The long-awaited first Test between Pakistan and England in Rawalpindi will begin as planned after the tourists confirmed they have enough fit players to field a team.
England’s first Test match on Pakistani soil for 17 years had been thrown into turmoil when a “viral infection” swept through the touring party during the build-up, leaving them struggling to muster enough players for the 1 December start.
But despite a day of discussions between the two boards over a possible 24-hour delay – “six or seven” England players having been affected by the bug – the visitors announced their readiness to start the series on Thursday as scheduled.
A joint statement released at 7.30am local time read: “The ECB has informed the PCB that they are in a position to field an XI, and, as such, the first Test will commence as per schedule today (Thursday, 1 December) at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.”
Joe Root’s presence at nets on Wednesday, having fallen ill the night before, had pointed to a swift recovery time but whether the team already announced by Ben Stokes still stands will be discovered when the toss is held at 9.30am local time.
Root was one of just five England players who appeared at the optional session, with “13 or 14” players and support staff said to have contracted the illness.
Stokes was among the afflicted, so, too, Jack Leach, whose ongoing management of Crohn’s Disease represents an added complication. Will Jacks and Rehan Ahmed, the two spare spinners in the squad, were also struck down.
Liam Livingstone, set to make his Test debut, reported no issues 24 hours before the match but Ben Duckett, down to make a return at opener following a six-year absence, was also understood to be struggling.
Pakistan’s squad has not been affected, with four players – Saud Shakeel, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Ali and Zahid Mehmood – set to make Test debuts.