England players to return to training next week

England players will begin individual training next week in the first step to returning to action after the coronavirus shutdown.

Bowlers will have staggered sessions at various county grounds with a coach, physio and, where possible, a strength and conditioning coach in attendance.

Other players will return to practice two weeks later.

“These are very tentative steps to returning to play,” said England director of cricket Ashley Giles.

There will be no cricket in England or Wales until at least 1 July, a shutdown which has meant the postponement of the Test series against West Indies, which was scheduled for June.

  • West Indies players ‘very nervous’ about travelling to England
  • Some anxieties about return to action – Buttler

With the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in talks with Cricket West Indies (CWI) over the rescheduling of those three Tests, Giles said the return to training coincides with a seven-week build-up to what could be the start of the series on 8 July.

About 30 players – centrally contracted and from the county system – will be invited to train at 11 venues. The players and venues will be confirmed on Monday. The ECB will also use some county coaches and staff.

On Wednesday, the government issued guidelines on how elite athletes were able to return to training, with further guidance on greater contact between players and coaches due in the coming weeks.

In line with government advice, the ECB will implement the following protocols:

  • Each individual will observe strict social-distancing
  • Players and support staff will arrive in training kit ready to practise
  • Players and support staff will have their temperatures taken before they are allowed to take part
  • Medical staff will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to treat injuries. The PPE will be sourced and funded by the ECB
  • Dressing rooms and other venue facilities will be closed

England’s women will return to training in late June, while the ECB is expecting to provide an update on when the 18 first-class counties can return to training by the end of May.

“This first phase should be a safer environment than going about daily life,” said Giles.

“I’m not making light of this, but there are risks every time you go outside the house. We need to mitigate as many of the risks around the spreading of this virus as we possibly can.”

It is likely that any international cricket that is played this summer – England are also due to host Pakistan, Australia and Ireland – will be played behind closed doors, perhaps in a ‘bio-secure’ environment.

Previous discussions have involved the prospect of players remaining within the team environment for the duration of the summer in order to minimise the risk of infection.

However, Giles said this is not “realistic” given the various home circumstances of the players. For example, the wife of Test captain Joe Root is expecting their second child.

“We are going to have to find ways where we can get players out of their environment,” said Giles.

“Our players will do anything they can to get this going, but it isn’t realistic to expect them to be in a bubble for 10 weeks.”

On Wednesday, CWI chief executive Johnny Grave said some West Indies players would be “very nervous” about travelling to England.

“We are all nervous, aren’t we?” Giles said. “I went shopping last week and it’s a really weird feeling when you go out. You are almost threatened by anyone who comes near you. That will change over time.

“It can be quite scary but we are doing everything we possibly can to answer all of the West Indies’ questions.”

  • Play crowd noise at games behind closed doors – Archer

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Mark Wood: England cricketers willing to isolate to ensure cricket is played

Fast bowler Mark Wood says players would be willing to go into isolation in order for England matches to take place this summer.

Plans to play in a bio-secure environment could involve players staying together for a number of weeks and being subject to regular coronavirus testing.

“Everybody in the squad, as long as the conditions are right, would be willing to come back and play some cricket,” said Wood.

“I know it would be a long stint and it would be hard but it would be good to get back out there.”

There will be no cricket in England and Wales until at least 1 July, which has meant the postponement of England’s Test series against West Indies.

To reschedule those matches, and host subsequent visits from Pakistan, Australia and Ireland, the England and Wales Cricket Board is exploring the possibility of using bio-secure venues.

This could mean grounds like Old Trafford and Southampton, which each have a hotel on site where players, staff, media and anyone else required to be at a match could stay.

England players have been briefed by director of cricket Ashley Giles and the ECB’s chief medical officer Dr Nick Peirce as to what the plans could mean for them.

“You sort of get used to being away on tour for long periods of time,” said Wood, who has played 15 Tests for England and was part of the team that won the World Cup in 2019.

