Gaz stirs Ashes pot as starved Poms hit virus hurdle
NATHAN Lyon has cheekily accused England of trying to make a grab for the Ashes, after powerbrokers in the UK refused to rule out asking Australia to play a hastily arranged Test series.
Following the shocking news that 10 Pakistan players who were due to fly to the UK in four days have tested positive to COVID-19, England cricket boss Ashley Giles was asked whether Australia might be asked to add red-ball matches to their proposed limited-overs tour in September.
Cricket Australia said on Wednesday that no such suggestion had been put to them, and Ashes hero Lyon chimed in with a sly dig at England over having relinquished the urn last year.
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"Just sounds like England want the Ashes back ASAP," said Lyon.
"But to be honest there's so many balls up in the air, I dare say the ICC and England and Australia and every other cricket nation are going to be looking at the best possible way to get cricket back playing again around the world."
Giles, the ECB director of cricket, said there was no back up plan but refused to rule out any possibilities when asked if Tests against Australia or Ireland may be considered.
"If the majority of the Pakistan squad are negative we would be hopeful they could be the advance party and carry on," Giles said.
"Perhaps other players would follow.
"We do not currently have a contingency plan. As has been the case throughout this situation, we have to be agile and adapt to these situations. We would look at that if that happened."
Both the England and Pakistan boards have expressed a desire to continue with the three Test series which does not start until the end of the month, but the results have rattled confidence.
The England summer has been on hold since the start of the outbreak.
The game looked to be getting back on track in the UK when West Indies played the first day of an intra squad practice game at Old Trafford on Tuesday night (EST) ahead of a three-Test series, the first of which is due to start on July 9 at Southampton.
Cricket took a further blow when PM Boris Johnson allowed other community sports to recommence, but said club cricket could not, claiming the cricket ball was a "natural vector of disease".
The ICC has banned using saliva on the ball in reaction to health concerns.
The news that 10 of 29 Pakistan players tested positive has shocked the cricket community. Three of the players are yet to receive results.
On Monday, Shadab Khan, Haider Ali, and Haris Rauf had tested positive, but then results came back positive for Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Hasnain, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz, and Imran Khan.
The PCB announced one member from the player support personnel also tested positive for the virus.
PCB CEO Wasim Khan said all 10 players are asymptomatic.
"The tour to England is very much on track and the side will depart as per schedule on 28 June," Wasim said.
"Fortunately, all the first-choice red-ball squad, barring Mohammad Rizwan, are negative,
which means they can start training and practicing immediately after they have been tested and given the all clear when they arrive in England.
"As regards the players, who have tested positive, we will continue to monitor and support them, including conducting antibody tests, and as soon as they test negative, they will be flown to join the squad in England. At the moment, they have been advised to go into self-isolation so that they not only recover quickly but also prevent their other family members from being infected."
The infected players face 14 days isolation but can fly out and join the squad in isolation in the UK if they are cleared at the end of that period.
Pubs, restaurants and cinemas can open in the UK on July 4 along with select sports, but in making the announcement, Johnson dismissed suggestions club cricket should return also.
"The problem with cricket as everybody understands, that the ball is a natural vector of disease, potentially, at any rate and we've been round it many times with our scientific friends.
"At the moment we're still working on ways to make cricket more covid-secure, but we can't change the guidance yet."