Marylebone Cricket Club has announced it will be sponsoring the Test and one-day series between Pakistan and Australia in England in July.
This will be the first time MCC, the owners of London Lord’s Cricket Ground where the first of two Tests between Pakistan and Australia is due to start on July 13, has sponsored an international series in its 223-year history.
The series comes at a time when Pakistan, who will also be playing a Test and one-day series against England this English season, has become a no-go area for international cricket following a terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore last year.
MCC’s Australian secretary, Keith Bradshaw, told a news conference in the Long Room of the Lord’s Pavilion: “MCC is committed to the health of Test cricket, and by sponsoring the series and hosting the first Test, the club is supporting Pakistani cricket at a time when the country’s Test calendar has been decimated.
“We often speak about Tests being the pinnacle of the game – now we are acting to back up those words,” the former Tasmania batsman said.
Bradshaw refused to divulge how much money MCC was putting into the series, which also features a Test at Yorkshire’s Headingley ground in Leeds, citing “commercial confidentiality”, but insisted it was a “not for profit exercise” as far as his club was concerned.
“We feel we are independent and to some extent the conscience of the game,” Bradshaw said of MCC, which is still responsible for overseeing the game’s Laws or rules.
“We are very thrilled Pakistan are coming here to play at the ‘home of cricket’.”
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) director of cricket operations Zakir Khan said: “We thank the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) and Cricket Australia for helping us out and making this Test and T20 series in England happen.
“We are also very thankful to MCC. When you are not playing your home series at home, it’s very difficult.
“Cricket is still very much at the same level, we have youngsters coming through. The passion is there, that will never die down.”
It is nearly a century since Lord’s staged a neutral Test, during the 1912 triangular series involving England, Australia and South Africa.
Two Australian batsman, Warren Bardsley and Charlie Kelleway, scored Test centuries against South Africa at Lord’s that year but their achievements were not marked on the ground’s dressing room honours board.
That was rectified on Monday with the unveiling of a new honours board specially created for neutral Tests.
MCC is keen to stage more such matches at Lord’s, at a time when Test cricket outside of England is struggling to attract crowds, and Bradshaw said: “The last neutral Test was played here in 1912 and I hope we don’t have to wait the best part of a century to play another one.”