The ECB are considering testing all participants in their new competition, the Hundred, for Covid-19 every day throughout the tournament in order to minimise the impact of the virus on the tournament.
Coronavirus wreaked havoc in English cricket this week when the men’s national team had to replace a whole ODI squad and management to face Pakistan after recording seven positive tests following the series against Sri Lanka.
The ECB are alive to the threat the virus poses their new tournament, which has men’s and women’s arms, and are adapting their protocols.
The women’s tournament begins at the Kia Oval on 21 July, with the men following 24 hours later. The finals are at Lord’s on August 21.
This is problematic for the ECB, because the government’s rules around “close contacts” are not due to change (for those double-vaccinated) until August 16, meaning teams could be decimated if players test positive and have been in contact with their team-mates.
There is little wriggle room in terms of personnel in men’s or women’s cricket for the ECB if swathes of players were ruled out by contact tracing.
In the men’s game, further players could be called up from counties, but that would make the Royal London One-Day Cup – the only men’s domestic 50-over cricket – even more second string (which would enrage counties and their fans). Some counties, such as Surrey and Sussex, are missing more than 10 players to the Hundred already.
Cancelled fixtures because players are not available is unthinkable for the ECB, with every game broadcast on Sky and some on the BBC. The BBC are showing 10 men’s matches on their main TV channel but – oddly, given the tournament is aiming for gender parity – the majority of the women’s matches will only be streamed on iPlayer.
Under the ECB Covid-19 considerations, every player and staff member would take a lateral flow test each day throughout the tournament, which would allow them to identify any spread of the virus.