England’s Harry Brook, center, bats during a training session, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP
Several England players were struck down by the virus ahead of the team’s first test in Pakistan in 17 years, leading to discussions about postponing the start of the one-day match.
Only five England players — Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope and Joe Root — turned up for training at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. Other members of the squad, including captain Ben Stokes, stayed at the hotel while team officials said six or seven players had been affected by the virus.
Brook, Crawley, Pope and Root have been named in England’s playing XI for the first test.
“There are obviously some people who are not feeling 100%,” Root told reporters, adding that he did not feel well yesterday but woke up better on Wednesday before arriving for training at the stadium. “It’s not like food poisoning or COVID…I think it’s just one of those things that we’ve unfortunately picked up as a group. We’re trying to do everything right to make sure we’re really ready for this game.
“Sometimes you just get a virus and when you’re all put together, I’m telling you, you can spread it. We’ve done everything we can to try and mitigate that, but you’ll have to see what happens tonight and tomorrow.
England team spokesman Danny Rueben said several staff members of the England contingent had 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 was not sure if it was possible to delay the game by a day and start it on Friday.
“It’s a massive tour and important series for so many reasons,” Root said. “We have 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 are all desperate to play this game and we know how important it is to the Pakistan fans and also to their team. I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world if we have to wait another day to be sure that the game will not be canceled and everyone will get what they want, which is an exciting three-match series.
England have named their playing XI for the first of the three-test series with Liam Livingstone set to make his test debut and Ben Duckett set to open alongside Crawley. Veteran fast bowlers James Anderson and Ollie Robinson are the two specialist fast bowlers with Stokes being another seaming option.
England are out of contention for next year’s final World Test Championship and are seventh in the WTC table.
Pakistan are in fifth place and have a realistic chance of making the final at the Oval in 2023, if they win a majority of the remaining five tests at home. Pakistan is set to host New Zealand for a two-test series later this month after the three-test against England concludes in Karachi.
“We know we have to win four of the remaining five test matches and this is a golden opportunity for us to do it at home,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam. “We know a lot of England players are not good, but we’re looking forward to playing against a full-strength England side.”
England’s aggressive approach under new coach Brendon McCullum saw the team beat New Zealand 3-0 at home this summer before registering a come-from-behind 2-1 win over South Africa .
McCullum’s fearless approach completely transformed England in red-ball cricket after a 4-0 Ashes series defeat in Australia and saw head coach Chris Silverwood sacked and Ben Stokes appointed captain as in place of Joe Root.
While lively wickets in England played a big role in the new positive approach, the visitors may have to adapt quickly to slow wickets in Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi.
“Test match cricket is all about patience and you have to play session after session,” said Babar. “Every team wants home conditions so we also want conditions that suit us and give us results.”
The pitch at Pindi Cricket Stadium was criticized when only 14 wickets fell during Australia’s tour of Pakistan in March and the pitch was rated “below average” by ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle.
But England’s approach to scoring at a fast pace could counter the tactics of Pakistan, who are without their spearhead fast bowler Shaheen Afridi, who has been ruled out of the series with a knee injury.
Pakistan has named three spinners in its 18-man squad with left-armer Nauman Ali expected to be paired with uncapped 24-year-old mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed.