England’s Test squad has begun training for next week’s series opener in Sri Lanka after all members of the touring party – bar Moeen Ali – returned negative results from their latest round of Covid-19 testing.
Joe Root’s players had been isolating in their hotel rooms since landing in Hambantota on Sunday, with the emergence of Moeen’s positive result from PCR tests taken on arrival at the airport delaying the tourists’ first session.
But the latest results show Moeen to be the only case and while he must continue a 10-day isolation period – and Chris Woakes, deemed a close contact, must complete seven days, despite testing negative – the squad is now clear to step outside and start their preparations.
A team spokesperson said: “All PCR tests from yesterday [Tuesday] are negative, except for Moeen Ali, and we can start controlled training this afternoon. We’ll have a third Covid test tomorrow [Thursday].”
Moeen is reportedly suffering some minor effects from the virus and while his isolation ends on 13 January, there is little chance of him featuring in the first Test that gets underway in Galle the following day.
The all-rounder had travelled to separate accommodation in Galle on Tuesday but has since returned to a separate wing of the team’s hotel in Hambantota after Nick Peirce, the ECB’s chief medical officer, decided building work on site made this new location unsuitable and a second option did not adhere to all biosecure protocols.
Moeen’s absence leaves Dom Bess and Jack Leach as the two spin bowling options in their main Test squad for the two-match series, although Matt Pakrison, Mason Crane and Amar Virdi are also on tour as reserves in the 23-man party.