(Australian Associated Press)
Nathan Lyon could only smile when asked about the prospect of playing Test cricket in England this winter.
“It just sounds like England want the Ashes back ASAP, ” Lyon quipped.
COVID-19 uncertainty has created the ideal atmosphere for speculation to grow throughout sport, especially its scheduling.
Question marks hover over Australia’s home ODI series against Zimbabwe in August, the Twenty20 World Cup it was due to host in October-November, and a one-off Perth Test against Afghanistan slated for November.
A limited-overs tour of England, originally scheduled for July then pushed back to September as England grappled with the health crisis, looms as the likely coronavirus comeback for Justin Langer’s team.
But even that trip is now the subject of intense speculation after 10 Pakistan players tested positive to COVID-19.
There is a school of thought the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) could ask Cricket Australia to extend its team’s stay – potentially including some red-ball action – should the Pakistan series be canned.
“We would look at that (contingency plans) if that happened,” England’s director of men’s cricket Ashley Giles said.
CA and the ECB remain in near-constant dialogue about the limited-overs tour, with Langer suggesting last week there is a good chance it will go ahead.
However, CA is yet to be asked about the prospect of playing Tests.
In the event that red-ball action is hastily scheduled then the urn is unlikely to be up for grabs, as was the case when the rivals played a one-off Bicentennial Test in 1988.
“I’ve got no idea when we’re playing next or when potential tours are or anything,” Lyon told reporters on Wednesday.
“There’s so many balls up in the air … I’m not qualified to be making any arrangements.
“We know something will come eventually. It’s just about getting some really good preparation under our belt.”
Lyon, dumped from the one-day squad as part of selectors’ overhaul after the 2019 World Cup, is keen to be part of the landmark tour of England.
“I’m still putting my hand up for selection in white-ball cricket,” he said.
“All I can do is make sure I’m training well and giving positive feedback to the Australian coaches.”
Lyon is also keen to help Adam Zampa, who shifted back to NSW during the off-season in pursuit of an elusive baggy green, improve his red-ball bowling in pre-season training.
The offspinner suggested he will keep a close eye on the upcoming Test series between England and West Indies, which starts in a fortnight and will be the first major indicator of how much COVID-19 rules will affect the sport.
“You’re not allowed to put saliva on the ball. I think spinners might open the bowling,” Lyon joked.
“I don’t think it’s going to change too much, especially here in Australia. I can’t see us picking three spinners at the Gabba.”