“It would be very hard but as long as the environment is safe, my family are safe and everybody else there is safe then I’d be willing to do it.”

If all of England’s summer schedule is saved, that would mean a total of six Tests, six one-day internationals and six Twenty20s.

That would probably mean a large squad being chosen, even if the Test and limited-overs teams would be separated at times.

Still, it is likely that any players who do not feature in certain matches would not be able to leave the team environment.

“I imagine they would have a pool of players that we’ll dip into if the Test matches come thick and fast,” said Wood.

“We’ve never been in these circumstances before where we don’t know what’s going to happen on the down days – I guess you can’t just go home so maybe you’ll have to train in small groups.

”It will be interesting to see how it does work.”

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Lineker fears England will have little choice but to follow Holland

‘May well prove to be the only way’: Gary Lineker fears the Premier League will have little choice but to follow the Dutch FA and VOID the 2019-20 season… but Jamie Carragher insists ‘no one here wants this’

  • Eredivisie agreed to scrap season with title left vacant by Ajax and AZ Alkmaar 
  • Decision has sparked more debate as to whether Premier League should follow 
  • Liverpool are currently 25 points clear at the top but it’s much tighter elsewhere
  • UEFA held a crunch meeting on Thursday to decide fate of 2019-20 campaign
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Gary Lineker fears the Premier League will have little choice but to follow the Dutch FA and void the 2019-20 season.

Holland’s Eredivisie agreed to scrap the season on Friday with the title left vacant by Ajax and AZ Alkmaar and no promotion or relegation.

And the decision has sparked more debate as to whether the English top flight should follow suit amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Holland’s Eredivisie agreed to scrap season with the title left vacant by Ajax and AZ Alkmaar

Gary Lineker fears the Premier League will have little choice but to follow the Dutch FA

Piers Morgan agreed that voiding the 2019-20 season like in Holland is the way to go

Pundit Lineker wrote on Twitter: ‘May well prove to be the only way. Hardly the fairest way, though?’

Piers Morgan responded to Lineker by writing: ‘I honestly think it is. Every other solution I have seen is less fair than simply accepting the season cannot be finished and voiding it. 

‘Holland has realised that, but we’re still desperately trying to save a season that can’t be saved.’

While former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher asked his 1.5 million Twitter followers for their thoughts on the Dutch call.

He then wrote: ‘Seems no one on here wants this outcome or my suggestion of PPG (points per game) on the back of UEFA using it for European places. 

‘So the message is get the season done whenever the virus allows.’

Ex-Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher asked 1.5 million Twitter followers for their thoughts

Both Ajax and AZ Alkmaar were level on points at the top of the Eredivisie table, but neither will be crowned champions.

Promotion and relegation have also been axed – with Cambuur, who were 11 points clear at the top of the second tier, now cruelly missing out on a return to the Eredivisie after three seasons away.

The Premier League was suspended indefinitely last month due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Liverpool are currently 25 points clear at top of the Premier League but it’s tighter elsewhere

UEFA held a crunch meeting on Thursday morning to decide fate of the 2019-20 campaign.

While European football’s governing body prefers seasons to be played out, if that is not possible they want each nation to select qualifying clubs ‘based on sporting merit in the 2019-20 domestic competitions.’ 

The Premier League remain committed to completing the season and UEFA have removed a key barrier to it finishing with no further play — although the legal and commercial issues with television companies remain. 

Liverpool are currently 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League but it is much closer between the sides battling for places in Europe and to avoid relegation. 


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Tottenham Hotspur and England legend Jimmy Greaves ill in hospital

Tottenham Hotspur and England legend Jimmy Greaves has been admitted to hospital.

Greaves, 80, who scored 44 goals for England in 57 caps, was taken to hospital in Chelmsford near his home in Essex.

A statement from Spurs read: ‘We can confirm that our record goalscorer Jimmy Greaves is currently being treated in hospital.

