concerning the anticipated levels of security around the team, the proposed travel protocols and of course the situation regarding the fast-moving and ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic.”

Pakistan have hosted Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe on home soil since September 2019. Since the bus attack, they had mostly used Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi as home venues.

ECB also announced a provisional home schedule for 2021 on Wednesday with a five-match test series against India set to headline the English summer.

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are penned in for limited overs matches between June and July before the first test against India on Aug. 4-8 at Trent Bridge. The final test is scheduled to be held in Manchester from Sept. 10 to Sept. 14.

England were the first side to invite teams after the COVID-19 hiatus this year, with matches held in bio-secure bubbles without fans but the ECB hopes to have spectators return to stadiums with general sale tickets available in January.

“Next year we’ve got another big international programme to look forward to, with the thrill of a five-test series against India as the centrepiece,” Harrison said in a statement.

“While COVID means there’s still a great deal of uncertainty, we really hope to be able to welcome fans back into the grounds safely next year to bring that unique atmosphere to stadia across the country.”

The England women’s team also plans to host South Africa and New Zealand while the Visually Impaired team takes on Australia in a limited-overs series in August.

(Reuters)