Ashes will only go ahead if enough leading England players tour

  • Decision on Ashes to be made by ECB this week
  • ECB says squad must befit ‘series of this significance’

The England and Wales Cricket Board has warned counterparts in Australia that the Ashes tour is not a done deal as it pushes to secure the best possible conditions for the players.

On Sunday evening, England’s players and support staff were presented with plans for the 11-week trip in an online briefing that included representatives from Cricket Australia. This was designed to address concerns over the off-field freedoms they will experience, what occurs in the event of a snap lockdown while on tour and the question of whether families can join them.

While some progress was made during what one source described as “sensitive” discussions, issues clearly remain for a group of players who must now decide their availability over the coming days.

The ECB said: “We remain in regular and positive dialogue with Cricket Australia over these arrangements as the picture is constantly evolving. With health and wellbeing at the forefront, our focus is to ensure the tour can go ahead with conditions for players and management to perform at their best. We will continue talking to our players this week to share the latest information and seek feedback.

“Later this week the ECB Board will meet to decide whether the conditions in place are sufficient for the tour to go ahead and enable the selection of a squad befitting a series of this significance.”

Though widely taken as an act of brinkmanship designed to iron out the final remaining pinch points, the statement came after Tim Paine, the Australia Test captain, last week said he “didn’t care” which England players made the tour and that the Ashes would go ahead “whether Joe Root is here or not”.

Paine’s remarks were poorly received by England players who have recently been without Ben Stokes (taking an indefinite break for mental health reasons) and jaded from 18 months in biosecure bubbles. No men’s side has undertaken more than England’s 53 all-format fixtures since the start of the pandemic. Australia have not played a single overseas Test during this time.

It may well be that with a number of states on track to hit an 80% double-vaccination rate by December, life in Australia is more comfortable than England’s players fear. There could also be softer quarantine periods for any family members wishing to join the tour, even if the Australian government is wary of a public backlash over any perceived special treatment.

England’s players are looking for solid assurances now, however, and not least the multi-format cricketers – including Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood – who flew to Oman on Monday to begin quarantine and preparations for a T20 World Cup campaign that starts in Dubai on 23 October.

While Eoin Morgan’s white-ball team is striving to win a second global tournament in two years, England’s red-ball specialists – including Root, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson – and a separate Lions squad that will serve as warm-up opposition are due to fly to Australia at the start of November. They will then quarantine in a Gold Coast resort that allows outdoor training time.

The Spin: sign up and get our weekly cricket email.

The full squad will be united after the T20 World Cup – the final is on 14 November – with a further three weeks of training and intra-squad matches before the first Test in Brisbane on 8 December.

The tour is then due to move on to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, with the location of the fifth Test – currently slated to start in Perth on 14 January – still up in the air due to stringent inter-state quarantine regulations in Western Australia.

A reported £106m value to CA means the Ashes are still widely expected to go ahead even if one or two England players pull out. However, by stating that the head coach, Chris Silverwood, must be able to select a squad “befitting a series of this significance”, the ECB has, theoretically at least, opened up the prospect of players withdrawing en masse to force a postponement.

This comes at a particularly acute time with the ECB and the England Player Partnership still in negotiations over the next set of central contracts and a new points-based system that dispenses with the old red/white-ball deals and will instead pay players according to their cross-format value.


Ali Martin

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
England players to decide this weekend over participation on Ashes tour
A meeting has been scheduled for Friday at which England’s Test players will finally be briefed about detailed plans for this winter’s Ashes tour

Simon Burnton

29, Sep, 2021 @2:14 PM

Article image
England cricketers demand clarity over Ashes travel restrictions for families
Players may decide not travel to Australia amid hectic schedule and with restrictions over travel yet to be confirmed

Simon Burnton

27, Jul, 2021 @3:02 PM

Article image
Australia’s day-night dominance puts England Ashes tactics under scrutiny | Ali Martin
The top seven is unlikely to change but the balance of England’s Adelaide attack will be crucial to chances of levelling the series

Ali Martin in Adelaide

14, Dec, 2021 @6:00 PM

Article image
England batters are forced to rewatch wickets in heated Ashes meeting
A forthright England team meeting saw batters forced to rewatch 14 of their dismissals during the 275-run defeat in Adelaide

Exclusive by Ali Martin

22, Dec, 2021 @6:00 PM

Article image
Five things England must fix before the second Ashes Test | Tim de Lisle
Mistakes were made in selection as well as batting, bowling and fielding but Australia can be beaten if improvements are made

Tim de Lisle

12, Dec, 2021 @8:00 PM

Article image
England head to ‘special’ SCG Test in search of Ashes inspiration | Ali Martin
The Ashes may be lost but there is still much to gain in the last two Tests, starting at a location where plenty of England heroics have been witnessed

Ali Martin in Sydney

03, Jan, 2022 @6:00 PM

Article image
Zak Crawley poised for England recall in Ashes Boxing Day Test
Zak Crawley is poised for a recall on Boxing Day as England ponder up to four changes for the third Test in a bid to halt their faltering Ashes campaign

Ali Martin in Melbourne

22, Dec, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Woakes dismisses Botham’s claim England used Covid as Ashes excuse
Chris Woakes has dismissed Ian Botham’s suggestion that England’s Test players had used Covid restrictions as an excuse to avoid committing to the forthcoming Ashes series

Simon Burnton

11, Oct, 2021 @4:43 PM

Article image
England captain Joe Root refuses to confirm participation in Ashes
Joe Root, England’s Test captain, has refused to confirm his participation in this winter’s Ashes tour as players continue to wait for full details of the trip

Simon Burnton

28, Sep, 2021 @1:00 PM

Article image
Root and Malan’s unbroken 159 leads England fightback in first Ashes Test
Joe Root and Dawid Malan dug in as England stopped the rot and made a draw a very real possibility, ending day three 58 behind with eight wickets standing

Ali Martin

10, Dec, 2021 @8:09 AM