England v India Tests - Men's
Cancelled Manchester Test a 'sad day for cricket'
Cancelled Test could be rescheduled for 2022, while the ICC will be called on to determine the outcome of the series
11 September 2021, 08:18 AM AEST
Officials from England and India have embarked on damage limitation after the costly, confusing and frustrating last-minute cancellation of the decisive fifth Test at Old Trafford over COVID concerns.
Emergency talks had been raging through the night but it was not until shortly before 9am on Friday, just over two hours before the scheduled start and only a few minutes before the gates were due to open to a sell-out crowd of 22,000, that the game was called off due to COVID-19 problems in the Indian camp.
Their entire playing squad returned a round of negative PCR tests on Thursday but, by then, a positive test among the backroom staff - their fourth in the last week - had already spooked the squad, leaving India unable to field a team.
England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison, who spent a sleepless night leading the crisis talks with counterparts at the Board of Control for Cricket in India, bemoaned "a sad day for Test cricket internationally".
The ECB initially said India had forfeited the match, an explosive conclusion which would have seen them surrender their 2-1 lead and see the series end as a draw.
Yet that wording disappeared quickly from a revised statement as negotiations escalated behind the scenes.
The tourists later issued their own assessment suggesting they were willing to reschedule the match due to their "strong relationship" with the ECB.
That will not happen quickly, though, with the Indian Premier League starting back up on September 19 in the United Arab Emirates, and players from both squads jetting off to take part on Wednesday.
Instead, adding a Test match into next summer's calendar, when India are already due to visit these shores for six white-ball matches, is viewed as a potential solution.
That would be welcome news for Lancashire, who estimate a "multi-million pound loss" as a result of the cancellation and are already looking to the ECB to help them avert financial disaster.
Remarkably, the final result of the series remained up in the air and it appears the International Cricket Council may be called upon to decide on the outcome.
Harrison rejected the idea that the fear of missing out on the lucrative Indian Premier League tournament had caused the disquiet among India's squad.
"Let me be super clear, I don't think the IPL has anything to do with this," he said.
"This is not a situation which has been created by the rescheduled IPL, I fundamentally do not believe that for a second. This Indian cricket team are as passionate about Test cricket as fans in our country are."
Harrison would welcome a replacement Test next summer, but admitted he had no idea how or if that would feed into the existing series, which forms part of the World Test Championship.
"I think we have to just take a breath and do some work with the ICC, to formally ask them to adjudicate on the result of this," he said.
"We will separately have ICC adjudicate over whether this series is completed now, whether that fifth match is null and void or whether it's actually regarded as a forfeiture or something else."