England will make their first trip to Pakistan for 16 years when they play a two match T20I series in Karachi next October as part of their preparations for the T20 World Cup.
The Pakistan Cricket Board had initially invited England to tour the country in January but a fixture clash ultimately rendered that impossible. England are already due to be playing a Test series in Sri Lanka in January and in addition, a number of their first-choice limited overs players have signed deals to play in the Big Bash which would have also clashed with the dates.
As such, both boards agreed that October would be a more feasible time for the series to take place, ensuring that England could tour with a full-strength team rather than a second, or even third, choice squad. The two matches will take place in the Karachi National Stadium on October 14 and 15. England will arrive in Pakistan two days before the series begins and will depart for the T20 World Cup in India on October 16.
England have not been to Pakistan since 2005, when they played three Test matches and five ODIs, losing both series. Following the terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009, Pakistan's subsequent home series against England, in 2012 and 2015, were played in the UAE for security reasons.
However, international cricket has slowly been returning to Pakistan. Sri Lanka played a Test series there earlier this year while Zimbabwe have just completed a limited overs tour of the country. The whole of this season's Pakistan Super League took place in Pakistan too.
Those series and tournaments have demonstrated the effectiveness of the high-level security arrangements put in place by the PCB, with governmental support, and proved that Pakistan is safe for teams to visit.
England's trip will pave the way for a fuller tour, including three Test matches, in the winter of 2022-23 as part of their Future Tours Programme obligations. South Africa and New Zealand are also due to play in Pakistan next year while Australia have a commitment for Test and limited overs series in early 2022, as part of the FTP.
Wasim Khan, PCB Chief Executive, said: "The October 2021 T20Is will allow the leading England cricketers to access and examine the world-class arrangements we will put together, which will give them further encouragement and confidence to not only return in 2022-23 but also express their interest in the Pakistan Super League, which has grown to become one of the top leagues in the world.
"The enhanced progress made over the last two years has been down to nurturing relationships with various cricket boards and international players, as well as building trust and confidence. The ECB's confirmation further endorses Pakistan as safe and secure."
The short tour is also payback for the PCB sending a team over to England during the summer, despite the COVID-19 pandemic engulfing the country. The Pakistan squad were locked away in a bio-secure bubble for seven and a half weeks and Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, said last month that English cricket had been saved by the likes of Pakistan coming to England to play.
"It's a real pleasure to announce that the England men's IT20 squad will be playing in Pakistan in October 2021. It represents a significant moment for both nations," Harrison said. "As was demonstrated this summer, we have a strong relationship with PCB and ECB is delighted to be able to play our part in ensuring the safe return of international cricket to this wonderful nation of passionate cricket fans.
"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."