England v India fifth Test called off after Covid case – as it happened

Last modified: 03: 00 PM GMT+0

The Old Trafford Test was cancelled shortly before 9am due to concerns among the Indian players about the Covid cases in their camp

With little happening, we’re going to wrap up this blog. Here’s a summary of a miserable day:

  • The fifth Test between England and India was cancelled shortly before 9am due to concerns among the Indian players about the Covid cases in their camp.
  • The ECB’s official statement said India had forfeited the game, which would have meant a 2-2 series draw, but was soon changed to remove the F-word.
  • The BCCI have offered to play the game at a later date if possible, though if this happens it is likely be a one-off Test rather than part of the 2021 series.
  • The official result of the match is yet to be determined.
  • The ECB could lose around £30m because of the cancellation, with any insurance claim likely to depending on the wording of the official result.

Ali Martin sums it all up in this report.

On behalf of all the Guardian cricket writers, thanks very much for your company and emails throughout an exhilarating Test series. We’ll be back for the ODI series between England and New Zealand women, which starts in Bristol on Thursday, and then it’s on to the men’s World T20. See you then!

“It would be very useful to get a fuller explanation of the real reasons why so many of the Indian party are affected,” says Chandrakant Patel. “In a country where vaccination is accessible and encouraged, what explains this episode? If it suggests the there has been breach of the protocols by the Indian team, then they should be required to forfeit, not least because of incompetence.”

Actually, that email brings to mind the evidence that Ronaldo gave to the inquiry into his collapse before the 1998 World Cup final: “I also hope that my truth pleases you, because there are many truths, many truths. It’s up to you to decide which is the true truth.”

“Good morrow, Mr Smyth,” writes Roland Marshall. Be it rather remiss of me to talk of cricket, when there is a cancellation and potential witch-hunt to bitch about, I am still going to do it: who do you think will be on the plane to the Ashes?”

It’s hard to speculate because we don’t know how big the squad will be. There’s an England Lions tour taking place in Australia at the same time, so there will be probably be some crossover. That said, if they were to name a 17-man squad - assuming all players are available - I think it would be something like Burns, Hameed, Crawley, Malan, Root, Bairstow, Pope, Stokes, Buttler, Moeen Ali, Woakes, Robinson, Broad, Anderson, Wood, Carse and M Parkinson. I have a hunch that Brydon Carse and Matt Parkinson will be the bolters in the squad.

It has all gone pretty quiet. I’m not sure we’ll hear much else today, though the story will drag on for aeons. There’s a vague precedent with the Oval Test of 2006, when Pakistan refused to play after being accused of ball-tampering. The official result of the match was not settled until February 2009.

England’s next Test match, all things being equal, is against Australia at the Gabbatoir on 9 December. India host New Zealand in a two-Test series in November and December, though I don’t think the precise dates have been confirmed.

“I can’t believe you left Ashwin out of your composite team of the series,” says Tom Paternoster-Howe. “Surely he has to be 12th man!”

But what about Jack Leach?

Probably quite a few things brought us to the Test being called off today, but players hovering near breaking point fulfilling fixtures in these current conditions is surely part of it.

And so now they're desperately trying to force a 'window' so they can reschedule it...

— Alex from King Cricket (@TheKingsTweets) September 10, 2021

“Distant viewer from the far limits of Europe,” writes Neil Morris. “Disappointed in the cancellation, but fully support the players. I feel we should be grateful for being able to watch a lot of cricket in the middle of a pandemic. Leave the carping and arguments behind boardroom doors. An unfinished series, India 2-1, leave it there, a tribute to all the hard work staging it. Let both sets of players and staff take a break.”

Glorious out there right now. Sigh. pic.twitter.com/8lloFtPOvq

— Ali Martin (@Cricket_Ali) September 10, 2021

Right, enough of the finger-pointing. What’s your composite team from this series? Here’s mine, although it will probably have changed by 2pm.

  1. Rohit Sharma
  2. KL Rahul
  3. Cheteshwar Pujara
  4. Joe Root
  5. Virat Kohli (c)
  6. Jonny Bairstow (wk)
  7. Ravindra Jadeja
  8. Ollie Robinson
  9. Mohammed Shami
  10. Jasprit Bumrah
  11. James Anderson

Now that’s what I call a silver lining

“I’m joining a fairly large number of aimless cricket fans trying to find things to do in Manchester!” says Mike Smith. “Gutted as it was set up to be a great game. Only consolation to two nights in a hotel, train fares and a day off work is I spotted that they are still selling tickets for New Order at Heaton Park tonight so I’ll get in for the support too!”

