Let the hype, hyperbole and general madness begin. It’s nearly Ashes time, arguably the most anticipated series in world cricket.
The first group of England cricketers arrived at Brisbane airport on Saturday morning to begin a 14-day quarantine at a luxury Gold Coast resort and nearly a month ahead of the first Ashes Test against Australia.
Players and staff must isolate in their room for three days of hard quarantine but have been granted exemptions to train after that at a nearby stadium. They can also utilise the facilities available at the resort which include two championship golf courses and tennis courts.
Australia’s players will also be quarantined at the same resort after returning from the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. The remainder of England’s players in their T20 side, including Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler, will also arrive once the T20 tournament ends.
“I think it’s been worked through, amicably, and everyone’s dealt with it as best as possible in an evolving situation,” England captain Joe Root said before leaving England. “And we’re very grateful to get the opportunity to go there under the conditions that we’ve got.”
Root, all-rounder Ben Stokes, batter Rory Burns and spin bowlers Jack Leach and Dom Bess were among those who arrived on Saturday for what will be a 10-week stay Down Under. Stokes was only added to England’s squad last month after recovering from a finger injury and from taking time away to prioritise his mental health.
On the plus side, England’s players will have the longest period ever ahead of an Ashes series to acclimatise to the heat and humidity of subtropical southeast Queensland and become accustomed to the early daylight hours.
Since Queensland is not on daylight time, it becomes light around 4:30am to 5am, with chirping birds doing their best to wake up sleepers at least an hour earlier.
Australia had closed its borders until recently when vaccination rates against Covid-19 rose to what the government considered acceptable levels, now at nearly 80 per cent who are fully vaccinated. England players were not given any special consideration when it came to quarantining upon their arrival.
England will have two squads in Australia, including the English Lions backup squad which will play a three-day warm-up match against the English Test team at Redlands in Brisbane from November 23-25 and a four-day game at Ian Healy Oval, also in Brisbane, from Nov 30 to December 3.
The first Test begins at the Gabba in Brisbane on Dec 8 and the second is scheduled to be played in Adelaide from Dec 16-20. The third is from Dec 26-30 in Melbourne, the fourth from January 5-9 in Sydney and the final test from Jan 14-18 in Perth.
The Perth Test is subject to further negotiations with Western Australia state officials over current quarantine restrictions that might still be in effect in mid-January.
Australia holds the Ashes, having beaten England in Australia in 2017-18 and then keeping them when the 2019 series in England was drawn.