Postponed England vs India Test moved to 2022 - huge effort is needed to prevent hollow, money-saving exercise

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Postponed England vs India Test moved to 2022 - huge effort is needed to prevent hollow, money-saving exercise - AP
Postponed England vs India Test moved to 2022 - huge effort is needed to prevent hollow, money-saving exercise - AP

The postponed fifth match of the Test series between England and India has been rescheduled and will now take place at Edgbaston in July 2022.

The series decider, which was due to take place last month at Old Trafford, was called off when India were unable to field a team due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases inside the camp.

The concluding fifth match will now begin on July 1 next year following an agreement between the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The tourists currently lead the series 2-1.

The match cannot be staged at Old Trafford because the ground will not have time to prepare a Test pitch.

Old Trafford will instead host the second Test against South Africa on August 25, a match which was previously due to take place at Edgbaston.

The T20 series between England and India will now start six days later than originally planned, on July 7.

Tom Harrison, ECB chief executive officer, said: "We are very pleased that we have reached an agreement with BCCI to create a fitting end to what has been a brilliant series so far.

"We would like to apologise again to fans for the disruption and disappointment of September events. We know it was a day that so many had planned long in advance.

"We recognise that accommodating this extra match means a tighter schedule for the white ball series. We will continue to manage our players' welfare and workloads through next year while we also continue to seek the optimum schedule for fans, players and our partners across the game."

Comment: No-one wins the war with hollow match that proved too lucrative to let go

Even by Test cricket’s standards, 299 days is a long time to wait and it will take a monumental effort from the players to ensure next year’s rescheduled fifth Test between England and India does not feel like a hollow money-saving exercise.

The ECB does not win many arguments with India so they should cherish this one after they agreed to come back next summer and play the fifth Test of the series that was abruptly curtailed in September due to a Covid outbreak in their squad.

Originally, India wanted the match cancelled, the series declared 2-1 in their favour and for them to keep the World Test Championship points accrued.

England, with some delicate diplomacy, have persuaded India to come back next year and finish off the series with the fifth Test starting on July 1, nine months and 26 days later. It is quite a turnaround. In the aftermath of the cancellation in September, Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, said he expected any rearranged fixture to be a “standalone situation”.

He was criticised at the time for insisting the IPL played no part in India’s decision to pull out the game. The ECB received several angry letters of complaint about pandering to India, but he chose his words to protect the relationship and will feel vindicated. By striking an agreement without needing ICC arbitration shows there is a good relationship between the two boards. There is also an acknowledgement from India that one day they may need England’s help, too.

Playing the game will save around £30m in broadcast money and sponsorship income. It will also replace lost ticket revenue. Shifting the Test from Emirates Old Trafford to Edgbaston because of existing commitments in Manchester is a good move, too. England have a good record at Edgbaston and it is the bigger ground so can fit in more fans.

Manchester will instead host the South Africa Test that was originally scheduled for Edgbaston, so two of English cricket’s indebted counties will be guaranteed decent pay days.

The players will feel the cost of having to play 11 out of 17 days from the start of the fifth Test, with the white ball series against South Africa now put back by six days to fit everything in. Another summer schedule bursting at the seams is looming.

India’s players were spooked by four Covid cases in the camp and left Manchester almost immediately to reach the UAE and start IPL preparations. The Indian board offered to come back next year and play a one-off Test. With nothing riding on it, that would have been worse, so to finish off the series is better but, from a cricket perspective, the best option would have been to shake hands and move on. India were the better side, deserved to be 2-1 winners and would have been out of sight had it not been for Joe Root’s astonishing form.

That was never really an option - because money matters. After a pandemic there was no way the ECB could write off an India Test match. The losses would have been too great for a game counting the cost of Covid.

Now it will be down to the players to create the edge and find the same intensity for a match that is a fifth Test in name only. Series write their own narratives and the beauty of a fifth Test is that it is the culmination of weeks of tireless work - players going through ups and down of form, batsmen getting the better of certain bowlers, or vice versa. This match will have none of that.

England should be favourites given they will have just played a tough, three-Test series at home against New Zealand. India could be caught cold playing one-off red-ball cricket in England and Root could nick a series draw that looked unlikely going into the original game - but it will be a meaningless result.

One bonus is James Anderson can now have a final game at Old Trafford; his home ground was not originally due to hold a Test in 2022. Perhaps that will be the best thing to emerge from all this.

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