England’s two-Test tour of Sri Lanka is still scheduled to go ahead in spite of predictions that it would have to be cancelled owing to the new variant of Covid-19 spreading through Britain. “It is business as usual,” said an England and Wales Cricket Board spokesman. “We’ve got the exemptions (from the Sri Lanka government) and plan to fly to Hambantota on a charter flight on January 2 and to arrive there on January 3.” The England squad will have three days of quarantine, and have to return negative Covid tests, before they can start training. Meetings were held between the two boards on Tuesday without any further complications arising. The Sri Lankan Test squad are currently in South Africa, ahead of their two-Test series starting in Centurion on Boxing Day, and the arrangements there so far have been more watertight than they were when England’s one-day series in South Africa was aborted earlier this month. England are flying, not to Colombo as normal, but to Hambantota on the south-east coast of Sri Lanka, to stay in a resort there and practise before moving to Galle for both Test matches, the first starting on 14 Jan. Hambantota's international airport, built by the Chinese, happens to be in the constituency of the current prime minister of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa. In normal times only two or three flights landed there daily, but this very infrequency has now come as a blessing for England’s cricketers. England will then move to the Lighthouse hotel in Galle for their second attempt at this two-Test series. Their first attempt was called off in March when England had started their warm-up matches before the pandemic forced them to fly home. So strict will the bio-bubbles be that no media, English or Sri Lankan, are being allowed to attend the two Tests at the Galle International Stadium. England have played five Tests in Galle, winning one, losing two and drawing two. Their single victory came on their last visit when Joe Root was captain and won the toss every time on turning pitches, taking the series 3-0. This time England will be handicapped by their lack of match-practice before the first Test, but Sri Lanka’s batsmen and bowlers will have less than a week to re-program to home pitches after their two-Test series in South Africa.
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