Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo
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A decision as to whether England's first Test in Pakistan for 17 years can get underway on time will be taken at 7.30am local time on Thursday morning, two and a half hours prior to the scheduled start, after a sickness bug swept through their camp on the eve of the match to cause upheaval in Rawalpindi.
Having named their XI a full 48 hours ahead of the match, England's plans were thrown into disarray on their final day of practice, with up to 14 members of their tour party, including half of their 16-man playing pool, reporting symptoms including diarrhoea and vomiting. They were subsequently confined to their hotel rooms for fear of spreading the virus.
Emergency talks between PCB chairman Ramiz Raja and ECB officials Rob Key and Neil Snowball ensued, along with ECB medical director Nick Peirce and team doctor Anita Biswas, with the options discussed including a 24-hour delay to the start time, to allow the England players enough time to recover from what is hoped to be a 24-hour bug.
"The Pakistan Cricket Board and England and Wales Cricket Board today discussed the outbreak of viral infection in the England men's Test team camp and unanimously agreed to delay the decision on the commencement of the first Test, which is due to start on Thursday, until 0730 Pakistan time tomorrow [Thursday]," read a joint statement from the two boards.
"The two boards made the decision based on medical advice from the England doctors, which revolved around the players' health and welfare, agreeing that the England cricket team are able to select an XI for the first of the three ICC World Test Championship matches, which will be played at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.
"The two boards also agreed, subject to the England players not recovering well enough to take the field on Thursday morning, then the Test will commence on Friday and will be a five-day match. In this scenario, the schedule of the second Test in Multan and the third Test in Karachi will remain unaffected and will be played as per original schedule i.e. 9-13 and 17-21 December, respectively."
Ben Stokes, England's captain, was among the players laid low on Wednesday, with only Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope and Joe Root attending an optional training session at Pindi Stadium. James Anderson, who is set to play his first Test in Pakistan at the age of 40, 17 years after featuring in the one-day leg of the 2005 tour, was also reporting symptoms.
"I felt unwell yesterday and woke up feeling much better today so hopefully it is a 24-hour thing," Root told reporters after training. "It is just one of those things that we have unfortunately picked up as a group. We've tried to do everything we can to get right for this game but sometimes life throws you these things at you. We have to see how we rock up as a squad tomorrow [Thursday]."
England had attempted to mitigate against the risk of illness by appointment their own chef for the tour, Omar Meziane, who has previously worked with the England men's football team. However, he was among those taken ill, with England confident that the outbreak was not food-related.