“Tough on batsmen, easy on the eye”

In other news, Richard Illingworth and Michael Gough in their casuals do look like a mildly suspicious father-son duo in the teaser for an ITV drama.

📸 @NStirkPhoto pic.twitter.com/LJKHZxcWhy

— Nick Friend (@NickFriend1) September 10, 2021

“Glad to see the Test in cancelled (or whatever it will be called in due course),” says Rahul Kapoor. “It is just a game. It’s about time people acknowledge how difficult it is to play in Covid times. Basically, the players have to play without coaching staff and a physio. They had to stay in their rooms for the last two days when they would’ve had practice sessions. Then they have to rush the airport right after the Test is over. Players deserve a break.”

There have been no developments in the last couple of hours, though I’m sure there are some frantic discussions taking place behind the scenes. Here’s what the ECB chief executive Tom Harrison had to say on Sky Sports earlier today.

💬It's a really sad day and my heart goes out to the fans.💬

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison says there are "no winners" on a "sad day for Test cricket" after the Old Trafford Test was cancelled.

📺 Watch on Sky Sports Cricket 👉 https://t.co/fk7UysTMen pic.twitter.com/O5uPqAxWzC

— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) September 10, 2021

ICYMI, here’s Ali Martin’s news story on the cancellation of the Test match


Cheers. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Views from the press box

Pity it had to end this way. But we must bow to the times. There was a genuine fear of the spread of this terrible virus. Hard on the spectators but c'est la vie

— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) September 10, 2021

Jurgen Klopp with a live reaction to India’s player fatigue and the cancellation of the Old Trafford Test… I think… He surely can’t be talking about anything else! #EngvInd pic.twitter.com/6EKvh99nGg

— Andrew Miller (@miller_cricket) September 10, 2021

India were so concerned about Covid they took the train up from London to Manchester earlier this week. #EngvIndia

— Chris Stocks (@StocksC_cricket) September 10, 2021

Two wealthy, privileged cricket boards jealously guarding their own financial interests as jingoistic accusations fly is a truer picture of modern cricket than anything that could have happened out at Old Trafford #ENGvsIND

— Danyal Rasool (@Danny61000) September 10, 2021


“Cricket is the loser here,” says Steve Campbell, “but spare a thought for the staff at the ground, many of whom will be on zero hours contracts & losing out on five 12+ hour days of £££.”

Indeed. The apparent contempt for ordinary people with bills to pay is the bit that makes me most angry.


“I’ve got to admit, I’m pretty gutted,” says Steve Jones. “I’d got tickets booked for the fourth day, train tickets booked, hotel for two nights booked and now too late to cancel. All in all, for one day at the cricket, I’ll be out of pocket by over 200 quid. As I say, gutted.”

I really feel for you and everyone else who is not only out of pocket but also out of excitement. But surely it’s a comfort that you received a half-arsed apology right at the end of the BCCI statement?

Thanks to those of you who pointed us in the direction of this game

If you're in Manchester at a loose end due to the Test's cancellation, why not head to Sale Cricket Club for North West Thunder v Southern Vipers in the #RHFTrophy!

It's a 50-over match starting at 10:30am


Clarendon Crescent
M33 2DE

— Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy (@rhftrophy) September 10, 2021

There is some cricket in Trafford today though.... NW Thunder in that there Rachel Heyhoe Flint Trophy. And judging by the number of cavemen in attendance, a fair few refugees from the test match are here too. pic.twitter.com/POWTiGTSGa

— Iain Sykes (@iaincsykes) September 10, 2021

Just when you think Nasser can’t get any better...

If you don’t adore the man, you’re just wrong.

💬Azeem Rafiq deserved his own day after what he's been through.💬@nassercricket and @Athersmike discuss the report confirming Azeem Rafiq was 'victim of racial harassment and bullying' during his time at Yorkshire - and the timing of its release by the club. pic.twitter.com/3QuxNlWXia

— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) September 10, 2021


“Hi Rob,” says John Burrell. “I think the offer by the BCCI to reschedule is simply to avoid forfeiting the game, surely?”

All in the game, yo. All in the game.

