England v India 2021: Fifth Test at Old Trafford cancelled amid Covid-19 concerns

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England’s fifth Test against India at Old Trafford has been cancelled after a number of the tourists’ backroom staff tested positive for Covid-19.

India were unable to field a team because they fear further cases spreading through their squad.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said: “We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news.”

“We know it will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many.”

The ECB statement initially said that India, who led the series 2-1, had forfeited the final Test and the series was drawn 2-2. The statement has since been amended to say: “India are regrettably unable to field a team.”

The final result is unclear.

Head coach Ravi Shastri tested positive during India’s fourth Test win, forcing bowling coach Bharat Arun, fielding coach Ramakrishnan Sridhar and physiotherapist Nitin Pate to isolate.

Another member of the backroom staff tested positive on Thursday.

India cancelled Thursday’s training session, but a subsequent round of testing showed no positive results among players and it was declared that the Test would go ahead as planned.

However, the announcement to cancel the match was made just over two hours before it was due to begin in Manchester.

Although England rescheduled all of their home fixtures in 2020, this is the first home men’s international to have been cancelled since the beginning of the pandemic.

England did postpone three one-day internationals in South Africa in December because of coronavirus fears.

Any attempt to reschedule the fifth Test would have been complicated by the Indian Premier League, which restarts on 19 September.

The tournament, originally played in India, was postponed in May and begins again in the United Arab Emirates.

‘The IPL would have a lot to do with this’ – analysis

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew

This is quite bizarre because last night the players all passed their PCR tests. We went to bed thinking the match would go ahead.

I suspect the IPL would have a lot to do with this. It starts in 10 days’ time. The players are on huge contacts. The IPL is worth £300m to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

They are desperate to protect their product and the players protect their contracts. This stands to cost the ECB £20m, one assumes there would be some negotiations about that with the BCCI.

It is shame Covid has interfered with a brilliant series.