Covid’s cautious welcome to Sri Lanka reassures England before the tests

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Starting a test tour with hazmat suits, disinfectant spray and isolation would knock many athletes for six, but English cricketers are grateful for the cautious welcome from their Sri Lankan hosts, fast bowler James Anderson said Monday. England arrived on the Indian Ocean island on Sunday to resume a tour canceled in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and hope to repeat their 3-0 money laundering of Sri Lanka in 2018. At the airport, Joe Root’s men were greeted by staff in hazmat suits who sprayed the team and their luggage with disinfectant before being allowed into the terminal to take their second covid test in as many days.

“Yes, it was quite unusual,” Anderson told an online press conference about the welcome.

“But I think from our point of view we talked about it later and it made us feel very safe.”

The team had the small Mattala airport all to itself, as there are virtually no international flights entering the country as it battles a new wave of infections.

After being sprayed and tested, the 23 English players went into strict hotel quarantine at Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka ahead of the two tests to be played behind closed doors in Galle.

The first starts on January 14.

The purified welcome was especially reassuring to England, which withdrew from a trip to South Africa last month in fear of Covid.

“It is clear that with very low cases, Sri Lanka is taking every precaution to make sure they (are) safe here,” Anderson told reporters from his hotel room.

He and his teammates must remain in total isolation and survive off room service food until tested Tuesday. They are then allowed to train in a bubble if they return a negative Covid-19 test.

“In the current situation, I think this is the only way to go about things,” Anderson said, adding that elite athletes had to take coronavirus restrictions to ensure the pandemic got the better of them.

“I think from the summer we know that you can still exercise and not spread the virus,” he added.

“But there are limitations for you when you do that, so we’re completely understandable of the current situation, and we’re just going to try to get on with it as best we can.”

Slow, slow, fast, fast, slow

England have brought six slow bowlers on the tour after their spinners proved to be key in their 2018 3-0 series win.

Dom Bess, Jack Leach and Moeen Ali are in the 16-man squad, while Mason Crane, Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi are in the seven reserves.

But Anderson, who became the first fast bowler to reach 600 Test wickets last year, said it’s not all “doom and gloom” for the quicks.

“Judging from the last few tours, spin has been a big part of our success here. The wickets are really good for the spinners.” Anderson said.

“We have a good tempo attack here. You’re still in the game, you still have chances. There’s a reverse swing, the new ball swings too.

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‘I’ve definitely had success in Galle before and I know some other seamers have too. So it’s not all doom and gloom for the seamers. ‘

Meanwhile, Anderson also backed the inclusion of cricket in the Olympics, saying there is no reason why the Twenty20 format cannot succeed in future Games.

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