Security shadow reaches Karachi

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The Independent Online

As MCC prepared to intensify security around Lord's yesterday, doubts were raised in Pakistan about double standards regarding the safety of touring teams.

Spectators attending the NatWest Challenge match between England and Australia at Lord's today were advised to arrive early to try to reduce delays at all entrance gates. MCC have hired more security officials in the wake of the terrorist bombings in London on Wednesday, and all spectators will have their bags and bodies searched today and at the Test next week.

But the essential increase of security at both Lord's and The Oval for Tuesday's match has not gone unnoticed in Pakistan. England are due to tour the country later this year and have refused - on safety grounds - to play a Test in Karachi. Pakistan's officials are bound to raise their own fears about their players appearing in England, pointing out that Pakistan cricketers playing in this country may risk being accused by extremists of associating with the enemy.

"We aren't commenting on that," said Colin Gibson, the communications director of the England and Wales Cricket Board. "We will be having discussions very soon with the Pakistan Cricket Board about the itinerary for our tour there this winter. No doubt their tour to this country will also be discussed, but under the schedule which has already been agreed they will play Tests at The Oval and Lord's."

It would be impossible for the ECB to contemplate not playing at Lord's and The Oval, but if Pakistan were to dig in their heels they may be forced to compromise. Kar-achi, however, has not been a regular Test venue for years. While 13 Test were staged there in the 1980s, there have been only 10 since, primarily because of safety fears.

Javed Miandad, the country's former star batsman and coach, who remains a firebrand, entered the fray yesterday. "They can play in London despite the loss of life in that city yet they are not willing to play a Test in Karachi despite security assurances," he said. That argument will not disappear.