England vs India: Series decider at Old Trafford axed just hours before play over COVID-19 fears | UK News
The deciding cricket Test match between England and India has been called off after a COVID-19 outbreak among the visiting team.
The fifth game was due to start at 11am on Friday at Old Trafford, with the series poised at 2-1 to India.
However, a little more than two hours before the first ball should have been bowled a statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed the fixture would not go-ahead following discussions with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
The initial statement said India will “forfeit the match” although that line was removed in a revised version issued a short time later.
Concerns were first raised on the eve of the match, when India cancelled their final training session and failed to hold their mandatory press conference.
It later emerged the squad was confined to its hotel after a member of their support staff was confirmed to have coronavirus.
Head coach Ravi Shastri had previously tested positive for COVID-19 during India’s fourth Test victory at The Oval last week.
He remains in quarantine along with bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar.
It is understood that a number of Indian players were concerned about the spread of the virus and were unwilling to take the field, meaning the tourists could not put up a team.
The revised ECB announcement read: “Following ongoing conversations with the BCCI, the ECB can confirm that the fifth 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.”
Former England captain Nasser Hussain branded the situation a “mess”.
He told Sky Sports News: “My actual sympathy is with the crowd.
“People would have taken days off work, booked hotels and you can imagine how people would have come here to watch this Test match with it set up perfectly – India 2-1 ahead and England looking to bounce back.
“It’s a real shame that it has to end on such a low note.”
His comments were echoed by fellow former England captain Mike Atherton who told the channel: “My initial sympathy is with the spectators who would be on their way to the ground with Old Trafford sold out for the first three days.
“They’ll get a refund as the ECB has their own insurance scheme and the cost of the ticket will be refunded.
“But the cost of the extras is unlikely to be, and I’ve also got sympathy for Lancashire as they had a really tough pandemic.
“Old Trafford is one of those big grounds that has lots of conferencing and banqueting facilities.
“With all those cancelled in a year of COVID they were looking at this Test match almost as a way of rebalancing the books.
“So it’s going to be a costly match for them, especially as they don’t have a Test match next year and only a couple of T20s.”
Former England batsman Mark Butcher told Sky Sports News: “It’s tremendously disappointing for cricket fans as it’s been an incredible series and everybody wanted to see how this was going to pan out.
“It’s a real shame.”
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