The ECB made this request in view of the Covid-19 pandemic worsening globally.
Accordingly, England cricketers will return home immediately, whilst SLC and ECB will reschedule the series, when a suitable window can be found by both sides.
“After overnight discussions between our teams in Sri Lanka and the SLC, the decision has been made to postpone the series and bring players and support staff home. Our aim will be to reschedule the series,” said an ECB spokesman.
The news came while England was midway through their final four-day warm-up match, ahead of the two-Test series which had been scheduled to get underway in Galle on March 19. Play continued for a few minutes after the announcement, before the players left the field at 3.40pm yesterday.
The ECB had been in regular contact with the Sri Lankan and British High Commissions, in addition to Sri Lanka Cricket to address a “highly evolving” situation. However, with the UK and Sri Lanka governments intensifying their respective measures to contain the virus, the decision was, said the ECB, “beyond cricket”.
The spread of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka is currently less intense than in the UK, with two confirmed patients as of Wednesday. However, amid the tightening or closing of borders, and the cancellation of international travel, it is understood that England's desire to get home was a key factor in the decision.
‘'Due to the Covid-19 pandemic worsening globally, and after discussions with Sri Lanka Cricket, we have today made the decision to return our players to the UK and postpone the forthcoming Test series between Sri Lanka and England,” the ECB said.
“At this time, the physical and mental wellbeing of our players and support teams is paramount. We will now look to bring them home to their families as soon as possible. These are completely unprecedented times, and decisions like this go beyond cricket.
“We would like to thank our colleagues at Sri Lanka Cricket for their outstanding support and assistance throughout this situation. We look forward to returning to Sri Lanka in the very near future to fulfill this important Test series.'’