Smith and Warner get huge boost in bid to return early

Steve Smith and David Warner could return to the Australian side within hours of their bans being lifted.

Pakistan released the official schedule for their upcoming ODI series against the Aussies on Sunday, with the fourth of five matches set to take place on the exact day Smith and Warner’s bans end.

Smith and Warner are eligible to return to national duty on March 29, following 12-month suspensions for the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.

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However it remains to be seen whether they will be fit to play, after both undergoing elbow surgeries recently.

Pakistan will host the five-match series in the United Arab Emirates after Cricket Australia sought more time to assess the security situation in the South Asian country.

The PCB were hoping that they could convince Australia to play a few matches of the ODI series in Pakistan, but now they will all be played in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai from March 22-31.

David Warner and Steve Smith in 2016. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)

Sharjah will host the first two ODIs on March 22 and 24 while the fourth and fifth ODIs will be played at Dubai on March 29 and 31, respectively. Abu Dhabi will host the third ODI on March 27.

Last year, the PCB hosted an incident-free Twenty20 series against the West Indies and some Pakistan Super League matches.

“The PCB was optimistic that it will be able to convince Cricket Australia to send its side (to Pakistan) for some matches,” PCB’s director of international cricket Zakir Khan said in a statement on Sunday.

“But we are disappointed for the enthusiastic and passionate cricket fans in Pakistan who will now have to wait for some more time before they can see the Australian cricket team live in action for the first time since 1998.”

Australia last toured Pakistan in 1998 under the captaincy of Mark Taylor. A terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 forced the PCB to choose the UAE as their home venue after foreign teams refused to tour Pakistan due to security fears.

Warner and Smith. Image: Getty

Khan said CA have confirmed that they will send their security expert to oversee plans during next month’s eight PSL matches in Karachi and Lahore “and will also speak with the ICC-recommended PCB security consultant.”

Over the last two years the PCB have stepped up their efforts to win back the confidence of foreign teams that it’s safe to play in Pakistan.

Lahore hosted a three-match Twenty20 series against a World XI in 2017 in which Australia test captain Tim Paine and fast bowler Ben Cutting participated.

The series was followed by a Twenty20 between Sri Lanka and Pakistan before Karachi hosted the West Indies in April last year.

with AAP