Karachi may host the first Test as the switch starts from Rawalpindi.

With Karachi being mooted as an alternative venue for England’s historic first Test in Pakistan, the PCB and ECB are discussing a back-up itinerary to be held in Rawalpindi. Political unrest continues, which is the real venue for the first match of the series.

In this itinerary, the tour dates are the same but Karachi hosts both the first and third Tests, with Multan playing the second match as per the original schedule. England have not played a Test in Karachi for over 20 years, since their famous twilight win in the 2000-01 series.

With a final decision expected in the next 48-72 hours, the PCB wants to ensure all state and local bodies are on board with the switch.

Rawalpindi, home to the army headquarters and adjacent to the capital Islamabad, was scheduled to host the Test from December 1. But almost two weeks ago, unrest erupted in the capital following the assassination of former prime minister (and former captain) Imran Khan at a rally. Since then, a series of protests began.

Khan survived an injury to his right leg and is now planning a long march to the capital, along with his PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf – Tehreek-e-Insaf) party, demanding fresh elections.

He was removed from power in April after a parliamentary no-confidence vote. Although no date has yet been announced, it is expected that the march from Lahore will reach the capital by the last week of November, when the British contingent will land.

Amid public protests last week, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy match between Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at the Pindi Stadium was first postponed for a day due to which the teams could not travel from the hotel to the stadium, then abandoned altogether. Both teams took five wickets each. The latest round of the points competition, which began on November 14, features ongoing matches in Karachi, Lahore and Abbottabad, with Rawalpindi no longer hosting any matches.

ESPNcricinfo understands that the England tour faces no direct threat from the current situation, with team safety being the PCB’s top priority, and the ECB on board with all backup plans. Last week, England Test captain Ben Stokes said his team would rely on the ECB’s security delegation, led by his veteran adviser Reg Dickson.

Apart from the change of venue, the tour dates remain unchanged, with England arriving from their training camp in Dubai on November 26-27, with the first Test starting on December 1. The second Test will be played in Multan from December 9. -13 and the third Test, already scheduled in Karachi from December 17 to 21, remains as originally planned.


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