England could yet to able to stage their entire men’s international schedule during this coronavirus-affected summer following more positive noises from Cricket Australia about the prospect of sending over a team in September.
Plans are already afoot to host six behind-closed-doors Tests against West Indies and Pakistan from 8 July – as well as three T20s against the latter and three ODIs against Ireland – with Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes among the England red-ball bowlers who began individual training sessions on Thursday.
Australia, originally down for three T20 internationals and three ODIs in July, had appeared a long shot to make the trip at any stage of the summer, not least when the opener David Warner described the proposed tour as “highly unlikely” during an interview with their official website in April.
But Kevin Roberts, Cricket Australia’s chief executive, has held recent talks with Tom Harrison, his opposite number at the England and Wales Cricket Board, about a possible late summer tour and is encouraged by the biosecure protocols being prepared at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford.
“I think there’s some chance we could send a team over,” Roberts told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. “Obviously we won’t jeopardise the safety of the players, but the best test of that is the West Indian and Pakistan tours of England before we’re due to tour. We hope they go off without a hitch.”
A full summer for the men, even in empty grounds with costly medical provisions, would help the ECB to significantly reduce the £380m losses projected by Harrison in the event of a wiped out season. While a rescue plan for a late summer T20 Blast is still being devised with the counties, the governing body says all draft schedules include fixtures for the England women’s team; talks with India and South Africa are ongoing.
The intended men’s visits of West Indies and Pakistan could be announced as early as next week, as well as the grounds being used, with Wasim Khan, the chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board, telling Sky’s Cricket show on Thursday that “as things stand, we are looking forward to the tour”.
A 25-man Pakistan squad to cover both red- and white-all series faces up to three months in locked down conditions, however, with a training camp in Lahore in June before making the journey over for a spell of quarantine and more training before the proposed first Test in Manchester on 5 August.
The ECB’s detailed biosecure plans, as outlined in the Observer on Sunday, are understood to have become a template that other boards intend to follow. South Africa’s director of cricket, Graeme Smith, has even suggested England as a neutral venue for the Tests and T20s his side were due to play against West Indies in August.
The logistics make this hard to picture. English cricket remains in the foothills of its own ambitious project, and will require an improved national landscape for government approval for games. But phase one officially got under way on Thursday with a first run out for a handful of the bowlers.
Broad, Woakes and Sam Curran all shared videos of themselves in action on social media, the former demonstrating some the stringent measures in place with photos of a pre-session temperature check and the ladies toilet allocated solely for his use at Trent Bridge.