Sri Lanka confident Test series with England will not be derailed by Covid


  • Coach Mickey Arthur says officials have ‘done a hell of a job’
  • ‘More cases in the England camp could be the only issue’

England captain Joe Root (right) arriving at Rajapaksa airport in Sri Lanka on Sunday.

England captain Joe Root (right) arriving at Rajapaksa airport in Sri Lanka on Sunday.
Photograph: Ishara S Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

Sri Lanka have full confidence in their biosecure arrangements for the upcoming series against England, with the chief question now being whether Covid-19 was able to spread among the tourists during the journey from London last weekend.

Moeen Ali is England’s one confirmed case after testing positive on arrival on Sunday, and on Tuesday the all-rounder, who is asymptomatic, was transported from the team hotel in Hambantota to one in Galle to complete his 10 days of isolation.

Nick Peirce, the ECB’s chief medical officer, travelled in a separate vehicle to ensure Moeen is comfortable in his new surroundings, having himself been vaccinated before departure due to his other job as a frontline NHS doctor.

England were on Tuesday night awaiting results from a fresh round of testing to determine whether a spread has occurred or whether the players can leave their rooms to begin training, albeit with Chris Woakes isolating for a seven-day period after sharing a taxi from the West Midlands to Heathrow with Moeen last Saturday.

Joe Root’s side are due to undergo another round of testing on Thursday, after which they will play a two-day intrasquad match before travelling to Galle ahead of the series opener on 14 January. So far the reports back speak of an impressively stringent environment being in place.

Sri Lanka has had 45,242 reported cases since the start of the pandemic and 215 deaths, suggesting an effective response from a country with a population of 21 million. Their cricket board successfully staged the inaugural Lanka Premier League in November and December, with a handful of positive cases contained within the teams.

“The Ministry of Health has done a hell of a job in Sri Lanka, so I don’t think the upcoming series will be derailed,” said Mickey Arthur, the Sri Lanka head coach. “The country has been ultra-cautious, with a good number of curfews and lockdowns.

“Cricket-wise, the LPL was very good for getting the protocols right, and unless there is a sudden increase in infections nationally, this [tour] will go ahead. More cases in the England camp could be the only issue, I suppose.”

Arthur was speaking after his injury-afflicted side endured a 10-wicket defeat against South Africa in Johannesburg to complete a 2-0 series defeat, despite a battling 10th Test century from their captain Dimuth Karunaratne.

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A three-day conclusion to the match saw the tourists ask South Africa whether they could prepare some turning tracks in the nets at the Wanderers to aid their preparations for the England series before their departure via charter flight on Friday.

However, the hosts were unable to assist given that the biosecure bubble at the ground immediately ceased after the match, meaning Sri Lanka’s players have to wait until they have cleared testing at home over the weekend before resuming training.

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