England’s men are yet to see any cricket cancelled outright by the pandemic, leading to a backlog of fixtures over the next couple of years.
The only current outstanding bilateral series is three ODIs against South Africa, and they appear likely to be pushed back to September 2022, close to two years after they were originally scheduled.
England travelled to Cape Town to play three T20s and three ODIs in November, only for the tour to be aborted at the halfway stage when the tourists lost confidence in the biosecure bubble at their base at the Vineyard Hotel following positive tests for Covid-19 among players from both teams (England’s were subsequently proved to be false positives) and hotel workers.
The three unplayed ODIs are part of the ICC’s ODI Super League, which determines qualification for the 2023 World Cup. That tournament, combined with broadcast and commercial revenue for the home side, means there is a determination that the matches must be played, not simply cancelled.
When to play them is not simple, however.
There is a slim possibility that they could take place in early 2022, but England’s schedule this coming winter is already packed.
At the end of the 2021 home summer, the T20 team will travel to Pakistan and Bangladesh as preparation for the T20 World Cup in India in November. The Test squad then have a five-match Ashes series straddling Christmas, finishing in Perth in mid-January.
The winter finishes with a tour of the Caribbean. First, the T20 squad (likely without Test stars, because the Ashes will finish just days before departure for the Caribbean) play a five-match series in late January and February, before a three-Test series in March.
With Australian borders likely to remain closed for some time, the West Indies series is likely to be the earliest opportunity for England fans to watch their team overseas.
The venues for the West Indies tour are likely to be announced in the coming days, while the Ashes schedule and venues will be announced early next month.
It is possible that a visit to South Africa for the ODIs could be crow-barred in around that packed schedule, but the autumn of 2022 is more likely.
That will not be simple either, though. Already around that time, England are scheduled to play six white-ball internationals (three in each format) in Australia, which would act as neat preparation for the T20 World Cup -which was delayed from Autumn 2020 by the pandemic - in the same country.
England are also due in Pakistan at a similar time for their first full tour of the country since 2005 (three Tests plus white-ball internationals). The whistle-stop tour this October (which also includes double headers with the Women’s teams) is a “thank you tour” after Pakistan travelled to England last summer, as the pandemic was raging.
The likeliest outcome at this stage appears to be that England tour South Africa in late September, before a long stint in Australia for the bilateral series and World Cup, with the Pakistan tour pushed back, perhaps to after Christmas.
It is understood that there is real determination from the ECB to ensure that England tour Pakistan in full, and that they are in early discussions with the PCB over exactly how it all fits.
The ICC’s Future Tours Programme cycle begins afresh in early 2023, but is unlikely to be released in the near future.
England schedule 2021/22:
T20s in Pakistan
T20s in Bangladesh
T20 World Cup in India
Tests in Australia
T20s in West Indies
Tests in West Indies
From late 2022:
(Likely) ODIs in South Africa
T20s and ODIs in Australia
T20 World Cup in Australia
Tests and white-ball internationals in Pakistan