An Ashes tour like no other awaits England’s men next winter, with a rejigged order of host venues, a mid-January finish, no warm-up games against local opposition and the possibility that their travelling support may be absent.
Announcing the fixtures for the 2021-22 tour on Tuesday, Australia and England confirmed the widely reported news that the structure of recent men’s Ashes series is not possible because of the T20 World Cup that runs until the middle of November and the likely requirement of a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival.
Brisbane still goes first on 8 December, with a day-night Test in Adelaide from 16 December. But where internal flights would normally head west, the tour instead moves to the traditional Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and then on to Sydney for the fourth Test starting on 5 January. The finale now takes place at Perth’s Optus Stadium – and not across the Swan River at the Waca – from 14 January.
England women will then begin a multi-format Ashes series with a four-day Test in Canberra starting on 27 January, before three T20 internationals at North Sydney Oval, Sydney (4 and 6 February) and the Adelaide Oval (10 February). This series concludes with three ODIs at Adelaide Oval (13 February) and Melbourne’s Junction Oval (16 and 19 February).
Though still to be confirmed, it will probably be the first time in 138 years that England’s men do not face local opposition, with an advanced party of Test specialists and the Lions heading to Sydney in November and playing two three-day intra-squad matches. Once through quarantine, the players who featured in the T20 World Cup – slated for India but likely to move – will be part of a final four-day game.
Logistical complications caused by Covid-19 are a factor, so too a belief that recent warm-up cricket in Australia has been hampered by a lack of quality among the state and invitational teams. Chris Silverwood, the head coach, instead hopes a scramble for spots in the final XI for the Gabba provides the required intensity.
It is becoming harder to envisage the usual vocal support for either England team. The expat community will doubtless secure tickets but the swathes of fans who normally make the trip from the UK look set to be shut out unless Australia’s border policies surrounding Covid-19 are relaxed before then.
Nick Hockley, CA’s interim chief executive, said: “In a perfect world, we would welcome England fans back to these shores for a summer of singing and sportsmanship. Of course, we will be guided by the Australian Government on all things related to international travel.”