“Perhaps I’m being naïve but wouldn’t the boards have drawn up some clear guidelines about what Covid levels would constitute grounds for matches being abandoned BEFORE the series?” says Alex Eggeman. “It’s not as if Covid has caught us by surprise this summer. These should have been agreed with all stakeholders, players, host grounds, broadcasters for something as important as a Test series.”

You’re right - you are being naïve. A few people are saying it was bubble fatigue as much as Covid. That’s a legitimate reason, one that should have been addressed when the schedule was put together. I suppose, if there is one comfort in all this, it’s knowing that the BCCI would have taken exactly the same action if the series score was 1-1 or 2-1 to England.

The cancellation isn’t the only cricket story of the day. It’s probably not even the most important.

“Surely,” says Kartsen Webb, “the best way to decide the fifth Test is to have a count back of the boundaries each team scored across the series? Sounds about right! Cheers, a still bitter New Zealander.”

The boundary score is... England 233-246 India.

Dinesh Karthik, the Sky Sports commentator who is isolating ahead of the IPL, had this to say

“I spoke to a few of the guys. The general feeling is that, after the fourth Test, the players [said], ‘This is tiring. Almost all of the games have gone to the wire, they’re tired, and they were down to one physio, so they’ve done a lot of work with that man - and now he tests positive. Now that is the problem. If it was somebody else, who worked on logistics or something, they wouldn’t be this afraid. But because it’s the physio, that’s why they got the jitters.

“You also have to understand that straight after this they have the IPL, soon after that the World T20, and soon after that the India series. How many bubbles can they do? They assembled in India on May 16th, which is almost four months ago.”

Some very good points, most of which should have been addressed by the governing bodies months ago. That said, I still don’t understand why the physio contracting Covid is more of a problem now than it was last week. Maybe he had unorthodox methods.


The thoughts of the Barmy Army

Our thoughts on today's events 👇#ENGvIND pic.twitter.com/mkI8z43a73

— England's Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) September 10, 2021

“India have offered to reschedule the match,” says Greg Fearn. “How kind. Let’s reschedule it for April. On a green top at Chesterfield. When all their star players are playing in the IPL.”

Somebody would like to second your motion.

Darren Stevens
Darren Stevens celebrates another Indian wicket. Photograph: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo/Shutterstock

They should at least have let Ashwin bowl a ceremonial delivery out in the middle.

— Andy Zaltzman (@ZaltzCricket) September 10, 2021

The word on the Manchester street is that, even if a Test match between England and India is squeezed in next summer, it will be a standalone game that has nothing to do with this series. If that’s the case, all that remains is for the BCC ICC to decide the result of this match.

The lengths that India will go to just to make sure R Ashwin doesn't play a Test this series

— Tim Wigmore (@timwig) September 10, 2021


Thanks Tim, hello everyone. The PR dance is well and truly under way, and is going to go on for some time. Here’s what we know so far.

So we have a case of Covid stops play, or anxiety stops play, depending on which board you find yourself believing. Either way, it’s both understandable and a crying shame. But, as Celine Dion very nearly sang, the OBO will go on. It’s time for me to hand back to the great Rob Smyth. Thanks for your company, observations, howls of pain and chuckles of rueful mirth.

Indian players pulled out "at midnight" – Telegraph

The Indian team sent a letter at midnight last night, telling their board they would not be playing this Test, according to Nick Hoult of the Telegraph. His report is here.

“So disappointing, for everyone,” says John Morrison, “to find the Old Trafford Test has been called off. Pitch prepared, ground sold out, sandwiches made, burgers being flipped ... so how about putting on a ‘scratch’ match and dedicating it to the cricketers – men and women – of Afghanistan. England v England B? Two county sides? Two women’s teams? Plus an opportunity to ‘pass the hat’ around a big crowd, to raise money for Afghan cricketers.”

And here is the voice of doom. “BCCI, ECB and all the other cricket authorities reaping the whirlwind they have collectively sewn,” says Peter Green. “Constantly prioritising the cash cows of IPL, T20 World Cups and The Hundred will sooner, rather than later, result in the death of Test cricket. ‘Looking to reschedule’ – yeah, right.”

"It wasn't the outbreak" – ECB boss

Tom Harrison, boss of the ECB, is being interviewed on Sky. “It wasn’t an outbreak of Covid,” he says, contradicting the BCCI statement. “It was the perception of what might happen post the [Indian] physio testing positive.”

