England consider calling off tour of Sri Lanka amid coronavirus threat before 3,000 supporters travel for first Test
Posted on March 12th, 2020

By PAUL NEWMAN and RICHARD GIBSON COURTESY THE DAILY MAIL

  • England are considering calling off their upcoming cricket tour of Sri Lanka
  • There are concerns travelling England fans could bring the virus with them 
  • Sri Lanka has so far been largely untouched, with just three confirmed cases 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

England were on Thursday night considering calling off their tour of Sri Lanka before an anticipated 3,000 supporters head to Galle for the first Test.

Hopes were fading that England could continue with a trip that is scheduled to feature two Tests — the first of which starts on Thursday. On Thursday night the ECB were waiting for guidance from the government but it was becoming increasingly likely that the team would be heading home.

England have already taken steps to be vigilant on this tour, from banning handshakes and having a two-metre ‘exclusion zone’ with media to then saying there would be no autographs or selfies with supporters.

England have been considering calling off the tour of Sri Lanka before fans start to travel

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England have been considering calling off the tour of Sri Lanka before fans start to travel

On Thursday, Sri Lanka, which has remained largely untouched by the virus, stopped issuing visas to tourists and closed all schools for at least a month.

England had been hopeful of carrying on the tour before a rapid change of mood on Thursday. The biggest fear in Sri Lanka is that infected England supporters could accelerate the spread of the virus in a country where there have been just three reported cases.

The ECB were on Thursday night considering their options, including the possibility of playing the series behind closed doors, as India have decided to do for their one-day series against South Africa.

With England supporters set to travel this weekend to Galle for the first Test, an ECB spokesman said: ‘We are in regular contact with the Sri Lankan and British High Commission in addition to Sri Lanka Cricket around the Test matches.

England have taken measures already, including a two-metre exclusion zone with media

England have taken measures already, including a two-metre exclusion zone with media

Zak Crawley made 105 in England's final warm-up game ahead of Thursday's first Test

Zak Crawley made 105 in England’s final warm-up game ahead of Thursday’s first Test

‘At this stage the series is planned to continue but we want to stress that this is a highly evolving situation and circumstances are changing rapidly, sometimes several times a day.

‘We urge fans who are considering travelling to consult with the current British and Sri Lankan government advice and to continue to do this up until the point of travel and for the duration of the trip.’

If the series is called off, attempts will be made to rearrange it before June 2021 when the World Test Championship finishes, as these two Tests count towards it. Meanwhile Zak Crawley, 22, did his cause no harm with a classy century on Thursday.

It says everything for his rapid rise that his ton was only his fourth in first-class cricket. The Kent man looks better every time he goes to the crease for England and against a strong Sri Lanka Cricket President’s XI made 105 top-quality runs, impressing with his driving and use of his feet against the spinners.

England batted throughout the first day of their final warm-up game at the P Sara Oval with Crawley making 105 and captain Joe Root an unbeaten 90 in their 354 for three.

Crawley has now made 43, 91 and a century in his three innings here and on Thursday earned the approval of one of England’s best batsmen in subcontinental conditions, assistant coach Graham Thorpe.

‘We had heard good stuff about him,’ said Thorpe of a batsman who was handed his chance when Rory Burns was injured playing football in Cape Town.

‘This is my first winter around him but I’ve been impressed. Zak has good character, he’s easy to talk to about the game and wants to just keep progressing. The more he plays the more he’s learning and the hungrier he’s getting.’ This was a solid day’s practice for an England side who, with the exception of the rested Stuart Broad, are expected to make up the team for the first Test.

Crawley has now made 43, 91 and a century in his three innings in Sri Lanka

Crawley has now made 43, 91 and a century in his three innings in Sri Lanka

Crawley and Dom Sibley gave England another good start with an opening stand of 103, before Root and Ollie Pope, promoted to five above Ben Stokes, carried on where the Kent man left off with an unbroken stand of 175 for the fourth wicket. It left England on 354 for three at the close.

Only Joe Denly was a concern. He never looked comfortable and once more got himself in before getting out, this time for 26.

Back at home, Nottinghamshire have dropped Northamptonshire as pre-season opponents over health concerns. Northants are going to Singapore on Monday for a 12-day warm-weather training break, which prompted Nottinghamshire to scrap the fixture to avoid unnecessary risk to their own players and staff.

Joe Denly was a concern after he once more got himself in before getting out, this time for 26

Joe Denly was a concern after he once more got himself in before getting out, this time for 26

Notts will now host Lancashire — one of several counties to have pulled out of overseas trips in recent days — with the match starting on March 30.

Somerset pulled out last night of their pre-season trip to Abu Dhabi, where they were due to play Worcestershire and Essex. The West Midlands club’s decision to abort their tour had left Somerset with just a two-day game against Essex on their schedule.

The Indian Premier League, which is scheduled to start on March 29, is likely to go ahead with matches behind closed doors.

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