By Ali Martin/The Guardian
Pakistan have been confirmed as England’s second set of summer tourists despite the raft of positive Covid-19 test results among their squad during the past week.
In a statement yesterday the England and Wales Cricket Board said the Pakistan squad will travel to the UK tomorrow and begin a two-week period of quarantine and training at Worcestershire’s New Road before switching base to Derbyshire’s County Ground on 13 July for two warm-up matches.
A final squad for departure will be named today, with 10 players and a support staff among the initial 29 testing positive for coronavirus at the start of the week – despite all being asymptomatic – and Shoaib Malik given additional time at home with his family.
Mohamed Hafeez, among the positive results, drew the ire of his board after seeking out a second private test and posting the outcome – negative – on social media. “I personally went to test it again, along with my family, and here I, along with my all family members are reported negative,” he tweeted.
Further testing has taken place since but the ECB has said no one shown to be positive will travel in the advance party. Pakistan are due to play three Tests from 5 August, before three Twenty20s starting at the end of that month, but the tour will ultimately hinge on the success of the stringent biosecure measures in place for the England versus West Indies series that begins in Southampton on 8 July.
Pakistan’s fragile health system is struggling to cope with the pandemic. There have been more than 190,000 confirmed cases in the country so far, with the death toll around 4,000 Britain has been one of the countries hardest-hit by the virus, with more than 43,000 deaths from Covid-19.
Besides Hafeez, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Rizwan, Wahab Riaz, Imran Khan, Mohammad Hasnain and Kashif Bhatti were diagnosed Tuesday as having the virus pathogens. Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf, Haider Ali, and a team massage therapist tested positive on Monday. But of the positive Tests, only wicketkeeper Rizwan would be classed a first-choice Test player.
England face the West Indies in a three-Test series starting at Southampton on July 8 -- a campaign that will mark the return of international cricket from lockdown. Jimmy Adams, the West Indies director of cricket, told the Two Hacks, One Pro podcast: “I think a lot of us are crossing our fingers that the environment can be kept Covid-free. What we don’t want at all is an outbreak within the bubble. We’re hearing news from Pakistan about their players, which is throwing spanners in the works there.
“Credit to the ECB, they haven’t left any stone unturned in terms of a safety point of view. What I was impressed with was the speed they put the plan together. They have done as much as anybody could expect in terms of player safety.
“Can we get through to the end of the series with all the guys clear? It will relax quite a few players if we do, because there will be other tours for guys to think about and it will be a good advert for what can be done.
“It’s not just cricket but other sports around the world are holding their breath. Pull this off and we have a blueprint that might kickstart the game until this thing settles down properly.”
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