After a lot of negotiations and planning Australia's limited-overs tour to England has been confirmed with three T20Is and three ODIs being played in September. Here's how it will happen.
When does the squad fly out?
The 21-man squad, along with coaches and support staff will come from around Australia and link up in Perth for a direct chartered flight to London on August 23 which avoids the need for any international stopovers on route which may have complicated the journey. They will arrive in London the following day and immediately transfer to the County Ground at Derby which will be their first biosecure base for the tour. The ground has been used by Pakistan and the England Women's team this season.
How have the players been getting ready?
The Australia selectors named a 26-man squad last month so that those in the frame could start to prepare. However, things have differed state-to-state because of the various levels of Covid-19 restrictions in place around Australia. Melbourne is currently in a Stage 4 lockdown after a spike in number of cases, which has made things more challenging for Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell. The New South Wales-based Australia players have trained away from their state team-mates and been told to avoid public places - such as cafes and restaurants - in recent weeks to minimise the risks. In other states it's been more like normal pre-season. South Australia had nets in Adelaide on Friday and Marnus Labuschagne, the only Queensland player in the squad, made 92 when the state players trialled the Hundred format recently.
Can Australia train straightaway?
Yes, once they shake off the jetlag, they'll be straight into preparing for the internationals. Because they are moving into a biosecure environment, plus the fact there is an approved air bridge between Australia and the UK, it means they won't be confined to their rooms for a quarantine period on arrival. The reason they won't go straight to the Ageas Bowl, which hosts the T20Is, is that England's Test series against Pakistan isn't due to finish until August 25. That tour then returns to Old Trafford, the other major biosecure venue, for the T20Is so Australia need a base for a few days before heading to the Ageas Bowl on August 27.
How will Australia prepare?
Like West Indies and Pakistan, it will be with intra-squad matches (only Ireland, who played England Lions, have faced genuine opposition). Australia are due to play three T20 and one 50-over warm-up before facing England. They are taking 21 players with them which isn't quite enough for a proper 11-a-side match, so there will need to be some creativity in the games themselves, but if the intra-squad match before last year's Ashes is any indication, they could still be lively with established players up against those looking to make an impression.
So what about the internationals?
They will come in two batches, beginning with the T20Is on September 4, 6 and 8 before the squads relocate to Manchester for the ODIs, which are part of the World Cup Super League, at Old Trafford on September 11, 13 and 16. That journey between the venues will be under strict biosecure protocols as well, which is where Jofra Archer found himself in trouble earlier in the season after a detour home. The fact the two grounds have hotels onsite has been a key factor in the ECB managing to pull together this season.
Remind me, when did Australia last play?
The men were last in action on March 13 when the world was already changing. They played a behind-closed-doors ODI against New Zealand at the SCG - so were the first team to experience what has become the norm, for now at least - before that series was called off the next day when New Zealand had to return home due to borders being closed. Although they reached the World Cup semi-finals a little over a year ago, Australia's ODI form has been very patchy with just two wins in seven matches since then. However, they have had much more success in T20Is and were shaping as one of the favourites for the now-postponed T20 World Cup. Going back to February 2019, they have won nine of their last 11 T20Is.
What happens after the tour?
This is where things get a bit complicated again and there are still some aspects to be confirmed. The players who take up their IPL deals will be dropped off in the UAE (Australia and England players will share the same flight) from which point on they come under the umbrella of the IPL's protocols. The remaining Australia players and staff will continue back to Perth where, under Australia government regulations, they will have to quarantine for 14 days. CA hopes they will be able to negotiate that players will be able to train during that period but that's an ongoing negotiation with the Western Australia government. It would be especially problematic for the pacemen if they weren't able to keep their bowling loads up. After that period, they will be able to rejoin their states but it is likely they will miss some early-season games if the summer gets up and running on schedule.