LAHORE: Pakistan cricket captain Misbah-ul Haq hopes the upcoming test series in England will help spur the return of international cricket to the South Asian nation after a seven-year absence due to security fears.
Pakistan has not staged test matches since a 2009 gun attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore killed six Pakistani policemen and a van driver. Some players and a local umpire were injured.
Improved security in Pakistan in recent years has prompted calls for international teams to return but test playing nations have so far refused to tour a country where Islamist militants still pose a threat.
Misbah told Reuters he hoped the four-test series in England “would help revive cricket series in Pakistan”.
Pakistan last played test matches in England in 2012 and the 42-year-old batsman said he expected an “exciting” tour after such a long gap.
“It is a big tour for Pakistan,” Misbah said late on Thursday during a send-off dinner for the Pakistani team hosted by Britain’s High Commissioner to Pakistan, Thomas Drew.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron also sent a good luck message to Pakistan’s team, saying: “I hope that one day in the not too distant future I will be able to wish the England cricket team a successful tour of Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s formidable pace attack, spearheaded by left-armers Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, will face a resurgent and youthful England team captained by Alastair Cook, who last month became the first England cricketer to reach 10,000 test runs.
“England cricket team is a strong and balanced one,” Pakistan’s experienced all-rounder Muhammad Hafeez said. “Pakistan team has plenty of talent. We will try to give a quality series to the spectators and cricket fans.”
Pakistan defeated England in a three-test series in 2015, winning two matches and drawing the third.
The coming test series will see the return of Amir to test cricket after serving a five-year ban following a spot-fixing scandal in England.
It will also be the first test series for leg-spinner Yasir Shah since he served a three-month suspension for a doping violation.
Shaharyar Khan, chairman of Pakistan’s cricket board, said he was confident Misbah’s squad would hold its own against England and urged them to show their worth.
“I would say, play hard, giving no quarter to England for under Alastair Cook they are too good an outfit to not make you regret it,” he said.
Pakistan will play four tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 International in England between July 14 and Sept. 7.