‘We are in touch with his family and will provide further updates in due course. Everybody at the Club sends their best wishes to Jimmy and his family.’

Read the latest updates: Coronavirus news live

Greaves has been in poor health since suffering a severe stroke five years ago.

He has been disabled and confined to a wheelchair since, receiving professional care four times a day with his family also playing a role in his care.

Greaves, who also had spells at Chelsea and AC Milan, was part of the World Cup winning squad in 1966 but he was injured in the group stages and didn’t play in the final.

He has scored a record 357 goals in the top flight of English football.

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How can England balance Test AND T20 World Cup when cricket resumes?

Ben Stokes in the Test side, Jos Buttler leading the T20 charge… but what about Jofra Archer? Sportsmail looks at how England can balance Test demands and the pursuit of World Cup glory in a post-coronavirus calendar

  • At present, the cricketing calendar is paused due to the coronavirus outbreak 
  • England could play separate Test and T20 sides this year to catch up on lost time
  • For key men such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, big decisions have to be made 

If cricket is able to return this summer one of the key proposals of the ECB is for the Test and white-ball sides to play at the same time to enable as much action as possible to take place. 

It is a move backed publicly by World Cup winning captain Eoin Morgan and would provide a late summer fillip. But how would the teams be divided? 

Here, Sportsmail cricket correspondent PAUL NEWMAN picks England Test and Twenty20 sides that could play at the same time, with no drop in quality. 

After 50-over World Cup glory, Eoin Morgan’s attention will turn to the T20 event this year

Joe Root, meanwhile, could have an England Test team to lead against West Indies

Joe Root’s Test team would play against this summer’s first proposed opponents West Indies and Morgan’s short-form team would take on Australia, who are currently due here in July to play 50-over and Twenty20 cricket.


Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (captain), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Ben Foakes (keeper), Chris Woakes, Jack Leach, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson.


Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (captain), Jos Buttler (keeper), Tom Banton, Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood. 


Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Dom Bess, David Willey, Dan Lawrence and Olly Stone

I reckon both these England teams could be extremely competitive playing at the same time and I’d back them to defeat West Indies and Australia in a glorious festival of late summer cricket this August and September. 

The big question, of course, is which team do England’s multi-format players play for? 

The teams are actually becoming more separate because of the crowded nature of the cricket calendar in normal times but Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, to name two, would play in any England side in any format.

Ben Stokes will be central to the fortunes of the Test team with a view to the next Ashes series

Jos Buttler is fabulous to watch in white ball cricket and can play a major T20 role this year

I’ve gone for Stokes to feature in Joe Root’s Test side firstly because I think it’s his best format and secondly because Test cricket is England’s stated priority now they have won the 50-over World Cup and are planning for the next Ashes in two winters time.

It is easier to put Buttler in the Twenty20 side because his Test form has not been great and because he is simply the best white-ball batsman in the world in my opinion. 

The only question is where he bats. England have been experimenting with him at the top of the order, where he had so much success in the IPL, but I’d rather him float in the middle, coming in as high as three if England get off to a good start or five if not.

Much of the Test side picks itself, with Rory Burns returning after injury and Zak Crawley continuing the big impression he has made as an opener this winter at three in place of Joe Denly. 

Zak Crawley has signalled his Test emergence and has the attributes to be a major star

Crawley can bat at No 3 in the Test side – it would see him replace Kent team-mate Joe Denly

A quick prediction here. We all know Ollie Pope is going to be an outstanding batsman for England for years to come but I think Crawley is not far behind. The boy from Kent is going to be an absolute star and I reckon he will have a bigger impact on England’s Test cricket over the next few years than Dom Sibley.

At keeper I have left Jonny Bairstow to concentrate on T20 cricket for now and have gone for the hugely unlucky Ben Foakes. In any other era Foakes would so far have played a lot more than five Tests, one T20 international and a single 50-over game but he is cursed by being around at the same time as Buttler and Bairstow.

