England cricket tours of Pakistan could be off after NZ pulls out over ‘security alert’

England cricket tours of Pakistan could be called off after the New Zealand team pulled out over a “security alert”.

Both the England men’s and women’s teams are due to play there next month, but the England and Wales Cricket Board said it was liaising with its “security team on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation”.

It will decide whether to proceed in the “next 24-48 hours”, it added.

New Zealand were due to play in the first of three one-day internationals in Rawalpindi this evening, before moving to Lahore for a five match T20 series.

But following what officials described as an “escalation in the New Zealand government threat levels for Pakistan”, it was decided that the players should fly home.

“Arrangements are now being made for the team’s departure,” a statement continued.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Pakistani government said “foolproof security arrangements” had been put in place and the Kiwis had been “assured” of that.

But David White, chief executive of New Zealand Cricket (NZC), said withdrawing was the “only responsible option”.

He added: “I understand this will be a blow for the PCB, who have been wonderful hosts, but player safety is paramount.”

Heath Mills, who heads the New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association, said his organisation was “fully supportive of the decision”, adding: “The players are in good hands – they’re safe, and everyone’s acting in their best interests.”

NZC said it would not be commenting on the “details of the security threat nor the updated arrangements for the departing squad”.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, has spoken to Jacinda Ardern, his counterpart in New Zealand, the PCB said in a statement.

Mr Khan apparently told Ms Ardern that Pakistan has “one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team”.

“The security officials with the New Zealand team have been satisfied with security arrangements made by the Pakistan government throughout their stay here,” the statement went on.

But Ms Ardern said that while the cancellation was disappointing, she supported the decision to pull out.

“When I spoke with the prime minister of Pakistan I conveyed our thanks for taking care of the New Zealand Cricket team,” she said.

“I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn’t gone ahead, but we totally support the decision that’s been made. Player safety has to be paramount.”

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