01 Jun

On Saturday Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (pictured) provided the green light for a behind-closed-doors return to action, however that stage three guidance relates to domestic sport and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) require stage four clearance to host international cricket here this summer.

Cricket West Indies provided official approval to the tour on Friday, after their medical team approved the protocols the ECB promised to put in place 'to minimise risk and optimise the health and safety of all concerned'.

However, in addition a stage four approval providing Government dispensation would be required to allow West Indies to prepare for the three-Test series, scheduled to start at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on July 8, as self-isolation rules for travellers from abroad arriving in the UK would prevent players staying in the same hotel.

The current regulations only make exceptions for key workers, meaning modifications to the 14-day quarantine rule would be required for the tour to proceed as planned. A 25-man West Indies squad, plus around a dozen support staff, are due to arrive on a chartered flight on June 9.

To maintain the guidelines for a safe return to practice, promoted by the ICC, they would need to mix together freely and train intensively as a unit almost immediately in readiness for the scheduled start.

A positive intervention from Westminster will be required within days for the schedule to stay on course. Time frames are tight throughout the ECB's plans, with a Pakistan tour, featuring 18 days of play out of 28, pencilled in from August 5.

The West Indies series, the final two matches of which are set to be held at Emirates Old Trafford, could also be the first to feature Covid-19 substitutes, as long as the ICC approve an ECB request for any player displaying symptoms of coronavirus to be isolated and replaced, in the same manner as a concussed player.

John Stephenson


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