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England and Australia crisis talks as Covid variant threatens to derail Ashes

Just 10 days before the start of the Ashes, the emergence of the new Omicron variant threatens to derail the whole series

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England and Australia have been involved in crisis talks on the eve of the Ashes as the emergence of a new Covid variant threatens the series.

There are fears the Omicron variant could lead to families of players being unable to enter the country, and create barriers when it comes to moving between states to different venues.

Australia has been quick to implement tough measures to combat new virus threats throughout the pandemic, and has taken something of a no-nonsense approach with lockdowns and quarantine rules.

Two passengers tested positive for the new variant after arriving in Sydney on Saturday night, and it is reasonable to predict more positive cases will follow in the country.

It has already led to some states preparing harsher measures to respond to the ever-changing situation – something the England camp foresaw as a possibility but hoped would not happen.

The England squad is in Australia for the Ashes – but the series may yet be derailed by the new Omicron variant
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“It’s very early days but we are starting that conversation [with Australia],” England managing director Ashley Giles said from his hotel room in Brisbane.

“There are going to be changes to border controls in terms of our families being allowed to travel and we clearly hope that’s not going to affect us. But we are in the hands of national and local governments.

“We always knew things could change. I guess we hoped things would change positively as we went through the series but, as we’ve been aware over the last two years with variants, things can also change negatively.

“Can we prepare for everything? It’s not really possible actually because of the big moving parts even around quarantine times and rules around different states.

“We will do everything we can to make sure the families are accommodated and of course that the players are happy.”

It is not yet known if any of the Tests will be affected by Covid travel rules, but it remains a distinct possibility with all five set to take place in different states.

England are already in Brisbane, Queensland, and so that means one less barrier for the opening Test at The Gabba, which starts on December 8.

But from there the teams are due to head to Adelaide in South Australia, Melbourne in Victoria and Sydney in New South Wales before travelling to Perth in Western Australia for the final Test.

England managing director Ashley Giles has admitted the Ashes series could be affected by the new Omicron variant
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And the six-week timescale for the whole series gives plenty of time for things to change in such a fast-moving situation, meaning there will be uncertainty throughout.

Christina Matthews, chief executive of the Western Australia Cricket Association, has admitted the chances of that final Test in Perth going ahead are in the balance.

“I’d probably say at the moment I’m 50/50,” she told ABC Radio. “I’d gone as high as 97 per cent but I’ve gone back to 50/50. We’ll wait and see.

“It’s a matter of whether cricket can meet those demands or not.

“It’s one thing getting the players in – it’s another thing getting the people who have to broadcast.”

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