But he is not unsympathetic, and he sees this as part of the broader picture of needing to look after the players’ mental health. “Once you’ve got that sense of concern and anxiety in a dressing room, and we’ve been in this place before ourselves [in South Africa], it can be very difficult to reverse that. And I think fans do understand this now because we’ve been talking about it for a while. The physical and mental health of players, they’re as important as each other.”


A thought from Benjamin Spiro-Hughes. “Wonder if the England players might be available for one or both of the remaining County Championship rounds?”

Lancs boss: no comment

The Lancashire chief executive, Daniel Gidney, is talking on Sky. He is asked a very good, simple question: does he understand the decision [to call the game off]?

And he gives a very interesting answer. “I can’t really comment on that.”

My reading of that is that he doesn’t understand the decision, but feels unable to say so. This, like so much else being said this morning, is just a guess. But if he understood the decision, he’d probably say so, wouldn’t he?

“Good Morning Tim, good morning everyone,” says Em Jackson. “Scorecard: India c & b Covid 0 (for 11). Shambolic way to end the series.”

Covid stops play – but it doesn’t stop The Guardian’s cricket coverage, as we bring you all the latest updates on this story. If, like hundreds of thousands of readers, you value what we do, please consider joining us today. Your support will power our independent journalism in a busy period, with the T20 World Cup and Ashes looming, along with the climax of the County Championship.


A sad moment

It’s 11 o’clock – and nothing is happening.

Nothing doing for India fans outside the ground.
Nothing doing for India fans outside the ground. Photograph: Jon Super/AP


Reading between the lines of the BCCI statement

“Jointly decided”: we’re not taking the blame.

“The outbreak ... forced the decision”: it wasn’t us, guv.

“In lieu of the strong relationship between BCCI and ECB”: is that a Freudian slip? I suspect they mean “in view of”.

“The BCCI has offered ... a rescheduling”: not only are we not the bad guys here – we’re actually the good guys!

“We would like to apologise to the fans”: that’s right and proper, but it does comes very low down in the statement.

Decision was "forced" by outbreak – Indian board

Thanks to Ali Martin for forwarding this statement from the BCCI.

“The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) along with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have jointly decided to call off the 5th Test Match scheduled at Manchester in ongoing India’s tour of England 2021.

“The BCCI and ECB held several rounds of discussion to find a way to play the Test Match, however, the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Indian team contingent forced the decision of calling off the Old Trafford Test Match.

“In lieu of the strong relationship between BCCI and ECB, the BCCI has offered to ECB a rescheduling of the cancelled Test match. Both the Boards will work towards finding a window to reschedule this Test match.

“The BCCI has always maintained that the safety and well-being of the players is of paramount importance and there will be no comprise [sic] on that aspect.

“The BCCI would like to thank the ECB for their co-operation and understanding in these trying times. We would like to apologise to the fans for not being able to complete an enthralling series.”


“Cricket cancellation?” says Philip Lewis-Jones. “It’s the 20 lads on the train to Manchester dressed as over-sized fruit that I feel sorry for.”

Indian board "offer to reschedule"

“BREAKING,” says the OBO’s old friend Lawrence Booth on Twitter, and he’s not someone who uses capital letters lightly. “The BCCI have offered to reschedule the fifth Test. ‘Both the Boards will work towards finding a window to reschedule this Test match.’”

“After the Denmark/GB Olympic cycling farce,” says Matt Muccleshell on Twitter, “they’ll probably award India the match today.”

“This is what the ECB gets,” says Robert Speed, “for scheduling the final Test match of this series other than at the Oval.‎ It’s just not meant to be.”

Good line – though, at the risk of being pedantic, something similar did happen at the Oval in 2006.

Mike Atherton is back on Sky. His guess is that the match will go down as abandoned, not forfeited by India. And he’s usually very sharp on the tedious politics of the game.

“No two ways about it,” says Steph Cooper, “I blame the Hundred.” Ha. “PS Your email link is wrong at the top of the blog.” Ah, sorry. This is The Grauniad, we have a hard-earned reputation to maintain, but I’ve fixed it now.


A mournful thought

“It might be,” says my colleague Ali Martin on Twitter, “that, with Old Trafford not hosting next year, James Anderson never plays another Test match on his home ground :(”

It might. Anderson is still a fabulous bowler in the first innings of a Test, as good as he’s ever been – since lockdown, he’s been averaging 17. But in the second innings he’s already over the hill, averaging 60. His increasing resemblance to Richard Hadlee comes with a twist: he’s the world XI in one innings, Ilford 2nds in the other.

