Virus strikes England on eve of first test in Pakistan

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Moeen Ali (C) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket. File/AFP

Several England players have been struck by a virus ahead of the team’s first test in Pakistan in 17 years, leading to discussions about postponing the start of the match by one day.

Only five England players – Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope and Joe Root – turned up for the training at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. The rest of the squad members, including captain Ben Stokes, stayed in the hotel as team officials said six or seven players had been affected by the virus.

Brook, Crawley, Pope and Root all were named in England’s playing XI for the first test.

“There’s obviously a few guys not feeling 100%,” Root told reporters, adding that he didn’t feel good yesterday but woke up lot better on Wednesday before coming for the training at the stadium.

“It’s nothing like food poisoning or COVID … I think it’s just one of those things that we’ve unfortunately picked up as a group. We try to do absolutely everything right to make sure we’re prepared really well for this game.

“Sometimes you just pick up a virus and when you’re all tied together in one, I tell you, you can spread it out. We did everything we can to try and mitigate that, but you have to see how things go tonight and tomorrow.”

England team spokesman Danny Rueben said several staff members of the England contingent have also been affected by the virus.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said it was discussing the start of Thursday’s first test with the England Cricket Board “and will provide further updates in due course.”

Root said he wasn’t sure whether it was possible to delay the game by a day and have it start on Friday.

“It’s such a monumental tour and important series for so many reasons,” Root said. “We’ve waited 17 years to come to Pakistan to play a test match, if it means waiting another day, is that the worst thing in the world?

“We’re all desperate to play this game and we know how important it is to the fans of Pakistan and their team as well. I don’t think it’s necessarily the worst thing in the world if we have to wait one more day to make sure the game isn’t canceled and everyone gets what they want, which is an exciting three-match series.”

England has already named its playing XI for the first of the three-test series with Liam Livingstone set to make his test debut and Ben Duckett is penciled as opener with Crawley. Veteran fast bowler James Anderson and Ollie Robinson are the two specialist fast bowler with Stokes as the other seaming option.

England is already out of contention for next year’s World Test Championship final and is placed seventh in the WTC table.

Associated Press

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