The England and Wales Cricket Board issued a statement on Thursday evening insisting the two-Test series against Sri Lanka that begins on 19 March remains on, but also urged travelling supporters due to arrive in the coming days to keep up to date with the latest government advice.
A spokesperson said: “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.”
Pushing back the World Test Championship encounter to next winter would present England with a fourth tour to cram into an already packed itinerary – including the T20 World Cup in Australia and a five-Test series in India – but there are more pressing issues this summer.
The government’s decision to hold off on forcing sporting events to operate behind closed doors immediately could now push such a scenario into the cricket season. The County Championship begins on 12 April followed by England’s first Test on 4 June and the T20 Blast on 20 June.
But while disruption to England’s home internationals would be most damaging by way of immediate revenues, the ECB will perhaps be most concerned by any impact on The Hundred – the radical new eight-team tournament in July and August that the sport cannot afford to fail.
In the short-term Joe Root’s Test players went into day two of their final warm-up fixture in Colombo awaiting further instructions as to the future of the tour, so too the England supporters poised to travel to Sri Lanka in the coming days before Thursday’s first Test in Galle.
The England players has been drilled with hygiene protocols designed to see the squad operate in a relative bubble but there remains the possibility of switching to a closed-door series or even a full cancellation given the sport’s response elsewhere in the world.
Australia’s T20 World Cup-winning women have seen a tour to South Africa that was due to begin on 22 March cancelled, while their men’s team began the first ODI against New Zealand overnight (starts 3.30am) at an empty Sydney Cricket, a policy that remains for all three fixtures.
India’s two remaining ODIs against South Africa on Sunday and Wednesday will also be played in closed grounds, while the Pakistan Super League has announced the same measure for its upcoming block of fixtures at the National Stadium in Karachi.
The Road Safety World Series – a seniors event in India that features Sachin Tendulkar – has been paused indefinitely after just four of its scheduled 11 fixtures.