England in Sri Lanka: Moeen Ali tests positive for Covid-19

England all-rounder Moeen Ali has tested positive for Covid-19 upon the squad’s arrival in Sri Lanka.

The 33-year-old, who tested negative before departure, will now isolate for 10 days in accordance with the Sri Lanka government’s quarantine protocol.

Fellow all-rounder Chris Woakes has been deemed as a possible close contact, and will observe a period of self-isolation and further testing.

England’s two-Test tour of Sri Lanka starts in Galle on 14 January.

England had lateral flow tests and a PCR test at Hambantota airport upon arrival, with Moeen’s PCR test returning the positive.

The rest of the touring parting will be retested on Tuesday morning, before being allowed to train for the first time on Wednesday.

Moeen is the first England player to test positive for the virus, with a full summer of games against West Indies, Pakistan, Australia and Ireland being completed without any cases.

England’s last overseas tour, in South Africa, was cut short in December after positive cases in the Cape Town hotel where England were staying. England returned two positive tests – that were later verified as false positives.

Last week England captain Joe Root said he did not expect the tour to be postponed if there were one or two isolated cases of the virus.

Since England’s tour of South Africa was called off, Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand and Sri Lanka’s of South Africa have both continued despite positive cases.

England flew on a chartered flight from London to Hambantota on Saturday evening.

All of the players, and touring party, tested negative before their departure and were sprayed with disinfectant upon their arrival in Sri Lanka.

The series was scheduled to take place last year but England flew home after the tour was called off on 13 March as the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

Sri Lanka has seen 44,774 coronavirus infections and 213 deaths during the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

‘Alarming for England’ – analysis

Given the circumstances of their abandoned trip to South Africa, this is clearly alarming for England, however it’s important to make the distinction between the two tours. In South Africa, they felt their bubble was breached, whereas this is an issue internal to the tourists.

Moeen will be moved to Galle, the location of the two Tests, for his period of isolation, but given that is not due to end until the day before the first match, he must be considered a huge doubt.

England have planned for this sort of issue, travelling with seven reserves in addition to the squad of 16. Three of those reserves – Mason Crane, Amar Virdi and Matt Parkinson – are spinners, but have only Crane’s one Test cap between them.

At the moment, England have not discussed promoting a player to the main squad but should they feel the need to supplement frontline spinners Dom Bess and Jack Leach in their Test XI, then an inexperienced name is set for a big opportunity.