David Warner has poured cold water on the prospect of Australia touring the UK this summer, giving the England and Wales Cricket Board a fresh headache as it prepares to postpone the Hundred by 12 months.
The ECB has been clinging on to the hope that, while its new 100-ball tournament will likely be mothballed at a board meeting on Wednesday, England’s men might still be able to play their intended 18 home internationals behind closed doors in a delayed and truncated season.
But while their six white-ball fixtures against Australia in July were already facing a shift to the back end of the summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, opening batsman Warner fancies his side will not be making the trip at all.
“At the moment it’s highly unlikely we’re going to go over there given what’s happened in England,” Warner told cricket.com.au, before referencing Boris Johnson’s recent return to health after being hospitalised by Covid-19. “[Johnson] is back up on his feet now and that’s fantastic news, but there’s a lot more to this than just sport being played.”
Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, admitted last week it was “very early for us to be able to say the Aussies will be here” given global travel restrictions. But at the forefront of his mind currently is ensuring the Hundred actually sees the light of day.
Wednesday’s board meeting is expected to see a 12-month postponement rubber-stamped and announced on Thursday morning – a decision that could cost the ECB an estimated £10m in player compensation and lost marketing spend.
But despite forecasts of a recession there remains an unflinching determination to get under way in 2021, even if teams may have to be re-drafted from those picked last October and extra promotional work is required to make up for the loss of momentum.
The ECB has also privately pushed back at the idea of selling equity stakes in the Hundred’s eight teams to investors – or gifting them to the counties in lieu of central payments – following a suggestion by Oakwell Sports Advisory, a consultancy firm that advised CVC on its £200m deal with Premiership Rugby in 2018.
As well as the Hundred’s future, the ECB board will discuss Ian Watmore’s appointment as chairman, having been forced to re-examine his departure from the Football League two years ago after his conduct during negotiations over a TV deal was questioned in a report seen by the Daily Mail.