LONDON: England’s Ashes tour of Australia is set to go ahead after the England and Wales Cricket Board gave “conditional approval” to the trip on Friday.
There were fears the Ashes would be cancelled after months of concern over tough Covid-19 quarantine guidelines which England’s players and their families will have to follow in Australia.
England Test captain Joe Root last week sparked fresh doubts about the tour when he refused to confirm he would tour Australia.
But the five-match series is set to start as scheduled in December following talks between Cricket Australia, the ECB and England’s players this week.
“Over recent weeks we have made excellent progress in moving forward on the England Men’s Ashes Tour,” an ECB statement said.
“To facilitate further progress and allow a squad to be selected, the ECB Board has met today and given its approval for the tour to go ahead.”
There are, however, still some unspecified issues to resolve before England board the plane to Australia.
“This decision is subject to several critical conditions being met before we travel,” the statement added.
“We look forward to the ongoing assistance from Cricket Australia in resolving these matters in the coming days.”
Australia has strict coronavirus protocols, with the tour complicated by the five Tests being played in five different states with their own Covid regulations.
Cricket Australia sent their plans for the tour to the ECB in September and England’s players were presented with the arrangements last Sunday.
After thrashing out a deal with Root’s squad, the ECB held a board meeting on Friday before announcing their tour update.
Jos Buttler is among the England stars reported to have committed to the Ashes battle.
Buttler, England’s Test vice-captain, had previously insisted he would not embark on the tour without his wife Louise and two young daughters Georgia and Margot, who was born last month.
Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Rory Burns are other potential members of England’s Ashes tour who also have small children.
Root’s side will attempt to become only the second England team to win an Ashes series in Australia in 35 years.
The first Test between the old rivals is set for Brisbane on December 8.
The tour is then scheduled to head to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, before concluding in Perth.
But the Perth fixture is under a cloud, because Western Australia requires inter-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, a scenario that appears unlikely to change in the near term.
Australia captain Tim Paine has been pressing for the game to be shifted to Hobart in Tasmania, his home state, although holding back-to-back Tests in Sydney appears a more likely option.
Australia are the current holders of the Ashes after retaining the urn following a 2-2 draw in England in 2019.
They won the last series “Down Under” 4-0 in 2017/18.
England’s winter schedule had already been thrown into chaos when the ECB cancelled an October trip to Pakistan.
They were only scheduled to play two Twenty20 matches, but pulled out due to security fears and concerns over the players’ “mental and physical well-being”.
The Pakistan visit was due to serve as a warm-up for England’s Twenty20 World Cup campaign, which takes place in Oman and the United Arab Emirates later in October.