England’s fifth Test with India has been cancelled after a member of India’s staff tested positive for COVID-19.
The ECB confirmed on Friday morning the whole match has been called off, due to fears over a rise of COVID cases within the visitors’ camp.
The member of India staff returned a positive test on the eve of the match, who was said to have been in contact with several of the team.
India scrapped their final pre-match training session on Thursday, as well as their mandatory press conference, with the squad confined to their hotel rooms.
The threat to the match appeared to recede when the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed on Wednesday evening that a fresh round of PCR tests had come back fully negative.
But it was reported that a number of players remained wary of taking the field, with their places in the Indian Premier League potentially at stake.
The match was set to start at 11am on Friday, with Old Trafford completely sold out and thousands of fans already travelled to Manchester.
But the ECB confirmed two hours before the first ball on Friday that the fifth Test has now been cancelled.
An ECB statement read: “Following ongoing conversations with the BCCI, the ECB can confirm that the fifth LV= Insurance Test between England and India Men due to start today at Emirates Old Trafford, will be cancelled.
“Due to fears of a further increase in the number of COVID cases inside the camp, India are unable to field a team.
“We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news, which we know will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many.
“Further information will be shared in due course.”
The Indian team have already been instructed to be under strict bubble conditions outside of playing hours until the end of the Test, before flying straight to the UAE for resumption of IPL.
The ECB and the BCCI have spent much of the past 24 in negotiations, which were continuing even as fans were beginning the journeys to attend the sold-out fixture.
Reports in India claim that physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar’s test returned positive during the evening’s testing after Wednesday’s training session at Old Trafford.
The session on Thursday was subsequently cancelled and the whole India squad had been confined to their rooms until further notice, with the Test now off as the visitors were unable to field a team with many players unwilling to play.
The positive test means India have now had four members of staff to contract the virus.
Head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach B. Arun and fielding coach R. Sridhar were all COVID positive during the fourth Test in London last week.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is said to have been keen on the abandonment of the Test in order to ensure all the players would be able to return for the rescheduled second half of the Indian Premier League.
Former England batsman Mark Butcher said the cancellation of the fifth Test was a shame and acknowledged the restart of the Indian Premier League on September 19 would be a talking point for fans.
Butcher told Sky Sports News: “It’s tremendously disappointing for cricket fans as it’s been an incredible series and everybody wanted to see how this was going to pan out.
“There are also other factors to think of and I’m sure people will be talking about the fact the IPL restarts in the UAE on the 19th and any postponement would push that back beyond the start of the competition.
“I’ve got a little bit of sympathy n terms of the Indian players, most of whom have been on the road before the Australian series over Christmas and New Year. They did go home to play England but they were in strict bubbles then.
“I can imagine some of those players locked up in their rooms at the moment have had an absolute gutful and want to get out. But that does not dim any of the disappointment for fans and the amount of money involved in putting these Test matches on. It’s a real shame.”
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