Australia’s strict Covid-19 restrictions raise prospect of senior players’ withdrawals
England’s Test players are expected to seek clarity this week over the Ashes arrangements, with the series due to begin in Brisbane on December 8 before concluding six weeks later in Perth on January 18. With England’s multi-format players likely to head straight to Australia from the T20 World Cup in the UAE, the final of which takes place on November 14, it means that those players with young families, such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, are likely to undergo several months of separation.
Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, wrote in his Telegraph column on Wednesday that in the event families were unable to join the touring party, Cricket Australia “either have to delay the Ashes by a year or the series will go ahead and be a farce with an under-strength England side”.
“It gives me goosebumps talking about it,” Bess said. “It is the pinnacle. Just watching the 2005 Ashes and then being at school and staying up all night to watch the 2010-11 when Cooky [Alastair Cook] scored hundred after hundred. That is pinnacle of the career – everyone thinks about it.
“It is a tough ask,” he added. “Obviously I don’t know what will be happening about Australia and their regulations – but I think if your name was on the ticket and you were going to an Ashes series as a 24 year old, a young lad, you would never ever turn that down.
“I think it would be very tough leaving family and supporters at home, but it is an Ashes series away from home – something you dream of, playing against Australia in Australia and looking to win there. Certainly you wouldn’t turn that down. I don’t think anyone who dreams of doing that would be able to turn that down.”
Bess has been named in England’s 17-player squad for the first two Tests against India, at Trent Bridge and Lord’s next month, and while Jack Leach is likely to be England’s first-choice spinner at this stage of the series, he is feeling upbeat about making a return to the Test bubble, with the return of crowds likely to make a big difference to the team environment, compared to the behind-closed-doors experience in 2020.
“It is so good to have fans back in the ground,” he said. “You look at these Hundred games, it’s been amazing. But with bubbles, it was very taxing by the end of it. At the start of last summer we went to Southampton, up to Manchester, back to Southampton … we didn’t see anyone, no one in the crowd, empty stadiums, then we had a bit of a break, then straight to Sri Lanka, then India.
“Obviously, I am only one of the Test specialists, but you look at the one-day and T20 guys, and you can understand why people get burnt out and mentally fatigued, and how much it has an impact on your actual game.
“That was something I had to learn to try and deal with during India,” he added. “I was mentally tired and physically tired by the end of it, because you’d play or not play, go back to your room, do nothing, then next day get the bus to the ground, do your work, go back to the hotel … day in, day out.
“It will be a bit easier being at home, knowing you are in England, knowing you are two or three hours away from family. But most importantly, it will be so good to see the fans back in. I was there at [Edgbaston] when England played Pakistan, and to see the place thumping was really good.
“I think it will be different – we have learned how to cope with it and, fingers crossed, we are on the way out of it in terms of strict bubbles. You have to cope and find some strategies.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
Match Preview – Sri Lanka vs South Africa, South Africa in Sri Lanka 2021, 1st T20I
After toppling the visitors with spin in ODIs, Shanaka’s men will look for more of the same in friendly conditions
A T20 World Cup is around the corner. For Sri Lanka, it begins with the qualifiers, which kick off approximately six weeks from now. For South Africa, who go straight through to the main draw, the World Cup starts about a week later. Either way, this is the lead-in – the phase in which teams look to tighten up their combinations, get key players into form, and battle-test their match-ups and strategies. South Africa’s eight T20I wins to their seven losses this year suggests they are closer figuring out a good game plan than Sri Lanka, who have lost six and won only three (two of those wins were against a severely depleted second-string India side).
South Africa are not only fresh from a series win against Ireland (whom Sri Lanka will face in the qualifiers), but had even defeated West Indies in the Caribbean in June and July. In Aiden Markram and David Miller, they have batters that have scored heavily in the format in 2021; in Tabraiz Shamsi they have a wristspinner who has claimed 24 wickets at an economy rate of 5.32. No other bowler has more wickets than Shamsi in T20Is in 2021.
Sri Lanka will feel they have some momentum after their ODI victory, but their T20I ranking of ninth is deserved – this is the format in which they have struggled most over the past few years. They will hope that the confidence gained from two consecutive series victories in a row (the first being that T20I series win over a depleted India), and familiarity with the conditions – which again are expected to be spin-friendly – can help elevate them to South Africa’s level.
(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WWLLL
South Africa WWWWL
In the spotlight
Pitch and conditions
Expect another turning track. With showers frequently rolling through Colombo, rain interruptions are on the card too.
