England's scheduled tour of Pakistan for two T20Is in mid-October has been cancelled, the ECB have announced.
England's men and women were due to play T20I double-headers in Rawalpindi on October 13 and 14, with the women's team staying on for a subsequent three-match ODI series.
But following New Zealand's last-minute withdrawal from their tour of the country due to a security threat, the fixtures have been scrapped. The ECB use the same security consultants, ESI Security, as NZC and despite Wasim Khan, the PCB's chief executive, insisting on Sunday that he expected the fixtures to go ahead as scheduled, they were immediately in doubt after New Zealand flew home.
The ECB released a statement on Monday afternoon confirming that its board had "reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip", citing "increasing concerns about travelling to the region" and the prospect of adding "further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments". Notably, the statement did not specifically mention security concerns.
"The ECB has a longstanding commitment to tour Pakistan as part of the Men's Future Tours Programme in 2022," the statement said. "Earlier this year, we agreed to play two additional T20 World Cup warm-up games in Pakistan in October, adding a short women's tour with double headers alongside the men's games.
"The ECB Board convened this weekend to discuss these extra England Women's and Men's games in Pakistan and we can confirm that the Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip.
Pakistan tour cancellation 'hugely sad' - Connor
"The mental and physical well-being of our players and support staff remains our highest priority and this is even more critical given the times we are currently living in. We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region and believe that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments.
"There is the added complexity for our Men's T20 squad. We believe that touring under these conditions will not be ideal preparation for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, where performing well remains a top priority for 2021.
"We understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB, who have worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in their country. Their support of English and Welsh cricket over the last two summers has been a huge demonstration of friendship. We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasise an ongoing commitment to our main touring plans there for 2022."
Ramiz Raja, the newly-appointed PCB chair, accused the ECB of "failing a member of their cricket fraternity when it needed it most".
Clare Connor, the ECB's managing director of women's cricket, told ESPNcricinfo: "It's hugely sad. We've had lots of meetings over the last few days, with everything that has been going on in that part of the world, and it's desperately sad for Pakistan cricket and for the fans in that part of the world who are desperate to support their players and see live cricket in their country.
"It's very disappointing - our players were excited about the prospect of a historic tour for England women to Pakistan and to take international women's cricket to that part of the world would have been something they were very much looking forward to and would have been proud of, but it's not to be.
"Our players have done amazingly well in testing circumstances - not to over-egg the difficulties of being an international cricketer, but the women have been in these bubbles or safe-living team environments since June when India arrived, through that series, the Hundred and now the series against [New Zealand]. Those are new challenges which most of them have coped really admirably with."
The Pakistan T20Is are the latest in a number of England men's fixtures to be postponed, following the white-ball tour of Bangladesh and the fifth Test against India. The cancellation ensures that any England players whose teams qualify will be available to play in the final stages of the IPL and also extends the rest period in the schedule for the multi-format players who will appear in both the T20 World Cup and the Ashes.
PakistanEnglandEngland tour of Pakistan