When (And Where) Will We See England Take The Field Again?

I tried. I really did. But I just couldn’t get excited about the IPL in the end. I know I said I was going to give it a go, and that it promised to be an oasis in a desert of cricketing inactivity, but instead I’ve found myself more interested in watching other sports including, for my sins, the football. Well, I guess one’s team doesn’t beat Liverpool 7-2 every week.

With the Mancs also losing their last Premiership fixture 6-1, one wonders whether this is bad karma for the big two’s absolutely preposterous Project Big Picture proposal? Cricket has its faults for sure but at least we have seen the biggest counties launch a brazen power grab (yet).

Anyway I digress. With the domestic cricket season over and the IPL about as interesting as a Jane Austen novel to a teenage boy, my thoughts are inevitably wandering to England’s winter tours. Will they go ahead? And in what form? Sadly nobody knows exactly what will happen for sure but at least we’re in a position now to make some educated guesses.

So when will we see England take the field again? Fortunately it could be as early as next month. England were due to visit South Africa for a white ball tour in March next year but this looks like it could happen in a few weeks’ time now (after the IPL). It’s likely we’ll see 3 ODIs and 3 T20s.

At first glance it seems a little odd to reschedule this tour. March is six months away and it’s quite possible that the Covid-19 crisis might have waned somewhat by then. However, the reasons why will become apparent below. Basically it’s all about trying to ensure that the England versus India tour goes ahead. And March might prove a rather difficult month to squeeze in a trip to Biltong land.

Sadly the prospects of England playing any more Test cricket this year are slim. However, with England desperate to play India early next year the ECB are trying to arrange a training camp in the UAE next month (or possibly in December) as preparation. This will help our players forget all about slogging and focus on playing straight again.

Meanwhile England’s braintrust can begin to finalise their subcontinental strategies, which will presumably involve a combination of making Keaton Jennings captain, playing six seamers, and asking Ben Foakes to perfect his tea making skills.

The big question mark is when our red ball team will actually play some meaningful cricket. England are supposed to travel to Sri Lanka in January to complete the tour that never really started earlier this year when Covid struck. However, there’s currently a bit of an impasse over quarantine arrangements. Apparently the Sri Lankan government are hard-arses about this and want the England players confined to their hotel rooms for two weeks when they arrive. This is far from ideal because the England players will want to train, and Jofra Archer will probably want to pop home to see his girlfriend at some point.

Personally I think the Sri Lankan authorities are being a bit daft here. England’s players will be tested for Covid regularly so they’ll hardly be a danger to anyone. Who cares if they want to travel to the ground safely to train? However, Bangladesh’s tour to Sri Lanka has already been postponed after a spat over quarantine rules. They couldn’t come to an agreement and the tour was eventually postponed anyway after a player tested positive.

One does wonder, however, whether the ECB’s greater financial clout might persuade the Sri Lankans to compromise. Then again, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Lankans actually want to delay the tour again so it can eventually take place with spectators in attendance. England fans enjoy that part of the world and their presence boosts both ticket sales and general tourism.

Now we move to the big one: England versus India. What exactly is going to happen? Originally England were set to play 5 Test matches this winter against Kohli’s cohort. The plan was to stage some white ball games before the T20 World Cup, adjourn for said T20 World Cup, and then play an extensive Test series thereafter. However, this plan was obviously thrown up in the air a long time ago.

What’s likely to happen now instead is one big tour involving 4 Tests, 3 ODIs, and 3 T20s. And it’s likely to go ahead around February (so after we’ve been to Sri Lanka).

The details, however, including the crucial question of where the series will actually be played, have yet to be finalised. The BCCI obviously want the games to be played in India. But England aren’t keen because Tom Harrison spends all day refreshing the Worldometers coronavirus page every five minutes. I doubt the 75,000 new cases per day currently being reported in India has escaped his attention (although their curve is now heading in the right direction).

The obvious compromise, of course, would be to play in the good old trusty UAE. One imagines conditions will suit India a little better than England out there but it’s probably an easier brief than playing in India itself.

It will be interesting to see how the choice of venue affects the cricket betting. Personally I think England will struggle wherever they play because India quite clearly have better spinners than us. We might also struggle to take T20 wickets if the pitches are typically slow and low. However, at least paying outside India should give us some hope.

The wildcard to throw into the equation at this juncture is whether England can squeeze in a few white ball games in Pakistan while they’re away. The Pakistanis (and the West Indies for that matter) did the ECB a big favour by touring this summer. It would be great if we could pay them back.

It might be a bit early to start anticipating England’s first tour of Pakistan since 2005-06 at this stage but it’s an intriguing and exciting possibility – even if it’s just for a couple of T20s.

James Morgan


  • Ditto about the IPL. When an English player is involved, especially batting, there is some involvement but as the whole thing is merely a money making excercise for players and administrators alike and makes no secret of that fact, it’s difficult to get motivated however spectacular the action. I get more enjoyment stopping off to watch a few overs of a local village cricket match when passing.
    If a big tour takes place we could see a lot of players involved so that would add to the interest.

  • SL would be effectively turned into the warm-up matches for the India tour by the ECB’s preferred scenario (like Bangladesh were last time). I haven’t much time for the SL authorities but it isn’t difficult to see why they’d resist an obvious downgrading of their status.

    Thank heavens for The Hundred’s Twitter account for some unintended humour during the last week!

  • I thought the IPL was another name for a betting syndicate! seriously good piece James. It’s difficult to see where any cricket is heading just know. With Boris saying no spectators in this country until March next, it’s going to be difficult again to schedule the domestic season even without Covid still around. It’ll be interesting to see Keaton Jennings as England captain though.

  • Didn’t realise you are a Villa fan James. Me too.

    Have tried to watch the IPL as well and it seems to have taken a step backwards into its early days. Last time I looked when in India games were played on pitches which gave bowlers a chance and were tight matches with low scores. In other words much like real cricket. However the move to the Emirates has been a return to meaningless flying sixes and even more gold on the kit. Unfortunately if anyone wanted a peep at cricket they would think what an awful game. Same teams playing each other all the time in a relentless merry go round and no real battle just a circus. Alas all the faults are now magnified. It does chill the blood for the horror of The Hundred to come. As for the power grab, isn’t the Premier League top clubs following in the footsteps of crickets Top Three which tried a power grab and was resisted by a fight from cricket fans?

    Peering through the murk of the latest Covid-19 cockup in the North East I can tell you the future ain’t bright. We were in special measures but as the cases are rising at an alarming rate the Government has decided to relax restrictions in the NE. Make of that what you will. But we seem to be heading in Liverpool’s direction, the City not the football club. ( So thrilled Villa beat Liverpool by the way 7-2. A good result for the beleaguered League).

    Of course we also had a power grab by Yorkshire and Hampshire in the not so distant past which left the Durham Club on its knees. Durham at the time happily in the middle of the table and were forcibly relegated. What is less known is that the club was also forced to sell off its players and was docked the same number of points in its next season. So that any desire to rise again was nobbled at the start. This is just to remind everyone of corruption in our own game at the top among the powers that be. Hampshire of course the beneficiary. While billionaires run the clubs as their own fiefdoms then our game is tarnished with the same problem as football. The only way to fight this is as cricket fans not divided by partisan loyalties.

    • As a blue nose don’t want to puncture the Liverpool bubble, as it’s always good to see Midlands teams giving the big boys a hiding, but whereas cricket doesn’t seem to be too badly affected by having no crowd involvement, this summer’s competitive internationals being a good example, in footie there’s clearly a problem, as players aren’t getting that extra motivation provided by partisan support, switching off without a crowd to get on their backs. There’s a lot of strange results going around, though the present obsession with playing out from the back doesn’t help. As a supporter you just want to see the ball cleared out of danger areas asap. Cricket doesn’t have these tactical and motivational problems, being a far more gladiatorial contest which tends to concentrate the mind.

    • In the spirit of “not being divided by partisan loyalties”….isn’t talking about a power grab by two other counties rather sowing division of the basis of partisan loyalties rather than looking at a common aggressor?

      The Durham episode was probably the most disgraceful, disgusting piece of behaviour I can remember by the ECB–and heaven knows there are enough recent contenders for that honour! As you say, a large part of that was the deliberate policy-making to ensure that Durham’s revival would be very slow. It was one of the nadirs of the ECB descent into cheap, bullying, example-making and often hypocritical moralising that we’ve seen with players who have offended the ECB for a variety of reasons: Pietersen, Hales and Gale to name but three.

      I’m very happy to see that several of the players who left Durham in 2016-17 (and at least one who left much earlier) have returned.

      I may be forgetting some of the details, but I struggle to see how either Yorkshire or Hants were engaging in a power grab. With Hants, I think you’re mistaking correlation for causation: it may have worked to Hants’ advantage, but that’s different from saying that they were manipulating the situation to make it happen. I vaguely remember Bransgrove offering some pious guff about financial management, but I’m fairly sure he wasn’t the only county chairman to do that.

      Graves’s behaviour–then as at so many other times–was reprehensible, and his conflict of interest in awarding large sums of money to a club in which he had invested a lot of his own money was revealing to say the least. But I can’t see, at least from what I remember, that Yorks as a club–of whom Graves was no longer chairman–were scheming to take over power or to have Durham relegated.

  • If it is in South Africa, anything less than a whitewash should be considered a shambolic failure by England. That is how deep South Africa are in the mire. And honestly, I would not even be surprised that CSA is (illegally) betting on such result to get out of the financial black hole they have dug for themselves. Not that anyone in office actually cares about corruption in governance or on the field.

    • You can bet that ther’ll be one or two young unknowns making an impact. There’s always are.

    • ….like that young off-spinner who’s been tearing it up for Essex, you mean…:-)

      That’s one of the interesting sub-plots for me–how many of the ex-Kolpakers will come back to the national team. I presume it depends not only on form but also on the racial politics of selection and on how much or little the players have offended people who stayed. But on the basis of form I would presume that Harmer, Abbott and Olivier must all be in with a shout. (Although not as swiftly as Muzabarani, who was named in his national squad–what was it? 24 hours after the cancellation of his county contract?!)


copywriter copywriting