Chris Woakes emerged from isolation in Sri Lanka on Saturday and rejoined his England teammates at a distance as their second and final day of warm-up cricket was ruined by rain before next week’s first Test in Galle.
Woakes has spent the past seven days in his room at the Shangri-La hotel in Hambantota after a shared journey to Heathrow with Moeen Ali last weekend left him deemed a close contact when the latter tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival. But while Woakes has been told by the team’s medical staff he must still avoid contact with the squad initially, the 31-year-old – England’s player of last summer – was able to undergo some running and fielding work before the squad departed for Galle.
It remains to be seen whether Woakes will be ready for Thursday’s series opener, having not bowled for two weeks. He had been viewed as the man to balance the side in the absence of Ben Stokes but may well miss out – initially at least – to Sam Curran.
Moeen must isolate until Wednesday, ruling him out of the first Test, and England’s players are light on preparation time generally, with 100 overs of a one-off intra-squad match played on Friday before events were washed out 24 hours later.
Asked about their chances of success in spite of this, and having suffered a first-ball duck when he batted, Jos Buttler said: “It is going to be difficult but it doesn’t mean it’s not attainable. For some of the more experienced guys who’ve played quite a lot of cricket, they may be a bit more comfortable with the fact preparation isn’t perfect.”
Among the challenges in Sri Lanka will be the extreme heat and humidity, with England’s players being weighed by the team nutritionist, Emma Gardner, before and after sessions in the field to highlight how much fluid can be lost.
Buttler said: “[Friday] was 50 overs in the field. I think I drank three litres and still lost one to two kilograms. It equates to a litre of fluid per kilo so you need to keep drinking. That’s going to be a big part of making sure everyone can perform at 100%. The conditions are going to be a challenge but our squad is as fit as it’s ever been.”