First test could be postponed after illness sweeps England squad

First test could be postponed after illness sweeps England squad

English and Pakistani officials are in discussions over a possible 24-hour postponement of the first try in pakistanafter 13 to 14 members of the England squad – including half of the 16 pool players – were struck down with illness on Wednesday.

The problem is believed to be a virus or insect rather than food poisoning, with England taking particular care over what they eat with the help of a chef, Omar Meziane, who traveled with the team to this tour. However, on Tuesday some players said they were not feeling well and were asked to stay in their rooms to limit the risk of spreading the virus.

Ben Stokescaptain of England, and James Anderson are understood to be two of the persons concerned. Jack Leachingwho lives with Crohn’s disease and takes immunosuppressive drugs, which weaken his immune system, has symptoms but is doing well. Joe Root had symptoms on Tuesday but recovered well enough to train on Wednesday. Likewise, Mark Wood, who was already expected to miss the first test through injury, showed signs of improvement after missing training on Tuesday and being confined to his room.

An ECB spokesperson confirmed the illnesses were not linked to Covid-19, with players suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea. There is hope that the virus will pass in 24 hours, but with the first of the three-match series due to start in Rawalpindi on Thursday, England’s chances of a successful start have been severely hampered. Root, speaking to the media on Wednesday, acknowledged that talks were ongoing about a postponed start to the game.

Although World Test Championship playing conditions require all matches to take place over a five-day window, an ECB spokesman confirmed that play would not have started under the current circumstances. The heads of the two boards – PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja and the ECB’s Rob Key and Neil Snowball – have been in talks, with the final decision on the start time likely resting on the verdict of the board’s doctor. England team.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re in this situation, but we don’t think it’s diet related,” Root said. “I don’t think there’s a correlation between the two and in fact the chef is sick as well so I don’t think it’s the food.

“The fact is that we have been trying to bring a chef with us for a few years now. This is the first opportunity we have had to do so. Look at all the other international sports teams, even the Premier League and Championship teams. have their own chef, so we think from a nutrition and performance perspective, we try to do everything we can to optimize ourselves and be in the right position to perform.”

Apart from Root, only Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Harry Brook players named in the starting XI, and Keaton Jennings practiced on the ground on Wednesday in a session that was optional anyway before the bug spread. The team named by Stokes on Tuesdaywith a debut for Liam Livingstone and a return to the fold for fly-half Ben Duckett, can now look very different.

“It’s going to have to be Marcus Trescothick, Rob Key and Brendon McCullum as the new top three for tomorrow,” Root joked. “As far as I know there are a few guys who aren’t feeling 100 per cent but – I wasn’t feeling well yesterday but I woke up better today – so hopefully that’s just a 24 hour virus and I don’t think it’s food poisoning or Covid or anything like that.

“I think it’s just one of those things that we unfortunately picked up as a group – we tried to do absolutely everything, we prepared really well for this game and sometimes life throws things at you but we We’ll do everything we can to be right tomorrow and be fair and ready to go.”

Asked if he thought everyone would be suitable for selection on Thursday morning, Root said: “It’s hard to say, I haven’t seen anyone this morning, we literally went straight into the bus, so the guys will do everything they can to be right in that aspect, so time will really tell.”

The outbreak took place at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad, where England and Pakistan stayed with members of the British media. England took over a second-floor wing and a sixth-floor Executive Lounge, which functions as a team room. They were not restricted in their movements around the hotel, beyond being able to leave the heavily guarded 14-acre compound.

It’s not the first time England have been hit with illness at the start of a tour recently. During the 2019-20 South Africa tour, another bug ran through the team before and during their Boxing Day test in Pretoria, with a number of players having to leave the field of play to use the toilets and take liquids. in locker rooms separate from the group. They then lost the test. Such was the rate of spread of this particular virus that many England players wondered if they had been hit with an early version of Covid-19. But, just as it is now, the symptoms were very different.

“I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. It’s awful,” Root said. “Running on and off the pitch all the time. But sometimes that’s part and parcel of where you are as a team. That [Centurion 2019] was very unfortunate because many of us got sick during the test match, without entering the match. But hopefully it’s not something we have to deal with, and everyone will be fine tomorrow and we can enjoy what is an exciting series and have cricket as a talking point.”

Root added that he was unsure if any reinforcements were being discussed as the Lions squad returned from Abu Dhabi at the end of last week’s warm-up with the Test squad, and said that he did not expect to become a captain. if Stokes didn’t go into form.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “Ollie Pope did it the other day and he would do a great job, so we’ll see. Hopefully that’s not a conversation we need to have.

“It’s frustrating. Today is usually an optional session anyway, so a few of the guys wouldn’t have come anyway. There’s not much you can do except try to do the right things and stay hydrated, and do the things away from the game that will serve you well overnight in preparation for tomorrow.

“That’s where we are at as a team. Sometimes it happens, and when we’re all squeezed into the same hotel, it can spread. We’ve done what we can to try to mitigate that, and we’ll see how we shape tomorrow. It’s part and parcel of being on tour. Sometimes these things get thrown at you and that’s why you have 15 guys here, so in case of injury or illness, you you’re ready to go.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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