England criticised for abandoning tour as India pink-ball Test confirmed

Cricket South Africa has returned to the thorny issue of the abandonment of their three-match series with England this week by declaring there was “no reason” for the tour to be called off.

Zak Yacoob, the CSA interim board chairman, has described the tourists as having a negative attitude while reiterating his confidence in its Covid-19 proposals. The rebuke landed on Thursday morning as England confirmed their tour of India early next year which will include a day-night Test at the newly built Sardar Patel Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad.

Yacoob said the postponement of the three-match series, at England’s request, had caused CSA reputational damage and warned the governing body would defend itself against “lies” as to the reasons behind the cancellation.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a joint statement with CSA on Monday that the decision to postpone the tour was over concerns about the “physical and mental wellbeing” of the touring party. An unnamed South Africa player and two hotel staff members contracted Covid-19 inside the biosecure environment. Two members of the England touring party initially returned positive test results as well, but these were later cleared as negative.

“What I want to negate is an idea that our provision of services was substandard and that there is any justification for the English saying they did not want to participate and go home. The fact is that they [the England team] were very negative,” Yacoob told reporters on Thursday, referring to the tourists’ attitude. “We have gone into our protocols and we think they have been very good. There may have been an issue of psychological troubles, where people [in the England team] may have been nervous about false positives.

“We do not wish to blame the English, but we wish to say absolutely that any notion that they went away because there was a fault on our side is completely wrong. In fact, we were too lax with their desire to do things which in our strict view they should not be doing [such as allowing players to play golf]. If they say lies about us, we will defend ourselves.”

The saga has called into question future tours to South Africa, with Sri Lanka scheduled to play two Tests in the country, the first starting on Boxing Day, and Australia due to arrive for three Tests in February and March.

Yacoob says he is “95%” sure the Sri Lanka series will go ahead, but adds it is less clear when it comes to Australia. “My understanding of cricket politics is that the three most powerful nations, Australia and England, and you know who the third one is [India], want to do things their way and want to ensure the less powerful nations play ball with them,” he said.

“So it depends on what Australia thinks is in its political interest at the time, based on what has happened with England. Australia are a powerhouse in cricket, and those types of people are usually a law unto themselves.”

Meanwhile, the Board of Control for Cricket in India has announced the schedule for the three-format England trip in the new year, with international fixtures returning to the country for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.

Three venues will be used, with Chennai hosting the first two Tests starting on 5 February and the new 110,000-capacity venue in Ahmedabad staging the next two, as well as five Twenty20s. The teams will then reconvene in Pune for three one-day internationals, concluding on 28 March.

Tom Harrison, chief executive of the ECB, said: “We have been delighted with the planning that has been undertaken by the BCCI to ensure the three venues in Chennai, Ahmedabad and Pune will be ready to host international cricket in a biosecure environment and look forward to working closely with them over the coming weeks to finalise those plans.”

England will name another enlarged squad for January’s two-Test series in Sri Lanka on Friday, with Jonny Bairstow expected to return to the fold – a year since the last of his 70 caps – but there is a question mark over the availability of Rory Burns.

Burns and his wife, Victoria, are expecting their first child during the latter half of the 25-day tour, meaning the opener may have to join the squad in India. Jofra Archer could also be rested for this initial trip, while Ollie Pope is a doubt following shoulder surgery in September.