This content is not available in your region

Cricket-England's Ashes fate in balance as players wait for COVID-19 results

Access to the comments Comments
By Reuters
Cricket-England waiting on COVID test results after positive case in family
Cricket-England waiting on COVID test results after positive case in family   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021   -  

<div> <p>By Ian Ransom</p> <p><span class="caps">MELBOURNE</span> -Australia moved within tantalising reach of retaining the Ashes in Melbourne on Monday but the fate of the series may be decided in a laboratory rather than on the field after the England camp was hit by a rash of <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 cases.</p> <p>Two England support staff and two of their family members were in isolation after testing positive for <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19, throwing a scare through the team as they prepared to head to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for day two of the third test.</p> <p>The players were all cleared after rapid antigen tests and play proceeded without disruption barring a half-hour delay.</p> <p>However, England will need to wait for the results from more thorough <span class="caps">PCR</span> tests to be clear to return for day three on Tuesday, which they do not expect to receive until morning.</p> <p>Under <span class="caps">ICC</span> rules, teams are allowed to make replacements for players ruled out by <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 with the match referee’s approval, so long as the substitutes are considered “like-for-like” and would not provide undue advantage.</p> <p>An England team spokesman said it was still to be decided how the match would proceed if there was a positive <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 case among the players.</p> <p>It was also unclear whether players would be deemed close contacts of any infected team mates and be forced to isolate.</p> <p>“We’re all having <span class="caps">PCR</span> tests now,” England paceman James Anderson told reporters.</p> <p>“And obviously, we need all those to be clear, really, if possible, so we’ll just have to wait and see what the results are.”</p> <p><span class="caps">HEAVY</span> <span class="caps">DEFEAT</span></p> <p>The <span class="caps">COVID</span> tension added to a deflating final session on Monday for England, who were staring down the barrel of another heavy defeat following losses in Brisbane and Adelaide. </p> <p>They were 31 for four in their second innings at stumps, still needing 51 runs to make Australia bat again.</p> <p>Trailing 2-0 in the series, Joe Root’s side need to win in Melbourne to keep the series alive.</p> <p>While the odds are stacked against them, having the match called off would be a bitter pill to swallow.</p> <p>Even with two tests to play in Sydney and Hobart, holders Australia would, by default, retain the urn if Melbourne is unable to proceed or be rescheduled.</p> <p>That could also place the rest of the series under a cloud.</p> <p>England’s players were already reluctant to tour Australia under strict <span class="caps">COVID</span> protocols and that reticence may only grow with the Ashes lost and nothing left to play for.</p> <p>With a large amount of revenue at stake, host board Cricket Australia (CA) is naturally desperate to see the series play out as scheduled.</p> <p>CA boss Nick Hockley rejected any need for alterations to the schedule or to shift the fourth test to Melbourne from Sydney, where authorities are battling a steep rise in <span class="caps">COVID</span> cases.</p> <p>“We’ve got great confidence in the protocols,” he told reporters at the <span class="caps">MCG</span>.</p> <p>“This is something that we’re all having to live with.”</p> <p><span class="caps">COVID</span> has already proved a disruption in the series, if not impacting Australia’s dominance.</p> <p>Home captain Cummins was forced to miss the second test in Adelaide and isolate for a week after being identified as a close contact of a case.</p> <p>Australia shrugged off his absence to win by 275 runs.</p> </div>