England have decided to withdraw from the men's and women's tours of Pakistan in October citing "player and staff wellbeing", their cricket board confirmed on Monday. The news comes as a massive blow for Pakistan cricket, which already saw New Zealand withdraw from their limited-overs series at the last minute on Friday due to security concerns.
The England men and women's teams were each scheduled to play two Twenty20 international matches on October 13 and 14 in Rawalpindi, with the women's side due to stay on for a three-match one-day international series from October 17-21.
But the ECB decided to pull the plug on both series due to the "increasing concerns about travelling to the region".
"The ECB has a longstanding commitment to tour Pakistan as part of the Men's Future Tours Programme in 2022.
"Earlier this year, we agreed to play two additional T20 World Cup warm-up games in Pakistan in October, adding a short women's tour with double headers alongside the men's games.
"The ECB Board convened this weekend to discuss these extra England Women's and Men's games in Pakistan and we can confirm that the Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip.
"The mental and physical well-being of our players and support staff remains our highest priority and this is even more critical given the times we are currently living in. We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region and believe that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted Covid environments.
"There is the added complexity for our Men's T20 squad. We believe that touring under these conditions will not be ideal preparation for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, where performing well remains a top priority for 2021," the ECB said in a statement.
The England cricket board went on to apologise to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for the pullout.
"We understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB, who have worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in their country. Their support of English and Welsh cricket over the last two summers has been a huge demonstration of friendship.
"We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasise an ongoing commitment to our main touring plans there for 2022," the statement added.