The Ashes: Australia v England winter showdown remains in balance aqs players consider their options

The England and Wales Cricket Board will meet this week to decide whether the men’s Ashes will go ahead this winter after players were given an update on travel arrangements for the tour.

The Ashes Urn. Picture: Jason O'Brien/PA

Australia’s stringent approach to coronavirus restrictions has cast doubt on the marquee series, which is scheduled to begin in December, with England players understood to harbour concerns over quarantine, bubble environments and access for families.

The ECB has now made a presentation on Cricket Australia’s proposals and is awaiting to hear how many of their first-choice side is prepared to commit.

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A statement read: “Later this week the ECB Board will meet to decide whether the conditions in place are sufficient for the tour to go ahead and enable the selection of a squad befitting a series of this significance.”

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: England's Test captain, Joe Root Picture: Adam Davy/PA

Cricket’s once predictable future tours programme has been blown to the wind by the onset of the pandemic, with England’s schedule undergoing repeated changes.

They flew home early from tours of Sri Lanka and South Africa in 2020, saw their recent fifth Test decider against India abandoned on the morning of the match after the tourists decided not to play due to fears over a Covid outbreak and have cancelled white-ball visits to Bangladesh and Pakistan that were due this month.

The Ashes is one of the biggest contests in international sport and while administrators on both sides are eager for it to go ahead as planned, the ECB made it clear the views of the team will ultimately decide the matter.

“Over the weekend we have been talking to England men’s players and management to provide them with the latest information about the proposed arrangements for this winter’s scheduled Ashes tour,” continued the statement.

Tymal Mills says without The Hundred he probably wouldn't have earned an England recall. Picture: Clive Gee/PA

“We remain in regular and positive dialogue with Cricket Australia over these arrangements as the picture is constantly evolving. With health and wellbeing at the forefront, our focus is to ensure the tour can go ahead with conditions for players and management to perform at their best.

“We will continue talking to our players this week to share the latest information and seek feedback.”

England captain Joe Root has stopped short of confirming he would lead the squad in Australia, saying only that he was seeking greater clarity about the ground rules of the trip.

His vice-captain Jos Buttler, who is setting off to the T20 World Cup on Monday, has also said making both trips without seeing his family would cross a personal red line.

Crucially, both Root and Buttler have two young children, amplifying their concerns over the issues over families being welcome Down Under. Other players are merely worried about bubble fatigue having spent extended periods in locked down environments for large parts of the last two years.

Tymal Mills, meanwhile, believes he owes his dream England recall after almost five years to The Hundred.

Mills earned the last of his four international caps back in February 2017 but is ready to grasp his second chance this month after being named in the 15-man T20 World Cup squad.

While a handful of players are already on Indian Premier League duty in the United Arab Emirates, the remainder of the group will fly to Oman on Monday where they will quarantine ahead of their tournament opener in Dubai on October 23.

That Mills will be on the plane represents a remarkable shift in fortunes for the 29-year-old, who had slipped out of the picture before a serious stress fracture of the back last winter left him wearing a supportive brace for three months.

And he credits his starring role for inaugural 100-ball champions Southern Brave with putting his name back in the frame.

The new competition has its critics within the traditional county structure, but Mills feels the added profile of a slimmed down, appointment-to-view competition was key to his call-up.

Asked if he would be part of the squad without The Hundred, he said: “Probably not. One hundred per cent it has given me a push. I’ve been quite vocal and open in my support of The Hundred and what it could do for the shortest form of the game.

“With the Blast you have 18 teams playing 14 games each...so many great performances get missed because they can’t be televised, whereas every match in The Hundred was televised.

“Narratives were built and you could see who was bowling well, or if someone was only bowling well in certain situations, or if someone had one good games and five bad games.”

Mills finished as the second cheapest regular bowler in the tournament with an economy rate of 1.11 runs per ball but he admits he does not yet know whether England captain Eoin Morgan has him earmarked for any specific role in the coming weeks.

“I’m obviously desperate to play but I also understand that I’m an outsider coming in – I’ve got to earn the right and the trust,” he added.