What we know, what we don't

What we know: the Test is off, the series is over, the crowd have been robbed. As Elton John would say, it’s a sad sad situation.

What we don’t know: the series result – it could be 2-1 to India or 2-2. Our friends at Cricinfo say they understand that the ECB are still “pushing hard” for a forfeit, which would mean 2-2. Good luck with that when you’re up against the might of the BCCI.


If it’s true that the match result is now up to Chris Broad, that will be the biggest impact a member of the Broad family has had on this series. Chris’s son Stuart played in the first Test and struggled to make his usual impression, scoring 4 and 0, taking 0 for 70 and 1 for 18, before missing the rest of the summer with a calf injury.


Another big story in cricket, with even wider implications than this one. Yorkshire CCC have now accepted that Azeem Rafiq, their former T20 captain, was the victim of racial harassment and bullying. They have thankfully abandoned their line about Rafiq being the victim of “inappropriate behaviour”, which was mealy-mouthed at best. But they still accept only seven of his 40 allegations, so the row may well rumble on. More details here.


Virus stops play, again

We have been here before. Nine months ago, another international tour was cut short by some positive Covid tests – in the England one-day camp, in South Africa. The positives turned out to be false ones, and the tour was soon forgotten – but it’s highly relevant now, as it leaves England without much of a leg to stand on if they’re inclined to blame India.


Whatever the official result, this is a lose-lose situation. England lose the chance to draw the series. India lose the chance to win it in style and make history – they are only the second Indian squad ever to come to England and win two Tests, and none of their predecessors, going right back to 1952, has ever won three. The crowd lose a grand day out. Lancashire CCC lose a shedload of income. Cricket loses face. And more importantly, it loses goodwill.

Mike Atherton is talking on Sky Sports News. He’s pointing out that the elephant in the room here is the IPL, which is due to resume on Sunday week – only four days after what should have been the last day of this Test. And he reckons that decision of Chris Broad’s that I mentioned just now will be subject to a lot of negotiation. He’s not in any doubt about which way that negotiation will go. “I don’t think forfeiture will be the end result, for sure.”

And we still don’t know the final score in the series. It’s either 2-2, if this is a forfeit by India as the ECB originally said, or 2-1, if it’s “match abandoned”, as the ECB implied by withdrawing the word “forfeit” almost as soon as they’d uttered it. The latest suggestion is that that decision goes to the ICC match referee – Chris Broad, father of Stuart.


Thanks Rob and morning everyone. What a sad morning it is: five days’ cricket swept away by one, possibly rather hasty decision. The game is off, but the blame game has only just begun.

That’s quite enough from me. Tim de Lisle will keep you updated for the next few hours, and I’ll be back during the afternoon session later. Bye!

Once the IPL had been rescheduled , BCCI never wanted the 5th Test and tried to pressure ECB to cancel. No reason to doubt veracity of covid concerns but it's also very convenient .

— mike selvey (@selvecricket) September 10, 2021

If the Covid concerns were so great, why wasn’t the fourth Test abandoned when most of the backroom staff tested positive?

Purely coincidental timing. https://t.co/MYxtrXVpsc

— Jon Hotten (@theoldbatsman) September 10, 2021

The thoughts of Nasser Hussain on Sky

“It’s an evolving situation; it’s a mess. There’s still a bit of debate about the actual result - that hasn’t been clarified. The ECB will work that out with the BCCI and the ICC in time. There’s been no forfeiture.

“The ECB have said there will be a refund on ticket sales, but you can imagine how many people have waited to come here and watch this Test match - and it was set up beautifully. It’s a real shame the series has to end on such a low note.”

Here’s a quick report on the breaking news that the Test has been called off.

ECB statement online version now has the line about forfeiture removed... https://t.co/ms09ipTyB2

— Ali Martin (@Cricket_Ali) September 10, 2021


The fifth Test at Old Trafford has been called off because of the Covid outbreak in the Indian camp. At first, the ECB’s official statement said India had forfeited the game, which would mean a 2-2 series draw, but the word ‘forfeit’ has since been removed. We all feared the Manchester weather would disrupt the game; turns out the forecast is for a shitstorm to start blowing over Old Trafford any minute now.

We’ll keep you updated as the story develops. For now, all we know is that the game is off, and that the series scoreline is either England 2-2 India or England 1-2 India.


Tim de Lisle and Rob Smyth

The GuardianTramp

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