England ODI side to train at The Ageas Bowl from July 16

During the first Test against Windies from July 8, even the members of the media will have to check-in at Hilton, the hotel on site, for players and officials.

File Picture: The Ageas Bowl will host the first bio-secure international Test match between England and the West Indies from July 8.   -  Getty Images

Hampshire, like most counties, is going through financial stress due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Salaries have reduced since April and some players have been furloughed.

But the county is hopeful of turning the tide as The Ageas Bowl prepares to host the first bio-secure international Test match — between England and the West Indies from July 8 — behind closed doors amid the coronavirus scare; subject to UK government clearance.

Besides the live action, the England ODI players will be training at Ageas once the Test side moves to Old Trafford for the remainder of the series. Television coverage and a fully functional hotel, Hilton, throughout the summer will be key to its recovery.

READ| Bio-secure bubble can operate under extreme situations: ECB

“The whole idea of a hotel on-site and a gated ground is bio-secure, so no one leaves the premises. The hotel staff will be serving the players, officials and the media. They will all be tested regularly. There will be select few from the UK media and they will have to stay at the hotel for the duration of the match. Nobody goes home after the end of day’s play,” Giles White, Director of Cricket, Hampshire, told Sportstar on Saturday.

There will be separate zones for players, officials and the broadcasters along with other operational staff.

The Caribbeans will arrive in the UK on June 9. They will head to Manchester and serve the 14-day quarantine period along with training at the iconic Old Trafford, the home of Lancashire, before checking in at Ageas for the first Test.

READ| ‘Cocoon’ arrangement for West Indies at Old Trafford   

“They come down to the Ageas around July 4 ahead of the first Test. While they return to Old Trafford for the second and third Tests, the England white-ball side is going to be training at the Ageas from July 16 to prepare for the ODI series against Ireland, scheduled from July 30 [provisionally]. There will be two teams working between two different venues, training and preparing, and then playing,” he said.

There is still no clarity on the concept of crowd simulation. A decision is likely to be taken closer to the date. “Joe Root is keen to have recordings of the Barmy Army playing in the background. I don’t know if he was being serious. I am sure TV will put something around for the atmosphere.”

“I know they are playing football in Germany to empty stands. It seems a little eerie without any background noise. Even we can’t imagine an IPL without the crowd, how strange is that going to be,” said White, adding that the head groundsman, Simon Lee, is working throughout this period to prepare the wicket.

READ| Joe Root could miss first Windies Test for birth of child, Stokes likely to lead

Giles is pinning his hopes on the television coverage of the Test match. “Lot of money comes through TV rights. Getting international cricket on TV is a big part of helping the game as a whole in this country. Every county will benefit from international cricket. It is good for us that we are also hosting a Test match. Hopefully, the hotel will also be full for the next three months,” said the former Hampshire batsman.

If things go as planned without a second spike in coronavirus cases, Ageas will also host Pakistan and then Ireland for the ODIs. “At the end of the summer, we might be hosting Australia. There is a hell lot of cricket, potentially six Test matches and 12 One Day Internationals. There is a lot of dialogue with the government and medical team, it is a big operation. If things change, it remains to be seen if that has an effect on the staging of cricket.” 

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