I think Alec Stewart is right to proclaim Foakes as the best keeper in the world – a real dying art. Plus, Foakes is a good enough batsman to have made a century on Test debut against Sri Lanka and to lead England out of trouble with an unbeaten 61 in his player of the match winning 50-over appearance against Ireland in Dublin last year. 

England have to find a way of getting him into their Test side permanently and I think any future Test appearances by Buttler and Bairstow should come as specialist batsmen.

Ben Foakes is an outstanding option with the gloves, especially with Bairstow and Buttler away

In any other England era, Foakes would have a lot more than five Test appearances to his name

The only other question is how to deploy England’s fast bowlers. 

Jofra Archer, of course, is an automatic pick for the Test team when fit but I have picked him for the T20s because it is the format he has enjoyed most success in up to now in various franchises around the world and he is a key part of England’s build-up to the next Twenty20 World Cup in Australia in October (virus permitting).

Mark Wood plays in the T20 team, too, as much to protect his fragile body as anything, while the big Test two of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are still comfortably good enough to lead the attack in English conditions.

I am picking Jack Leach as the sole spinner because the game is in England but Dom Bess has impressed overseas this winter and is a strong reserve for the Test team. 

Jofra Archer is a formidable option in any format but this year, T20 could be his calling

In the Test set-up, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson are still capable of leading bowling attack

My only concern for the T20 side is that, in the absence of Stokes, I haven’t got a sixth bowler. 

I really wanted to pick the gifted Tom Banton but either of the Curran brothers is a credible alternative.

Now all we can do is hope the crisis eases so that it really can happen. To see two England teams in action would be a wonderful way to end the summer. 

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England boss Gareth Southgate agrees pay cut to help NHS during UK coronavirus crisis

England manager Gareth Southgate has agreed to take a 30 per cent pay cut to help the NHS during the country’s battle against the coronavirus. The deadly virus has claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 people in this country and moer than 60,000 around the world.

The Football Association (FA) are expected to formally announce the decision next month. It is believed Southgate earns around £5million a year.

England boss since 2016, Southgate took the Three Lions to the semi finals of the World Cup two years ago and with this just one of his many commendable actions off the pitch, has cemented himself as a national hero.

An FA spokesman told Sky Sports News: “The financial implications of the coronavirus are not yet known however, as a not-for-profit organisation, we want to ensure that we take the appropriate course of action to support the wider organisation and our employees.

“We will make a further announcement on our next steps in due course.”

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) earlier on Saturday responded to calls for Premier League players to also take a 30 per cent cut to their salaries.

In a lengthy statement responding to Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s demand for top-flight stars to “play their part”, the PFA pointed out the tax loss the country would suffer as a result.

It comes after a video conference call was held between the league, the PFA and the captains of all 20 clubs on Saturday discussing potential wage deductions or deferrals.

They said: “The proposed 30 per cent salary deduction over a 12-month period equates to over £500m in wage reductions and a loss in tax contributions of over £200m to the government.

“What effect does this loss of earning to the government mean for the NHS? Was this considered in the Premier League proposal and did the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock factor this in when asking players to take a salary cut?


  • Premier League statement IN FULL: Restart date, NHS donation

“We welcomed the opportunity to discuss this with the Premier League today and we are happy to continue talks.”

They added that players “want to, and will, play their part in making significant financial contributions in these unprecedented times”. The Premier League has committed to donating £20m to help out the NHS.

Five Premier League clubs have meanwhile put their non-playing staff on furlough leave, with Liverpool becoming the latest to do so after Newcastle, Tottenham, Bournemouth and Norwich.

And with COVID-19 expected to ravage the country for much, if not all, of the summer – Southgate’s contribution will be warmly received.

Last month, Southgate wrote an open letter to England fans and said: “In the way you’ve all come together to support our team we must now work together to combat a virus that is causing physical and emotional issues to so many.