Kusal Perera is likely to return to the Sri Lanka XI, after regaining match fitness following his bout of Covid. Kamindu Mendis will probably stat at No. 3, given his excellent T20 domestic form recently. Sri Lanka may think about bringing in offspinning allrounder Ramesh Mendis to bolster the lower middle order, too.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Avishka Fernando, 2 Kusal Perera (wk), 3 Kamindu Mendis, 4 Dhananjaya de Silva, 5 Charith Asalanka, 6 Dasun Shanaka (capt.), 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Ramesh Mendis, 9 Chamika Karunaratne, 10 Dushmantha Chameera, 11 Maheesh Theekshana
David Miller has recovered from a hamstring strain and is available. Lungi Ngidi, though, won’t be, as he has flown straight to the IPL. Keshav Maharaj will captain the side.
South Africa (possible): 1 Janneman Malan, 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Aiden Markram, 4 David Miller, 5 Rassie van der Dussen, 6 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 7 Wiaan Mulder, 8 George Linde, 9 Keshav Maharaj (capt.), 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi
Stats and trivia
“Performance is everything, so we want to come here and win the series, to go to the World Cup with a log of confidence. What we’ve gone through in the last couple of months have been huge stepping stones for our T20 team. Beating West Indies – a lot of people thought we were underdogs. We won 3-2. A lot of confidence has been taken from that.”
David Miller on South Africa’s form
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
T20 World Cup 2021 – Rashid Khan steps down as captain protesting against Afghanistan’s T20 World Cup squad selection
“The selection committee and ACB has not obtained my consent for the team”
Rashid had been named captain in the squad put out by the ACB’s official Twitter handle, but said he was stepping down, effective immediately through his own tweet, posted 22 minutes after the ACB’s.
With Rashid’s resignation from captaincy and the number of players being named above the limit of 15, there will likely be changes to Afghanistan’s squad.
Afghanistan’s last T20I series was in March 2021 against Zimbabwe, during which Asghar Afghan led the team.
Squad named by ACB: Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wk), Karim Janat, Hazratullah Zazai, Gulbadin Naib, Usman Ghani, Naveen ul Haq, Asghar Afghan, Hamid Hassan, Mohammad Nabi, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Najibullah Zadran, Dawlat Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Shapoor Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad (wk), Qais Ahmad
Eng vs Ind, 5th Test, 2021
The fate of the fifth Test was in balance after India’s assistant physio Yogesh Parmar tested Covid-19 positive
Beyond the Manchester Test, the BCCI had also been concerned that Parmar testing positive could have a cascading effect on the second half the IPL, which starts in the UAE from September 19. On September 15, a bulk of the India and England players are scheduled to board charter flights to Dubai to join their respective IPL franchises.
The BCCI does not want the IPL to be impacted as it is scheduled to host the men’s 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman two days after the IPL ends, on October 15.
Through Thursday the BCCI engaged in discussions with the ECB on the way forward in case were more cases were to break out in the Indian camp. The BCCI also put out the option of cancelling the final Test, but the ECB is understood to have made it clear that it would interpret any refusal to play as forfeiture. The BCCI was keen to avoid such a scenario as not only would it see England square the series, but it could expose them to claims of lost revenue from broadcasters and the venue. The lost revenue could be up to £30 million (INR 306 crore).
The World Test Championship playing conditions, though, state that a Covid-19 outbreak within a team is an acceptable reason for a Test to be abandoned. With the WTC table now based on the percentage of points available, a four-Test series instead of five would not have impacted any side’s final tally. In case the final Test had not been played, India would pocket 26 WTC points while England will have 14 out of the 48 that was available.
Parmar was found to be Covid-positive on Wednesday evening after he reported having symptoms at the end of a training session. He is the fourth member of the Indian contingent to test positive in the last week. On September 4, after the third day of the Oval Test, India head coach Ravi Shastri returned a positive test and the BCCI medical team identified Bharat Arun, R Sridhar and head physiotherapist Nitin Patel as the immediate contacts for Shastri.
The next morning Shastri along with Arun and Sridhar returned positive RT-PCR tests, thus sending them into ten-day quarantine. Patel, meanwhile, returned a negative test but remained in his room in London. He then travelled separately by road to Manchester where he is understood to be staying on a separate floor from the rest of the Indian squad at the team hotel.
At the moment, little is known about Parmar’s immediate contacts. He has been treating several key Indian players for niggles, including Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Siraj, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma. These players have been mingling among the wider group.
According to the UK government’s Covid-19 guidelines, any person who receives a positive PCR test for Covid-19 is obliged to self-isolate for ten days. However, those identified as close contacts don’t need to isolate themselves if they test negative and it has been more than 14 days since their second jab.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo. George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo