ISLAMABAD: Following hours-long deliberations over the fate of the historic Test series between Pakistan and England, the management of both teams unanimously agreed to delay the decision on the commencement of the first Test, which is due to start on Thursday, until 7:30am tomorrow (Thursday).
The start of the Test — England's first in Pakistan for 17 years — was thrown into doubt after up to seven of the touring side's players, including captain Ben Stokes, were struck down on Wednesday.
The same number of support staff were also laid low.
"The two boards discussed the outbreak of a viral infection in the England camp and unanimously agreed to delay the decision on the commencement of the first Test until 07:30am Pakistan time (02:30 GMT) tomorrow," said a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) release.
A meeting to decide the possibility of the first Test match was held in the federal capital where the management of both teams discussed the possibilities of either delaying the series or reducing the number of matches.
Confirming the news regarding the delay in the decision, the PCB — in a brief statement issued in this regard — said that the two boards made the decision based on medical advice from England's doctors, which revolved around the players’ health and welfare.
They also agreed 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," the cricket body said.
However, 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 the original schedule i.e. December 9-13 and 17-21, respectively.
England's only frontline spinner Jack Leach, who has Crohn's disease, is suffering from symptoms.
He caught sepsis after picking up a stomach bug on the tour of New Zealand two years ago.
An England and Wales Cricket Board spokesperson earlier said that the illnesses were not COVID-19 related, with players experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea.
Experienced England cricketer Joe Root is hopeful that his teammates will recover in 24 hours as he looks forward to a "great" Test series against Pakistan.
Talking exclusively to Geo News ahead of the Rawalpindi Test, Root said that England’s arrival in Pakistan for three-match series is a huge moment for Test cricket.
"I think there's a virus going around the team. It's just one of those things sometimes. We don't think it's food related. It's just an unfortunate thing that can happen sometimes when you've got a group, they're tight together."
"I didn't feel great yesterday and feel much better today. So hopefully, it's just a 24-hour thing and the guys can turn [make a comeback] tomorrow and we can reap into what should be a great series,” he said.
A report published by the BBC said that England skipper Ben Stokes and other team members, including officials, have been affected by the viral.
“The England squad, including captain Ben Stokes, has been affected by a virus on the eve of the first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi,” the report stated.
“Around 14 members of the travelling party of players and coaches were advised to rest at the hotel on Wednesday. About half of the playing squad of 16 has been hit by virus, with only five taking part in an optional training session."
According to a brief statement by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), only Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope and Joe Root attended today's optional training session.
The ECB, however, did not mention the number of people affected by viral illness.
England have already named their team for the first Test, with Lancashire all-rounder Liam Livingstone making his Test debut while Nottinghamshire batter Ben Duckett returns to the side for the first time since 2016 and will open the batting with Zak Crawley.
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