The long-awaited T20 international series between Pakistan and England started, in Pakistan’s Karachi's National Stadium. It was the first of seven matches in the country. And it’s the joint-longest bilateral T20 international series of all time - men's or women's - and the longest between full-member nations.
With Moeen Ali leading the tourists in this landmark series - their first match in Pakistan for 17 years – the all-rounder, whose family originates from Pakistan, is captain in place of Jos Buttler, who will miss at least the early stages of the seven-match Twenty20 tour because of a calf injury as the series sees two of the most talented T20 teams face each other as they prepare for the upcoming World Cup.
"This was meant to be," the captain said and it promises to leave an important legacy for a younger generation of Pakistanis who have rarely seen their national side play at home since an attack on the Sri Lanka team by gunmen in 2009 and will not have seen England play there before.
"I've played in Pakistan before but representing England for the first time here, that's special and amazing. I was really excited and hopeful that we play some good, entertaining cricket."
No international cricket was played in Pakistan for six years after the 2009 attack, with the national team playing the majority of their home matches in the United Arab Emirates. In Karachi, and following Pakistan’s first innings 158 for 7 wickets, England’s 160 for 4 wickets saw the tourists winning by 6 wickets.
Zimbabwe were the first team to return, for a one-day international series in 2015, before Pakistan hosted Sri Lanka in the first men's Test in the country for 12 years in 2019, while Australia played three Tests, three ODIs and one T20 there earlier this year.
Malawi hosted Mozambique for seven men's and seven women's T20Is in November 2019, while the only previous full-member T20I series of more than five games was between India and South Africa's women in October 2019, when a sixth T20I was added after rain washed out the second and third.
According to the 2018-23 Future Tours Programme this series was initially due to comprise five ODIs ahead of the World Cup in India in 2023 but they were switched to T20Is when the Covid-19 pandemic set the 2020 T20 World Cup back to October and November 2022 with the 50-over World Cup back to 2023.
Last year, the ECB withdrew from a proposed tour to Pakistan at short notice, citing concerns about players' mental and physical welfare despite the fact that the men's team had only been due to play two T20Is in Lahore as part of a four-day stopover on their way to the T20 World Cup.
Tom Harrison, the ECB's chief executive at the time, and Martin Darlow, the deputy chair, visited Lahore in November 2021 to meet with PCB chair Ramiz Raja and discuss the circumstances of their withdrawal, which had led Raja to suggest Pakistan had been "used and binned" by cricket's "Western Bloc".
During that trip, the boards agreed to add a further two T20Is onto the schedule for this series, which will see both teams rotate their squads to ensure that key players stay fit and fresh ahead of the T20 World Cup next month.
"Seven games will be a challenge," Jos Buttler, who will only come into contention to return from a calf injury during the Lahore leg of the tour, said. "Some of them are back-to-back as well so we'll certainly be looking to manage our squad throughout that.
"There are a few bowlers we need to look after. We need to expose them and get them match fit but we don't need to take undue risks."
Matthew Mott, England's coach, said: "Initially I thought seven games over here would be a lot but I think it's actually going to play into our favour. We can get some games in for the guys who are coming back and we'll get to see different guys under pressure in this series."
The two teams will also play an eighth game against one another shortly before the tournament, in an official ICC warm-up match at the Gabba on October 17