NZ cricket team arrives in Pakistan after 18-year absence

The New Zealand cricket team arrived in Pakistan on Saturday for a limited-over series marking the Kiwis’ first international series in the country since 2003.

They played a five-match ODI series in Lahore 18 years ago but since then Pakistan has hosted New Zealand in the United Arab Emirates three times because of security concerns of foreign teams touring Pakistan.

New Zealand’s squad includes batting coach — Sri Lankan Thilan Samaraweera — who was injured in the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus in Lahore that made Pakistan a no-go zone for international cricket teams.

The series comprises three ODIs and five Twenty20s starting with the first ODI at Rawalpindi next Friday. Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi will also host the other two ODIs on Sept. 19 and 21 while Lahore will host all five T20s as both teams prepare for next month’s T20 World Cup in the UAE.

Originally, the ODI series was scheduled to be part of the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League. However, the Pakistan Cricket Board said it will now be a bilateral series due to “non-availability of Decision Review System (DRS) technology.”

New Zealand is also scheduled to play two test matches in Pakistan in the 2022-23 season and the PCB said New Zealand Cricket has agreed that it will play three ODIs on that tour “which will count towards the World Cup 2023 qualification.”

In the absence of white-ball regulars — captain Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Lockie Ferguson — New Zealand struggled in Bangladesh, losing the T20 series 3-2 under the captaincy of Tom Latham.

All four players missed out on the tours of Bangladesh and Pakistan because of their commitment to the Indian Premier League, which resumes in the UAE from Sept. 19.

Ross Taylor will also be absent as the experienced batsman was not only rested for the tours of Bangladesh and Pakistan but will also miss out on the T20 World Cup.

The PCB secured government approval for 25% capacity crowds at both Pindi Cricket Stadium and Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore which means 4,500 spectators can attend the games in Rawalpindi and 5,500 in Lahore.

The Kiwis’ T20 team will be strengthened with the return of opening batsman Martin Guptill and spinner Ish Sodhi, both of whom missed the T20 series in Bangladesh. They’re scheduled to arrive in Pakistan later Saturday alongside Todd Astle, Daryl Mitchell and Mark Chapman.

After three days of isolation in the team hotel, New Zealand will play two intra-squad matches at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.