Joe Root has committed to leading England in the Ashes this winter, with the tour to Australia set to be given the formal go-ahead by the end of this week.
After weeks of negotiations to stop the trip being postponed or cancelled over the host country's strict coronavirus quarantine rules , a deal has been struck that is likely to see a full-strength squad travel.
The only potential exception is wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler. The 31 year-old is still wavering, having publicly expressed reservations at being apart from his family for so long.
But it is understood he is likely to travel if arrangements can be made for his wife and children to join him in the United Arab Emirates this month, where he is due to play in the Twenty20 World Cup, before flying directly to Australia.
It is also believed some of the fringe players likely to be called up will not turn down the chance to travel, with several concerned about their long-term England futures were they not to commit to the tour.
The emergence of a solution came after those wavering over going were denounced by Ian Botham , who cast doubt on their desire to take on what he called "the ultimate test".
It was Root's decision to confirm his participation – settled after a meeting between the England & Wales Cricket Board, Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley and players on Tuesday to thrash out the final details of the tour – that proved the key development which ensured the series would go ahead.
It has been reported in Australia that England players' families flying out to spend Christmas with their partners would be offered the use of a resort in the Yarra Valley, near Melbourne, to complete their quarantine.
Avoiding a two-week 'hard' quarantine in a hotel was seen as a red line for many, but the compromise offered has apparently been enough to assuage those concerns.
"For the England players, they needed some level of surety from us that what's happened in the previous three months is probably not indicative of what might happen in the next three," Australian Cricketers’ Association CEO Todd Greenberg told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald .
"We've talked to them about that, we've talked to them about the vaccination rates, about the planning with governments.
"The long and the short of it, for me, is the England players have handled themselves really well, they've asked the right questions, they've been really professional in the way they've dealt with that and all credit to them."
In an exclusive interview with Telegraph Sport on Tuesday about the crisis to have engulfed cricket's most historic series, Botham said he would already have his "bags packed" if selected to travel.
Pouring scorn on concerns about the conditions facing Root's side and their loved ones, the recently-appointed Government trade envoy to Australia said he was sick of talk of the tour being postponed or cancelled.
Botham, arguably England's greatest Ashes hero, said: "It's the ultimate test and – I don't know – I start to wonder maybe if some of these guys don't fancy the ultimate test. You have to start to worry about it.
"Playing for England is the ultimate. To play Test cricket for England is the ultimate and to play against Australia in Australia – and win – is magnificent.
"I suggest it's a challenge. And, if I was in their boots, I'd already have my bags packed."
Scrapping the tour could push Cricket Australia to the brink of bankruptcy amid fears it would leave the governing body facing a £100 million-plus black hole.
It would also sour relations between the ECB and another top cricketing nation following the cancellation of England's trip to Pakistan this month due to concerns over "mental and physical well-being".
Holding accuses ECB of ‘same Western arrogance’ after cancelling Pakistan tour
By Telegraph Sport
Michael Holding, the Former West Indies bowler, has said the England & Wales Cricket Board’s reasons for withdrawing from the now cancelled series in Pakistan did not “wash with him”.
Last month, the ECB announced the scheduled October trip had been cancelled because of concerns over “mental and physical well-being”.
It would have been the first tour of Pakistan by an England women’s team and the first by their male counterparts since 2005, set to include back-to-back Twenty20s on October 13 and 14 followed by a three-match women’s one-day series.
The ECB’s lengthy statement also indicated a broader unease at the travelling to the region, as well as referencing bubble fatigue and Twenty20 World Cup preparations.
Ahead of England’s announcement, New Zealand had also pulled out of their own series in Pakistan, citing a security threat.
In response, Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ramiz Raja warned of a potential divide in international cricket and a “West versus rest” mindset.
Former West Indies paceman Holding, who played 60 Tests and 102 one-day internationals, was also critical of the ECB decision.
“The ECB statement doesn’t wash with me. No substance,” Holding said after receiving the Cricket Writers’ Club Peter Smith Award, as reported by BBC Sport.
“Nobody wants to come forward and face up to anything because they know what they did was wrong.
“So they put out a statement and hid behind a statement. It just reminds me of the rubbish they did with Black Lives Matter.
“I won’t go back into that because I’ve said enough about that. But what that signal sends to me, is the same Western arrogance.
“I will treat you how I feel like treating you, it doesn’t matter what you think, I’ll just do what I want.”
The PCB remains confident in its security arrangements and believes the country is safe to host international cricket despite New Zealand’s hasty exit.
The ECB statement acknowledged the news would not go down well with opponents who helped rescue England’s 2020 summer by travelling in restrictive bubble environments at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Pakistan went to England before vaccines were available for six or seven weeks,” said Holding, who moved behind the microphone following his retirement from playing in 1987 and has spoken out over the continued battle against racism and for equality.
“They stayed, they played their cricket, they honoured what England wanted them to honour, to save England’s butt, to put it mildly.
“Four days in Pakistan? I’m absolutely sure they would not have done that to India, because India is rich and powerful.”
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Holding filled a rain delay during England’s first home Test of 2020 with a passionate call to arms against racism.
Earlier this year, Holding’s new book was published ‘Why We Kneel, How We Rise’, a sober, densely-researched account of racial discrimination, partially told through discussions with leading athletes including Usain Bolt, Thierry Henry, Michael Johnson and Naomi Osaka.
When contacted for reaction to Holding’s comments, a spokesman for the ECB referred to the statement issued on September 20.
The statement concluded: “We understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB, who have worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in their country.
“Their support of English and Welsh cricket over the last two summers has been a huge demonstration of friendship.
“We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasise an ongoing commitment to our main touring plans there for 2022.”
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