(Australian Associated Press)
The Ashes is set to go ahead this summer with England’s players believed to have agreed to tour in a move that will green-light the $200 million series.
England’s cricketers spoke with Cricket Australia (CA) bosses again on Tuesday evening, to thrash out their concerns over strict COVID-19 protocols.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has given players until the end of the week to make a decision, with the team only set to tour if an adequate number of front-liner players agree to travel.
However, those fears have now seemingly been allayed with UK newspaper The Telegraph reporting that captain Joe Root has led a group of players committing to the series.
According to the report, wicketkeeper Jos Buttler could be the only England player not to tour.
The star wicketkeeper-batsman had previously indicated his concerns over the tour and potential time away from family.
Allrounder Moeen Ali will be unavailable after he recently retired, while Ben Stokes is taking a break from the game and Jofra Archer is out injured.
CA is yet to officially be informed but will no doubt be breathing a massive sigh of relief given the magnitude of the decision.
It came as Australia’s white-ball captain Aaron Finch admitted he sympathised with England players’ concerns, but he is relieved the series will go ahead.
“It’s obviously a difficult situation for them,” Finch said.
“They have been dragged from pillar to post with their schedule in the past few months. They’ve played a lot of Test cricket.
“I can understand where they’re coming from. Having families around, especially in a pandemic (is important).
“But it’s great to see Joe has supported that and they are going to come down.”
In two separate meetings with England players in recent days, it’s understood fears over snap lockdowns and quarantine conditions for families were the chief concerns.
But CA chief executive Nick Hockley stressed to England players that conditions in Australia were improving, with the country’s vaccination rate on the rise.
Likewise, it’s believed a move to have a second group England’s players’ families arrive before Christmas to quarantine in Melbourne has also been crucial.
Players had feared that families would only be able to arrive with them in November, meaning a hard quarantine before a long tour.
But the move to let a second group into Victoria will be welcome news, given they do not need to spend as much time away from home.
That deal is not officially over the line with the state government, but would be in line with the road map out of COVID-19 as Victoria edges closer to 80 per cent double dosage rates.
The last concern for CA will now be the Perth Test, with officials adamant they will be granted clearance to play in Western Australia just days after being in Sydney.
If that does fall through, Canberra or Hobart could seize their first Ashes Test.
Alternatively, the match could be held as a second fixture at the SCG or MCG.