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England players to avoid handshakes in Sri Lanka amid coronavirus outbreak

England players to avoid handshakes in Sri Lanka amid coronavirus outbreak
© Reuters
England were hit by a series of gastroenteritis and flu problems during their recent tour of South Africa.

England players will not be shaking hands on the tour to Sri Lanka, captain Joe Root has revealed.

The Yorkshire batsman, who addressed the issue of the coronavirus as the team prepared to depart for their two-Test tour, says instead the players will greet each other with fist bumps.

The threat of illness is a sensitive issue for England, who were hit by a series of gastroenteritis and flu problems before and during the first Test on their recent tour of South Africa.

"After the illnesses that swept through the squad in South Africa, we are well aware of the importance of keeping contact to a minimum and we've been given some really sound and sensible advice from our medical team to help prevent spreading germs and bacteria," Root said.

"We are not shaking hands with each other, using instead the well-established fist bump, and we are washing hands regularly and wiping down surfaces using the anti-bacterial wipes and gels we've been given in our immunity packs.

"There is no suggestion that the tour will be affected, but of course it is an evolving situation so we are in regular contact with the authorities and will proceed as advised, but at this stage we fully expect the tour to continue as planned."

England will play the first of two practice matches against a Sri Lanka Board Presidents XI in Katunayake on Saturday ahead of the Tests which will form part of the ICC World Test Championship and as such will each be worth 60 points.

England won 3-0 in Sri Lanka two years ago but Root is anticipating a tougher challenge this time.

"The conditions will be a bit different with the time of year we are going this time," he said.

England are currently fourth in the ICC Test Championship standings
England are currently fourth in the ICC Test Championship standings (Mike Egerton/PA)

"The three games we played out there last time were all very close with less than 60 runs between the teams in the last two Tests.

"It was an exceptional performance last time and I think we can take a lot of confidence from that in terms of how to play out there.

"We respect how good a side they are in their own conditions and we'll find ourselves up against a stiff challenge.

"With it being a two-match tour there are a lot of Test Championship points to play for and with New Zealand turning India over twice, it has thrown things wide open.

"With these matches and then six games at home in the summer coming up, it feels like it is a great opportunity to get ahead of things and give ourselves a real chance of pushing for one of those top two spots."

Root is expecting a big contribution from Somerset spinner Jack Leach, who was forced to fly back early from South Africa because of illness.

"It has been a really frustrating winter for Jack, not being able to get on the park through illness and then picking up a little bit of a niggle," he said.

"He has recovered well from it and is back strong. He's been up at Loughborough doing some work up there to make sure the physios are happy with his condition.

"He's been looking after his physical state as well and he's very much looking forward to getting out there and getting some game time in the middle.

"He'll be very excited at playing out there again with such fond memories from the last time we were there and the wickets he took.

"I can see him being full of energy and playing an important part in the two games for us."

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Mark Wood pictured in January 2020
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