England’s Twenty20 cricket team captain Jos Buttler speaks during a press conference in Karachi on Thursday. KARACHI: Led by Jos Buttler, England’s cricket squad arrived here on Thursday for their first tour of Pakistan in 17 years — a lengthy absence brought about by security fears. The cricketers were immediately escorted off the upper deck of their Emirates flight from Dubai into bulletproof buses to take them to the team hotel. The team have been granted VVIP status throughout their three-week tour, comprising seven T20Is — the first four in Karachi, the last three in Lahore. Addressing a press conference yesterday, Buttler said he hoped his injury-hit Twenty20 side embrace the challenge of facing a strong Pakistan team on their first tour after so many years. England last played in Pakistan in 2005 and were due to visit last year until pulling out at short notice after New Zealand also cancelled a tour citing safety concerns. The move infuriated the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), desperate to rehabilitate its security reputation, who called it “disrespectful”. Following a deadly 2009 attack by Islamist militants on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore, Pakistan were forced to play international matches at neutral venues such as the UAE, where they hosted England for series in 2012 and 2015. Over the past five years, international cricket has gradually returned to Pakistan and earlier this year Australia toured successfully for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century. The visitors will train for the first time on Friday night at the National Stadium, ahead of the first T20I on Tuesday. Exactly half of England’s 20-man squad have played cricket in Pakistan before thanks to the Pakistan Super League (PSL) — Dawid Malan, now a senior player in the T20I set-up, was among the first, flying into Lahore for the 2017 final. He said seven of his squad — David Willey, Phil Salt, Will Jacks, Liam Dawson, Harry Brook, Luke Wood and Ben Duckett — had featured in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) this year and would know local conditions. “Plenty of our players featured in the PSL and shared the positive experiences of being here and about how much the public love the game,” said Buttler. “We look forward to the tough challenge and to be battle-hardened for the World Cup after this series,” said Buttler, who will miss the first few games to recover fully from a calf injury. Two of England’s World Cup squad members — Liam Livingstone and Chris Jordan — are also missing this series as they recover from ankle and finger injuries respectively, while Test skipper Ben Stokes was given a rest. Buttler said he hoped the injuries would give an opportunity to other players hungry to show their talent. “Obviously the main aim for everyone is to turn up for Australia fully ready,” said Buttler of the event to be held from October 16 to November 13. “We know Pakistan are a very great side. We look forward to challenge ourselves against them and I expect to see some great cricket.” The England skipper also hoped his side would perform well to honour Queen Elizabeth II, who died last week. “Obviously, with her majesty the queen passing, we were deeply saddened by that. We have seen the reactions over in England. “We hope to honour her in our own way as a T20 team and play in a fashion to do that.” Buttler announced a donation — understood to be a five-figure pound-sterling sum — from the players to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal, which will be matched by the ECB, amid the floods that have devastated parts of Pakistan and left millions of people in need of urgent help. “It won’t be enough, but any small part we can play is important,” he said. The first four matches will be in Karachi on September 20, 22, 23 and 25, and the next three in Lahore on September 28, 30 and October 2.