Rawalpindi [Pakistan], December 1 (ANI): England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced on Wednesday that the decision on the commencement of the first Test between England and Pakistan has been delayed and both boards have agreed to start the match from Friday if England players do not recover to take the field on Thursday morning.
On the eve of their first Test in Pakistan, England are in disarray as 13 to 14 staff members, including half of the 16-man playing squad, fell ill on Wednesday.
"The Pakistan Cricket Board and England and Wales Cricket Board today discussed the outbreak of viral infection in the England men's Test team camp and unanimously agreed to delay the decision on the commencement of the first Test, which is due to start on Thursday, until 0730 Pakistan time tomorrow (Thursday)," said a statement from ECB.
"The two boards made the decision based on medical advice from the England doctors, which revolved around the players' health and welfare, agreeing that the England cricket team are able to select an XI for the first of the three ICC World Test Championship matches, which will be played at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium."
"The two boards also agreed, subject to the England players not recovering well enough to take the field on Thursday morning, then the Test will commence on Friday and will be a five-day match. In this scenario, the schedule of the second Test in Multan and the third Test in Karachi will remain unaffected and will be played as per original schedule i.e. 9-13 and 17-21 December, respectively," the statement added.
As per ESPNcricinfo, the problem is believed to be a virus or bug rather than food poisoning, and England is taking extra precautions with their diet thanks to a chef named Omar Meziane who has accompanied the team on this tour.
To reduce the risk of the virus spreading, some players were instructed to remain in their rooms on Tuesday after reporting feeling unwell.
James Anderson and captain of England Ben Stokes are believed to be two of those who are impacted. Jack Leach, who has Crohn's disease and takes immunosuppressant medication to lower his immune response, exhibited symptoms but is reportedly in good health. Despite experiencing symptoms on Tuesday, Joe Root was able to train on Wednesday.
As reported by Espncricinfo, an ECB spokesperson confirmed that the illnesses were not COVID-19 related. There is a chance the virus will go away in a day, but since the first of the three matches in the series starts on Thursday in Rawalpindi, England's chances of getting off to a good start have been significantly diminished.
Only Root, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Harry Brook, and Keaton Jennings participated in the Wednesday training session at the venue, which was optional prior to the bug's spread. The other players listed in the starting XI were absent.
The outbreak has taken place at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad, where both teams England and Pakistan have been staying. This is not the first time that England has been ill at the beginning of a tour. A similar bug affected the team prior to and during their Boxing Day Test in Pretoria on the 2019-20 South African tour.
England XI v Pakistan: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes (w), Liam Livingstone, Jack Leach, Ollie Robinson and Jimmy Anderson. (ANI)