"At this time, the physical and mental well-being of our players and support teams is paramount," says ECB
Friday 13 March 2020 16:19, UK
England's two-Test series in Sri Lanka has been postponed as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus.
Joe Root's side were due to contest the opening Test in Galle on Thursday, with the second Test due to take place in Colombo from March 27.
In a statement, the ECB confirmed: "Due to the Covid-19 pandemic worsening globally, and after discussions with Sri Lanka Cricket, we have today made the decision to return our players to the UK and postpone the forthcoming Test series between Sri Lanka and England.
"At this time, the physical and mental well-being of our players and support teams is paramount. We will now look to bring them home to their families as soon as possible. These are completely unprecedented times, and decisions like this go beyond cricket.
"We would like to thank our colleagues at Sri Lanka Cricket for their outstanding support and assistance throughout this situation. We look forward to returning to Sri Lanka in the very near future to fulfil this important Test series."
The decision comes following talks throughout the week between the ECB and the Sri Lankan and British High Commissions.
As recently as Thursday the ECB had said it hoped that the series would go ahead, but warned of a "highly evolving situation" and advised fans planning to travel to Sri Lanka to consult government advice before doing so.
This followed the ECB's decision to limit player interaction with supporters - including selfies and autographs - and restrict their public appearances while on tour.
England had already completed one warm-up match on the tour and reached day two of their second before the game was abandoned with a Sri Lanka Board President's XI on 150-3 in reply to the tourists' 463 all out, which featured centuries for Zak Crawley (105) and Joe Root (102). Seamer Chris Woakes followed up with figures of 2-11 off six overs.
The postponement came within an hour of news that the start of the Indian Premier League is to be delayed from March 29 until April 15 as a precautionary measure in response to the pandemic, while the Marylebone Cricket Club has confirmed that the annual Champion County Match will no longer take place.
The game was due to be contested by the MCC and Essex at Sri Lanka's Galle International Stadium between March 24-27 but will no longer go ahead.
Australia's three-match ODI series against New Zealand is going ahead but all three games, including Friday's opener in Sydney, will be played behind closed doors.