“So, please continue to follow the guidelines for hygiene and also the sensible precautions put in place to control the spread of the virus in order to protect those most vulnerable to its impact. That responsibility lies with us all.

“We are also conscious of the economic uncertainty affecting so many businesses and, consequently, virtually every family.

“Coupled with the unique challenges of self-isolation, the loss of routine to normal working and social life, we face real challenges to our mental wellbeing. Our children may feel anxious with uncertainty. It’s not normal for any of us and it’s going to challenge us all.

“Look out for each other. Please don’t suffer alone, and remember that our great country has come through these enormous challenges before – and, together, we will do so again.

“We were due to play next week and to represent you all this summer, but now is clearly not the moment for us to take centre-stage.

“The heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centres to look after our friends and families. They won’t receive the individual acclaim, but we all know their importance is beyond anything we do on the pitch.”

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England prospect Smith turns to mind coach to get through isolation

‘People underestimate the power of your mind’: England fly-half prospect Marcus Smith turns to mindfulness coach to deal with isolation stress during coronavirus pandemic

  • Sport stars are at a loose end with competition on hold due to coronavirus 
  • To handle isolation, young fly-half Marcus Smith is working with a mind coach  
  • Luke Doherty aims to keep athletes’ settled using his mindfulness techniques 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

When Luke Doherty took himself to a solitary retreat in the Spanish mountains to learn about Buddhism, little did he know that his techniques would be used to help guide rugby players through the stresses of a pandemic.

With training grounds closed and stadiums turning into makeshift hospitals, most players find themselves sitting idle during the coronavirus crisis. Doherty’s work as Harlequins’ mindfulness coach is just cranking up.

He is in regular contact with players such as 21-year-old England prospect Marcus Smith, while there are also weekly sessions for the players’ wives and girlfriends throughout the lockdown period.

Marcus Smith has turned to mind coach Luke Doherty to help him through isolation period

Players have been left in limbo with the coronavirus lockdown putting their sports on hold 

‘Players are out of their usual routines and that can become stressful,’ said Doherty, 32. 

‘Being at home 24/7, the weekdays and the weekend can become one big blob of time. Using the Zoom platform, we might have group sessions on Monday morning to set intentions for the week.

‘Everyone’s under pressure in different ways during this time of uncertainty, and mindfulness tools can help you stay in control. Breathing and talking therapy are two of the key techniques.’

Doherty was once a promising England Under 18 flanker and played alongside the likes of Tom Wood. But his interests turned towards meditation and mental health after two of his team-mates committed suicide.

Players need an outlet for the mental energy they put into their sport during the lockdown

‘Professional players channel a lot of energy into rugby and you’ve got to be able to find ways to use that and free it up,’ said Doherty. 

‘One of my age group team-mates played a few games for Sale, picked up an injury and committed suicide. Everyone thought he was happy and fine but there’s always that element of unknown because he didn’t communicate why he did it. It’s important to have someone to talk to.

‘For five years, I would spend at least two months a year alone on solitary retreats to deepen my understanding of mindfulness.’

Fly-half Smith is one of Doherty’s most engaged students. Unable to train with team-mates, he is exercising alone and working on daily mindfulness techniques.

Smith said: ‘You can go to new places. A lot of people are suffering which puts things into perspective for the lucky ones. I speak to Luke once a week.’

Smith broke into the England squad as a teenage prodigy and turned to Doherty when he started to feel the pressures of elite sport.

Smith began to feel the pressure of top level competition after breaking in at a young age

‘I had to portray that I was calm when I was this 18-year-old barking orders at British Lions,’ said Smith. ‘My heart used to race. To instil calmness into your team, you need to feel calm yourself. To do that, you need to be bulletproof and hold your body language.

‘If I make a mistake in a game, I re-roll my socks to flick the switch in my head and re-set.

‘Look at Owen Farrell or Dan Carter at his peak — they’d make a mistake but then their next 20 minutes are world class. People underestimate the power of your mind.’

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