Talks ongoing between England and Pakistan over start of first Test in Rawalpindi after touring party, including captain Ben Stokes, affected by illness; decision expected to come on Thursday morning; England are touring Pakistan in red-ball cricket for the first time since 2005
Wednesday 30 November 2022 16:26, UK
Discussions have taken place over postponing the first Test between England and Pakistan to Friday after a number of the touring party were struck down by an illness.
The England and Wales Cricket Board and Pakistan Cricket Board have been in talks, although a decision is not expected until Thursday morning as the players continue to be monitored.
Captain Ben Stokes is among those impacted and it is believed to be a bug or virus rather than Covid, with England making their final training session on Wednesday morning optional.
Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope and Joe Root reported for the practice session at the stadium in Rawalpindi - taken by head coach Brendon McCullum - with the rest remaining at their Islamabad base. Root experienced symptoms on Tuesday but has since recovered.
The options for Thursday's Test - England's first in Pakistan in 17 years - are to carry on as scheduled, play a five-day game starting on Friday, or potentially cut the game to four days.
Root told Sky Sports: "I wasn't feeling great [on Tuesday] but woke up better this morning, so hopefully it is just a 24-hour thing. I have not managed to see many of the guys so we will see how everyone is travelling when we get back to the hotel.
"We have tried really hard to do all the right things in making sure we are ready and prepared for this game but sometimes life throws these things at you. We will try to make sure we are as ready as we can be."
On a possible postponement, the former England captain told the BBC: "Who knows what will happen? Whether there would be the possibility to delay it by a day, I don't know.
"It's such a monumental tour and important series for so many reasons. We've waited 17 years to come to Pakistan to play a Test match, if it means waiting another day, is it the worst thing in the world?
"We're all desperate to play this game and we know how important it is to the fans of Pakistan and their team as well.
"I don't think it's necessarily the worst thing in the world if we have to wait one more day to make sure the game isn't cancelled and everyone gets what they want, which is an exciting three-match series."
Liam Livingstone - who is set to make his Test debut in Rawalpindi - told Sky Sports News: "It was weird [on Tuesday], one by one the lads just sort of went, 'I don't feel too good' and went back to their room.
"I have been fine, touch wood. It's obviously not nice and I don't know what's going to happen but hopefully the lads can get over it. I think a good sign is that they are back eating."
Sky Sports Cricket's Nasser Hussain said: "They say it's a 24-hour bug so hopefully the side that was named will be the side that takes the field. I would be very surprised if it was so bad in the camp that they can't put a team out.
"It is part of touring, you have to take the medication, roll your sleeves up, get out there and do the best you can.
"The one good thing is that it's not too hot. If you have the lurgy you feel a bit drained so 22 degrees, autumnal conditions, in Rawalpindi will be a little bit easier on anyone who has had the bug.
"What I wouldn't do is make it a four-day Test. It gets dark quickly here so you are not going to get as much cricket in on a day and on a flat pitch you might struggle to get a result in four days."
Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (captain), Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper), Liam Livingstone, Jack Leach, Ollie Robinson, James Anderson
Stokes had named his nominal starting XI for the match, including handing a Test bow to Livingstone and a first red-ball appearance since 2016 for Ben Duckett, but his plans could now be forced to change.
Despite not representing Lancashire in the County Championship since September 2021, Livingstone caught the attention of Stokes and McCullum with his eye-catching shots in white-ball cricket.
Stokes said: "It was a pretty simple conversation I had with him (Livingstone), actually before we went out to Australia for the World Cup. I told him where we stood in terms of him playing some red-ball cricket out in the subcontinent.
"With the skill he has with the ball and the way he plays with the bat is very aligned with how me and Baz [McCullum] want to see the team play. He jumped at the opportunity.
"I don't necessarily think that not playing a red-ball game is going to be too much of a thing for him. He's a very natural cricketer, he's going to go out there and really express himself."
Hussain added: "Livingstone just fits into the 'Bazball' mentality perfectly.
"I don't know if 'convinced' is the right word as I still feel that as an England player you still want to play Test cricket but with the lure of the money in white-ball cricket, for Stokes to say to Livingstone, 'put those finances away and come and be a part of this Test match resurgence' is great.
"He has to go out there and get runs. If he does get runs, it will be pretty attacking."
Stokes announced on Monday he would be donating his match fees from the series to the Pakistan Floods Appeal, after at least 1,600 people were killed and millions left in need of aid following the natural disaster earlier this year.
The skipper added: "Coming here is a monumental time for English cricket and for Pakistan as a nation.
"The floods were devastating to the country. There are things that go on in life that are bigger than sport and I felt compelled just to give something back that is bigger than cricket."
England's named XI for first Test v Pakistan: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (captain), Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper), Liam Livingstone, Jack Leach, Ollie Robinson, James Anderson
Watch England's three-Test series in Pakistan live on Sky Sports Cricket. Coverage of the opening game begins at 4.30am on Thursday ahead of a 5am start in Rawalpindi.