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New cricket team arrives in Pakistan after 18 years absence

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ISLAMABAD (AP) The New Zealand cricket team arrived in Pakistan on Saturday for a limited series that marks the Kiwis’ first international series in the country since 2003.

They played an ODI series of five matches in Lahore 18 years ago, but since then Pakistan has hosted New Zealand in the United Arab Emirates three times over concerns about the safety of foreign teams touring Pakistan.

New Zealand’s squad includes batting coach Sri Lankan Thilan Samaraweera who was injured in the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team bus in Lahore, which turned Pakistan into a no-go zone for international cricket teams.

The series consists of three ODIs and five Twenty20s, starting with the first ODI at Rawalpindi next Friday. The Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi will also host the other two ODIs on September 19 and 21, while Lahore will host all five T20s as both teams prepare for next month’s T20 World Cup in the UAE.

Originally, the ODI series was planned to be part of the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League. However, the Pakistan Cricket Board said it will now be a bilateral series due to the unavailability of the Decision Review System (DRS) technology.

New Zealand is also scheduled to play two Test matches in Pakistan in the 2022-23 season and the PCB said New Zealand cricket has agreed it will play three ODIs on that tour which will count towards qualifying for the 2023 World Cup.

In the absence of regular cue players, captain Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Lockie Ferguson New Zealand struggled in Bangladesh, losing the T20 series 3-2 under the captaincy of Tom Latham.

All four players have missed out on Bangladesh and Pakistan tours due to their commitment to the Indian Premier League, which resumes in the UAE from September 19.

Ross Taylor will also be absent, as the veteran batsman was not only equipped for the Bangladesh and Pakistan tours, but will also miss the T20 World Cup.

The PCB has received government approval for a 25% capacity rush at both Pindi Cricket Stadium and Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, meaning 4,500 spectators can attend the games in Rawalpindi and 5,500 in Lahore.

Kiwis’ T20 squad will be bolstered with the return of opening batsman Martin Guptill and spinner Ish Sodhi, both of whom missed the T20 series in Bangladesh. They will arrive in Pakistan later Saturday, along with Todd Astle, Daryl Mitchell and Mark Chapman.

After three days of isolation in the team hotel, New Zealand will play two matches within the team at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.

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