The fifth and final Test between England and India, which was scheduled to begin at the Old Trafford in Manchester on Friday, had been cancelled, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced.

The first statement fro ECB stated that the Indian team were “unable to field a team and will instead forfeit the match”. But soon after the website statement was updated to: “Due to fears of a further increase in the number of COVID cases inside the camp, India are regrettably unable to field a team.” The mention of forfeiture was removed.

According to ESPNCricinfo, “a query has been left with the ICC, which is expected to liaise with match referee Chris Broad over this issue [of what the series result will be].”

Latest statement by ECB on Friday:

Following ongoing conversations with the BCCI, the ECB can confirm that the fifth LV= Insurance Test between England and India Men due to start today at Emirates Old Trafford, will be cancelled. 

Due to fears of a further increase in the number of COVID cases inside the camp, India are regrettably unable to field a team. 

We send our sincere apologies to fans and partners for this news, which we know will cause immense disappointment and inconvenience to many. 

Further information will be shared in due course.

A little later, the Board of Control for Cricket in India put out a statement:

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) along with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have jointly decided to call off the 5th Test Match scheduled at Manchester in ongoing India’s tour of England 2021.

The BCCI and ECB held several rounds of discussion to find a way to play the Test Match, however, the outbreak of Covid-19 in the Indian team contingent forced the decision of calling off the Old Trafford Test Match.

In lieu of the strong relationship between BCCI and ECB, the BCCI has offered to ECB a rescheduling of the cancelled Test match. Both the Boards will work towards finding a window to reschedule this Test match.

The BCCI has always maintained that the safety and well-being of the players is of paramount importance and there will be no comprise on that aspect.

The BCCI would like to thank the ECB for their co-operation and understanding in these trying times.  We would like to apologise to the fans for not being able to complete an enthralling series.

Also read – Lesson for cricket: Reactions to England vs India fifth Test being cancelled amid Covid-19 concerns

As of now, India are 2-1 ahead and have not been officially declared winners simply because there could be a chance of the fifth Test being played during the window in July next year when the team visits for a six-match white-ball series.

“There remains a possibility that match will be played later some time,” a BCCI official told PTI.

Under the competition terms of the WTC, COVID-19 is identified as “acceptable non-compliance should there be a significant impact of it on the team being able to play.”

This is because the match can remain cancelled from the competition and with ICC using percentage points system based on points won in matches played, a cancelled match is of no value to any team.

The Indian players had tested negative for the virus on Thursday but the 96-hour incubation period also factored in, they didn’t want to risk returning positive and ending in 10-day quarantine, according to information provided by BCCI officials to PTI.

It could also have meant a 10-day isolation for some of the players, who play in the Indian Premier League. There were many questions that cropped up for BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah with a number of factors being taken into account.

The Indian and English players were supposed to fly together in a charter flight. Also, deferring the game by a day or two would have caused logistical issues.

Speaking on broadcasters Sony Liv’s programme, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar said: “The series was so nicely poised because of the comebacks by both teams. There was always a possibility whether England could came back. We are living in uncertain times and everybody has to be careful.”

Former India pacer Ajit Agarkar added: “Such a trick thing… this Covid. To not have bubbles. It is a big series. You have to take it on the chin and if you might have a series, you have to have bubbles in place.”

Former England pacer Dominic Cork added: “Players safety has to come before everything else. If the players didn’t feel safe, the match cannot go ahead.”

Former England captain Nasser Hussain, speaking from Old Trafford, said that the situation is a mess. He added that there was no clarity over forfeiture either. “It’s an evolving situation where this Test match is cancelled and that will be the end of India’s tour of England,” he told Sky Sports News.

All the 21 players of the Indian Test squad had reportedly tested negative for Covid19 on Thursday. The entire Indian group had to undergo RT-PCR tests after an assistant physio tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday. The Indians were already without head physio Nitin Patel, who is currently in isolation after testing positive along with head coach Ravi Shastri and bowling coach Bharath Arun in London.

PTI had reported late on Thursday night that there was apprehension from at least one player in the Indian camp to take the field if the match was going to take place.