ISLAMABAD: The Australian cricket team on Sunday night landed at Pakistan’s Islamabad International Airport for their first cricket tour in the country in 24 years amid tight security.
Australia last visited Pakistan in November 1998.
During the tour, the Aussie men will take on Green Shirts in three Test matches, the same number of ODIs and one T20. The first match of the Test series will begin on March 4 in Rawalpindi. It will be followed by Tests in Karachi and Lahore before three ODIs and a single T20, all in Rawalpindi.
Senior batsman Steve Smith posted a picture on Twitter of the 35-strong Australia tour party inside their charter flight's cabin after it touched down in the Pakistan capital, Islamabad.
Pakistan have struggled to attract visiting sides since a fatal terror attack on the visiting Sri Lanka team's bus in 2009. Australia pulled out of a tour five years earlier after a suicide blast at a Lahore church.
They last played in Pakistan in 1998, winning the three-Test series 1-0 and blanking the hosts in the three one-day internationals.
Having been forced to play their home games abroad -- mostly in the United Arab Emirates -- Pakistan appeared to have reassured international cricket authorities last year with both New Zealand and England scheduled to tour.
But the Black Caps hastily departed in September just minutes before their first match was due to start, citing security fears, and England postponed tours by both their men's and women's teams soon after.
The decisions incensed Pakistan cricket authorities, who felt they had done everything possible to ensure safety and security.
Those who arrived in Pakistan today include Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Marnus Labuschagne, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Marsh, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and others.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials welcomed the players upon arrival at the Islamabad International Airport.
March 4-8 — First Test, Rawalpindi
March 12-16 — Second Test, Karachi
March 21-25 — Third Test, Lahore
Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan (vice-captain), Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, and Zahid Mahmood.
Cricket Australia has already announced an 18-member Test squad.
Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, and David Warner.
'Head of state-level' security
"The squad will be given 'head of state-level security'," a spokesman for Pakistan's interior ministry told AFP.
"Such arrangements are only made for high-level foreign delegations, (and) the president and prime minister of Pakistan."
Roads will be blocked off when the Australians make the 15-kilometre (11-mile) commute, with their team bus to be shadowed by army helicopters.
Snipers will be positioned on buildings surrounding the stadium, while nearby shops and offices have been ordered to close on match days, the interior ministry said.
Similar arrangements will be in place for matches in Karachi and Lahore.
On Friday, Test skipper Pat Cummins had said his team was "comfortable" with security arrangements and excited by what lies ahead, as Australia prepare to jet into Pakistan on their first tour since 1998.
"We've got to a place where everyone hopping on the plane is comfortable with where it's all sitting. It's been a really thorough body of work that the security and the logistics teams have worked through," Cummins said.
The Australians will be confined to quarters for 24 hours after arrival for Covid tests, before intense training ahead of the first Test starting March 4.
More than half Pakistan's 220 million people were not even born the last time Australia toured -- the median age is 22.8 -- but stadiums are expected to be packed as the country emerges relatively unscathed from the Omicron stage of the Covid epidemic.
Pakistan-Australia Test series tickets put up on sale
On February 25, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had kickstarted the online sale of the tickets for the upcoming Pakistan-Australia Test series.
The PCB had announced the timings for ticket sale in a press statement earlier today.
Cricket enthusiasts can log on to https://pcb.bookme.pk/ or can purchase tickets from their nearest M&P Courier outlets, according to PCB.
For the Rawalpindi Test, only two enclosure categories are available.
The ticket prices for the three-day series of Pakistan-Australia at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium from March 4-8 are as follows:
Rs500 for VIP enclosures that comprise Imran Khan, Javed Akhtar, Javed Miandad and Azhar Mahmood.
Rs100 for premium enclosures that include Shoaib Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Miran Bakhsh and Yasir Arafat.
Additional input from AFP
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