No new positive tests for England gives boost to Sri Lanka series prospects

England’s tour of Sri Lanka is still going ahead for now © Getty Images

England’s tour of Sri Lanka will continue – for now, at least – after the latest round of Covid-19 tests showed no new positive results.

The squad will hold their first training session of the tour in Hambantota on Wednesday afternoon, where Moeen Ali has now returned to stay in separate accommodation, after an aborted plan to relocate him to Galle following his positive Covid test.

There had been anxiety over the future of the tour after Ali’s test result upon arrival in Sri Lanka. Chris Woakes, who travelled from Birmingham to Heathrow airport in the same car as Moeen, was also put in quarantine as he was considered a close contact and there were concerns that the virus may have spread through more of the tour party.

News that the rest of the squad – including Woakes – tested negative after a new round of testing on Tuesday will be a significant relief both to the England camp and Sri Lankan authorities nervous over the prevalence of the virus in the UK.

While it would be wrong to think the threat to the tour has passed completely – the entire tour party will be tested again on Thursday in the understanding that the virus sometimes takes several days to manifest itself – the news revives the prospect of the series getting underway as scheduled in Galle on January 14.

Not all has gone smoothly, however. Although Ali was on Tuesday transferred to a hotel in Galle booked for just such an eventuality, upon arrival it was concluded by the ECB’s chief medical officer, Nick Peirce, that building work rendered it unsuitable.

As a result, he was transferred back to Hambantota – a round trip of over 250 kilometres – and, after an alternative option in the town was also rejected as “not up to standard as per the protocols” in the words of a team spokesperson, is now isolating in a separate wing of the team hotel. Woakes, too, remains in isolation but should be able to join the tour party next week if he continues to return negative tests.

To round off a tough day for Ali, he is now experiencing mild symptoms of Covid-19. While nothing is confirmed at this stage, it is increasingly hard to see him playing in either of the Tests on the Sri Lankan leg of this tour, with some doubt as to his availability for the start of the series in India.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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