Australia: ‘We’re ready to tour Pakistan’

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Test series boost for Pakistan

CRICKET Australia have given their biggest hint yet that they will tour Pakistan later this year.

Australia haven’t played in Pakistan since 1998 and last years March tour was cancelled amid security fears following the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The team had the chance to play in Pakistan last September in the Champions Trophy but they were one of five nations who refused to travel.

But it now looks highly likely that two separate tours of Pakistan will go ahead this year, with the first likely to take place in April.

Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young said: “All I can say is that we are very, very keen to play Pakistan at the scheduled time and are looking forward to doing so, subject to the normal safety and security criteria that apply whenever we play anywhere.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board revealed they would push for the tour to take place on Pakistani soil but would be open to the idea of playing matches at neutral venues should the issue of security crop up once more.

PCB chairman Iijaz Butt said: “The priority is that Australia tours Pakistan and they have also conveyed to us they would like to play the series in Pakistan as they have not visited Pakistan since 1998.

“The Australians will, as the tour approaches, carry out normal security checks and take advice from their foreign office and security consultants.

“But we are pushing them to play in Pakistan and be assured we will provide them the top security for the one-day series.”

The news will come as a timely boost for Pakistan who are still reeling following India’s refusal to tour the country this month in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Sri Lanka filled the gap left by India but they will not split their tour in two – playing three day-night ODI’s later this month and then returning in February for two Tests.

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