The teams are set to play three Tests and three Twenty20s, with the competition starting in August. International competitions and major leagues have been shutting down because of the spread of the coronavirus, so these matches will be some of the first to be played in months.
Sky Sports reported that Pakistan’s players will start the tour with a 14-day quarantine at Blackfinch New Road, Worcester, before moving to The Incora County Ground in Derbyshire on July 13 to begin preparations for the first Test match. Friday’s news of the team’s planned arrival ended a period of uncertainty that started when a number of Pakistan’s players tested positive for coronavirus.
As the BBC reported earlier in the week, seven more Pakistan players tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total to 10. The players who tested negative were still slated to depart for England. Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Waskim Khan said the tour was still on track and the team would leave as scheduled. However, until the announcement on Friday, it was not certain exactly when they would leave or the logistics of the arrival and isolation period.
There is still some uncertainty surrounding the planned matches. Jimmy Adams, the West Indies director of cricket, said in a recent podcast appearance that many within the game are “crossing our fingers” to hope they can keep the virus outbreaks at bay.
As the Guardian noted, he gave credit to England’s governing body for laying the groundwork for the matches with Pakistan to go forward.
“Credit to the ECB, they haven’t left any stone unturned in terms of a safety point of view. What I was impressed with was the speed they put the plan together. They have done as much as anybody could expect in terms of player safety,” he said.
The first three Pakistan players to test positive — Haider Ail, Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan — were all asymptomatic. Monday’s tests revealed that seven more players — Fakhar Zaman, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan and Wahab Riaz — had contracted the virus. Team masseur Malang Ali had also tested positive.
The planned matches in August represent something of a return to normalcy for the sport. The T20 World Cup appears almost certain to be pushed back beyond 2020, and the India Premier League has targeted September for a potential return, but there are no details yet available. While some other sports around the world have started to return with strict measures in place to prevent the spread of the virus, cricket fans are still waiting to see major competitions.