PAUL NEWMAN: It's time to call the Ashes off and award it to Australia

PAUL NEWMAN: It’s only a matter of time before more players test positive for Covid-19… common sense should prevail, it’s time for England to come home, end this tour of hell and award the Ashes to Australia

  • It’s just a matter of time before more players from both squads test positive 
  • Common sense should prevail and award Australia the Ashes by result of 3-0
  • It will be tough for England to avoid two more one-sided defeats due to Covid 

The sight of Joe Root providing throwdowns at England nets in Sydney, forced into a supporting role while coaches were dropping like flies around him, summed up the futility of this sorry Ashes exercise. It is time to call the whole thing off and come home.

More positive Covid tests in the camp, more close contacts forced into isolation and, most worryingly, two local net bowlers hurriedly abandoning their service with England when their results came back positive, painted a picture of grim chaos in Sydney.

This has long since stopped being the biggest series in Test cricket — in truth, it was never going to be that under current circumstances.

Coaches are dropping like flies with Chris Silverwood among those testing positive for Covid 

Only Travis Head, as yet, has tested positive among the two playing squads but surely it is only a matter of time. The series is over anyway for goodness sake. Common sense should prevail and the Ashes be awarded to Australia today by a final result of 3-0.

But when did common sense ever come into anything where cricket administrators and money are concerned? The sensible option would have been to postpone the Ashes for a year before England had even set foot in Australia and been forced into 14 days of isolation by the nonsensical decision to persist with holding the first Test in Brisbane.

A postponement, of course, would have proved near-impossible, with greedy boards still trying to squeeze every last drop of international cricket into an already crammed schedule, and with next winter for England already looking like a navigational challenge more suited to Phileas Fogg rather than a group of cricketers.

Only Travis Head has tested positive from the playing squads but it’s only a matter of time before more go into isolation

Australia’s strict approach to Covid and, crucially, the differing rules in differing states with Queensland among the strictest, meant this was always going to be worse than the tours to Sri Lanka and South Africa that England had abandoned during the pandemic.

This experience was always going to be a case of everyone involved threatened with quarantining their way around Australia. And so it has largely proved.

Yes, I know: England, with considerable help from West Indies and Pakistan, kept Test cricket alive when the ECB created a bio-secure environment tight enough to keep the game going in 2020. We were very grateful for that.

I know, too, how badly let down those who paid for tickets at Old Trafford last summer were when India pulled out on the morning of the final Test. But even though that was ostensibly for Covid reasons, it was solely so their players would not have to miss the IPL. This is different. This series has become untenable.

Joe Root has been forced into a supporting role while coaches test positive for Covid

How can England possibly lift themselves off the floor and avoid anything other than two more one-sided defeats when they face daily challenges even to leave their hotel rooms?

We have been highly critical of England’s performances throughout this joyless trip but, really, what did we expect? Stuart Broad summed it up perfectly in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday when he compared their plight to Tiger Woods having to contest the Masters having not played for four months, spending time in a bubble and then seeing his entire practice round rained off. He wouldn’t have a chance, and neither did England.

Now almost their entire coaching staff are in isolation, poor Chris Silverwood being the latest to test positive, and the man who drove 550 miles from his Queensland base to help in their hour of need in Adam Hollioake has been thrown into quarantine, too.

It left preparations for their woefully under-performing batsmen in the hands of stand-in head coach Graham Thorpe and a consultant in Ant Botha, whose contribution to the Ashes so far seems to have been to make the openers bat on one leg in the Melbourne nets.

It’s time for England to come home and for the Ashes to be awarded to Australia

Sir Alastair Cook’s words in the Sunday Times yesterday should act as a warning to those administrators who think they can continue forcing players into an unnatural life while they protect the broadcasting revenue.

England’s former captain wrote: ‘Since the summer of 2020, England have played 17 Tests in bubble conditions, Australia barely any. There was a hope England’s greater exposure to Test cricket in that time might help them in this Ashes. Yet we can see now England were running on empty.

‘I am sure every member of the squad counts himself fortunate in being paid to live the dream. Yet I also wonder if the past 18 months in a bio-secure environment have made international cricket something to be endured, rather than enjoyed.’

It should be endured in Australia no longer.

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