England vs India Test match cancelled after Covid outbreak

·3-min read
The Test match at Old Trafford has been cancelled (PA)
The Test match at Old Trafford has been cancelled (PA)

The fifth Test between England and India has been cancelled after the tourists refused to play on the grounds of Covid safety.

Despite the entire India squad returning negative PCR Tests on Thursday, it is understood some players have expressed reservations this week about playing in the final Test after an outbreak among their backroom staff.

The England and Wales Cricket Board hoped they would be able to postpone the match, with a view to potentially starting on Sunday. However after intense negotiations between the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Board of Control for Cricket India, the decision was taken to cancel the match.

A statement from the ECB read: “Following ongoing conversations with the BCCI, the ECB can confirm that the fifth LV= Insurance Test between England and India Men due to start today at Emirates Old Trafford, will be cancelled.

“Due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid cases inside the camp, India are regrettably unable to field a team. We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news, which we know will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many.

“Further information will be shared in due course.”

Four Indian backroom staff returned positive tests in the last week, including head coach Ravi Shastri who had to isolate in his hotel room during the fourth Test at the Kia Oval. The touring party subsequently went through rounds of lateral flow and PCR tests to ensure there was not a major spread of the infection.

Part of the concern centres around leaving the United Kingdom for the Indian Premier League, which begins in the United Arab Emirates on September 19 - four days after this match was due to finish. The tournament was postponed in May after numerous Covid-bubble breaches. Further positive tests, and the knock-on effect of close-contacts, could mean the whole touring party would have to quarantine and not be allowed to leave the UK as scheduled, thus delaying the start of the IPL.

The ECB are keen to get the match on and are floating the idea of starting on Sunday. However the sticking points seems to be that some figures within the BCCI want the match to be cancelled outright. Should the BCCI get their way, it would cost the ECB £30 million.

England players, some of whom will be heading to the IPL, were briefed on Friday morning of the postponement, with some wary on Thursday evening that there may be a hitch.

Though they are said to be bemused by developments, it is a situation they will be more than familiar with. England abandoned a limited-overs tour of South Africa last December after a breach at the hotel both teams were staying in. As well as hotel staff, two England players returned positive tests which were later confirmed to be false positives.

There is no news as of yet if India have forfeited the match. Virat Kohli’s side led 2-1 in the series leading up to this fixture.

The original statement released by the ECB stated there had been a forfeit, which would make the series scoreline 2-2. However this was amended 10 minutes after publication. A spokesperson from the ECB says the situation is still live.

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