England players agree to Ashes tour after CA calmed fears of COVID containment

England players agree to Ashes tour after CA calmed fears of COVID containment



The Ashes is set to continue this summer, with England’s players reportedly agreeing to tour in a move that will green-light the $200 million series.

England cricketers spoke again with Cricket Australia (CA) bosses on Tuesday evening to allay concerns about strict COVID-19 protocols.

Players have until the end of this week to make a decision by the English authorities, with the team only going on tour if a sufficient number of frontliners agree to travel.

However, those fears have now seemingly allayed with British newspaper The Telegraph reporting that Captain Joe Root has led a group of players committed to the series.

According to the report, wicketkeeper Jos Buttler could be the only England player not to agree to a tour.

The star wicketkeeper batsman had previously expressed concerns about the tour and possible time away from family.

Allrounder Moeen Ali will not be available after his recent retirement, while Ben Stokes is taking a break from the competition and Jofra Archer is injured.

CA has yet to be officially notified, but will no doubt breathe a huge sigh of relief given the magnitude of the decision.

In a series of two separate encounters with England players in recent days, fears of rapid lockdowns and quarantine conditions for families were understood to be the main concerns.

But CEO Nick Hockley emphasized to England players that conditions in Australia were improving as the country’s vaccination rate increased.

Likewise, a move to allow a second group of English player families to arrive in Melbourne before Christmas is also believed to have been crucial.

Players had feared that families wouldn’t be able to arrive with them until November, which meant a harsh quarantine for a long tour.

But the move to admit a second group of Victoria would be welcome news, as they don’t have to spend that much time away from home.

There may be some liberties for families in regional Victoria.

That deal isn’t officially over the line with the state government, but would be in line with the COVID-19 roadmap as Victoria moves closer to double dosing rates of 70 and 80 percent.

The last concern for CA will now be the Perth Test, with officials adamant that they will be allowed to play in Western Australia just days after being in Sydney.

Failing that, Canberra or Hobart could grab their first Ashes Test.

Alternatively, the match can be held as a second match in the SCG or MCG.

Meanwhile, England’s decision comes after legend Ian Botham questioned whether the team really wanted to take on Australia in “the ultimate test”.

Botham, the most celebrated English scourge of the Aussies, has questioned the desire of some of his successors in 2021 to play in the upcoming Ashes, suggesting they are “not in the mood for the ultimate test”.

“It’s the ultimate test and – I don’t know – I’m starting to wonder if some of these guys don’t like the ultimate test,” Botham, 65, told the Telegraph.

“You have to start worrying about it. Playing for England is the ultimate. Playing test cricket for England is the ultimate and playing against Australia in Australia and winning is fantastic.

“I wish we could put a positive spin on something and my positive spin is, ‘Let’s get out there, let’s see if we can beat the best in their own backyard.’ Because Australia doesn’t often lose in their own backyard.

“I suggest it is a challenge and if I were in their boots I would have already packed my bags.”

Australia currently owns the urn after a 2-2 draw in England in 2019, with the first Test starting on December 8 in Brisbane.

© AAP

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