The fifth Test between England and India has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns within the India camp, the England and Wales Cricket Board has announced, just hours before the match at Old Trafford was due to start.
“Following ongoing conversations with the BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India], the ECB can confirm that the fifth Test between England and India Men due to start today at Emirates Old Trafford, will be cancelled,” said the statement on Friday.
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“Due to fears of a further increase in the number of COVID cases inside the camp, India are regrettably unable to field a team.”
The ECB initially said in the statement that India had forfeited the match but later retracted that.
BCCI offers to reschedule
Later on Friday, India’s Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) offered to reschedule the test after it was “jointly decided” to cancel the match.
“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 fifth Test match scheduled at Manchester in India’s ongoing tour of England 2021,” the BCCI said in a statement.
The BCCI said it had held talks with the ECB to find a way to play the game but Covid cases among backroom staff had forced their hand, adding that the wellbeing of players was “paramount”.
“In lieu of the strong relationship between BCCI and ECB, the BCCI has offered to ECB a rescheduling of the cancelled Test match,” the statement said.
“Both the boards will work towards finding a window to reschedule this Test match.”
Rescheduling the fifth Test is complicated by the imminent restart of the lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, which resumes in the United Arab Emirates on September 19.
The IPL, which started in India, was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.
Forced to isolate
India were 2-1 up in the series against England, heading into the final match but the test was thrown into doubt on Thursday after their physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
As a result, India’s entire touring party was forced to isolate in its Manchester hotel, and cancel their final training session and mandatory pre-match press conference on Thursday.
India coach Ravi Shastri had tested positive during the fourth test at The Oval and has since been isolating.
Bowling coach Bharath Arun, fielding coach R Sridhar and main physio Nitin Patel also tested positive.
Reports said several Indian players harboured concerns over the spread of the virus and were unwilling to play, meaning India could not put out a team.
“We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news, which we know will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many,” the ECB said.