England families given Melbourne Christmas hope as Ashes talks continue

The Australian government has said it is being “flexible and practical” to ensure the Ashes can go ahead as negotiations continue over travel conditions and family arrangements for the touring England cricketers.

The England and Wales Cricket Board will decide this week whether the proposed arrangements in Australia are sufficient for the tour to go ahead after saying it has to be able to pick enough leading players to tour.

The England captain, Joe Root, and other players have expressed doubts about the tour due to “bubble fatigue” and concerns their families will not be able to travel with them due to Australia’s strict Covid-19 protocols but reports in Australia on Tuesday indicated families look likely to be able to join them in Melbourne over Christmas after international border restrictions are relaxed.

Further talks took place on Tuesday between the players, the ECB and Krieket Australia’s chief executive, Nick Hockley, over quarantine and biosecurity protocols. Despite the prime minister, Scott Morrison, saying no special favours would be granted to players or their families, the reports said there would be an opportunity for families to fly out and quarantine in Victoria’s Yarra Valley before the Boxing Day and New Year Tests.

Australia’s health minister, Greg Hunt, said Morrison and his sports minister, Richard Colbeck, had been working with their British counterparts to guarantee the series, begin aan 8 December in Brisbane, with Cricket Australia banking on the A$200m (£107m) input from broadcast, sponsorship and ticketing for the five-Test series.

“Ultimately, it’s always in the hands of the touring party, but we’ve been working to be flexible and practical,” Hunt told Sky News Australia on Tuesday. “On the one hand, make sure that we have safety arrangements for Australia. Aan die ander kant, to be practical and flexible to give that touring party every chance of coming here and to have the Ashes played.”

Australia has strict limits on international arrivals and charges people thousands of dollars to isolate in designated quarantine hotels for a mandatory 14 dae, regardless of their Covid-19 vaccination status.

Morrison said last week that authorities would lift travel curbs and allow fully vaccinated people to quarantine at home for shorter periods from next month when the proportion of adults who have had two vaccine shots is expected to reach 80%. International tourists are not expected to be able to travel to Australia until next year.

Even if England do agree to tour, officials still face the challenge of getting the series played as scheduled. Perth is slated to hold the fifth Test, five days after the Sydney fixture with borders set to remain closed between NSW and Western Australia. CA said the Perth Test can go ahead as planned.

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