ENGLAND and Australia are set to meet this winter in a crunch Ashes series Down Under.
Scheduled for five matches across almost two months, Joe Root‘s side are looking to claim the urn for the first time since 2015.
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But with the coronavirus pandemic still raging and creating operational challenges both in and out of sport, the series is under threat.
Will The Ashes go ahead this winter?
Due to start on December 8, Root revealed on September 29 that a ‘definite decision’ on the tour going ahead has not yet been made.
England players are said to be anxious over the stringent Covid-19 entry requirements to get into Australia, with parts of the country still in lockdown.
A number of players likely to be included in the Test squad – including Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes – have flown out to Oman already to prepare for the T20 World Cup.
But with the series in Australia still not confirmed, they have no idea how long they could potentially be away from their families.
After 18 months of going in and out of Covid bubbles, some players want to see what the restrictions in Australia will entail before getting on the plane.
Assistant England coach Paul Collingwood revealed the feeling in the camp with a heartfelt message on Instagram.
He wrote: “I love my job and I’m so excited for the winter of cricket ahead but saying goodbye to your daughters for potentially 3 months is not easy, no matter how tough you feel you are.
“We all make sacrifices in life. Looking forward to meeting up with the team tomorrow because I know we will try to help each other like a family.”
Australian skipper Tim Paine has reiterated that the First Test at the Gabba will ‘go ahead whether Joe [Root] is here or not’.
But it seems unlikely that England would send a weakened squad of fringe players to Australia if their stars refused to go.
And the ECB’s latest statement suggests a postponement is more likely if a number of players don’t make themselves available.
After a meeting at the weekend with concerned players, the ECB have revealed a decision on the tour will be made later this week.
An ECB statement read: “Over the weekend we have been talking to England men’s players and management to provide them with the latest information about the proposed arrangements for this winter’s scheduled Ashes tour.
“We remain in regular and positive dialogue with Cricket Australia over these arrangements as the picture is constantly evolving.
“With health and wellbeing at the forefront, our focus is to ensure the tour can go ahead with conditions for players and management to perform at their best.
“We will continue talking to our players this week to share the latest information and seek feedback.
“Later this week the ECB Board will meet to decide whether the conditions in place are sufficient for the Tour to go ahead and enable the selection of a squad befitting a series of this significance.”
- First Test: 8-12 December – Gabba, Brisbane (12am GMT)
- Second Test: 16-20 December – Adelaide Oval, Adelaide (4am GMT)
- Third Test: 26-30 December – MCG, Melbourne (11.30pm GMT)
- Fourth Test: 5-9 January – SCG, Sydney (11.30pm GMT)
- Fifth Test: 14-18 January – Optus Stadium, Perth (2.30am GMT)