The fifth and final ICC World Test Championship match between England and India in Manchester has been cancelled after Covid-19 disrupted the Indian camp, rendering the visitors unable to field a team.
The Test was due to start today in Manchester, in front of a capacity 21,000 crowd, but in an extraordinary turn of events has been called off after four members of India's backroom staff tested positive for Covid-19.
The decision was taken after the BCCI and ECB mutually decided that it is the best way forward given the Covid-19 scare that has gripped the tournament.
"Following ongoing conversations with the BCCI, the ECB can confirm that the fifth LV= Insurance Test between England and India Men due to start today at Emirates Old Trafford, will be cancelled. Due to fears of a further increase in the number of Covid cases inside the camp, India are unable to field a team and will instead forfeit the match," The ECB said in a statement on Friday.
ESPNcricinfo understands more than one India player had expressed concerns about taking the field in talks between the BCCI and the team management over the last two days.
The decision could have huge financial ramifications. With 21,000 people due to be at Old Trafford today for a Test that is worth £30million in broadcasting and ticket sales, the development is likely to be met with anger and the ECB have moved quickly to apologise to fans.
"We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news, which we know will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many."
The match was thrown in doubt after India physiotherapist Yogesh Parmar had tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Wednesday.
The entire India squad returned negative RT-PCR tests on Thursday, but results of a fresh round of testing are expected on Friday morning.
Physio Parmar had been monitoring several players, including Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma – players with various niggles – during and after the fourth Test that ended on Monday.
With the IPL 2021 set to resume from September 19, postponing the Test by either 24 or 48 hours would have put the T20 league at risk, where teams have been preparing for close to three weeks. The chances of IPL being delayed was never an option either as the ICC T20 World Cup begins just two days after the final.
It was learnt that the BCCI has asked England and Wales Cricket Board to spare a physio.
Before the Old Trafford Test, India had edged ahead and taken an unassailable 2-1 series lead at The Oval. India won both their Tests in London.
However, with the Manchester Test called off, there is still no official word on the final score.