Sunday , April 11 2021

South Africa vs England: First ODI abandoned, tour in doubt for more Covid-19 positives



Jonny Bairstow and teammates from England are waiting for news on their tour of South Africa after another match was abandoned.

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

Jonny Bairstow and teammates from England are waiting for news on their tour of South Africa after another match was abandoned.

Two members of England’s tour party in South Africa have returned “unconfirmed positive tests” for Covid-19, the England and Wales Cricket Board said on Sunday when the first one-day landing was interrupted after a virus outbreak at the hotel where both teams are staying.

The ECB did not release any names and did not say whether the two members were players or management. The two positive tests came after another round of tests on England’s players and officials on Saturday night. These extra tests were triggered by news that two employees at the Cape Town Hotel, which was used by both teams, and which is supposed to be a biosafe environment, had tested positive for Covid-19.

England players and management were isolating in their hotel rooms until further advice from medical teams, the ECB said, and there would be more tests by independent medical experts to confirm the results.

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Three South African players also tested positive during the tour, two of them after entering the “bio bubble” at the hotel, where entry and exit is limited. It is unclear whether the remaining two ODIs will move on to England due to return home on Thursday.

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The first ODI has been postponed since Friday after the latest South African player tested positive for Covid-19 hours before the game was scheduled to start. None of the South African players who test positive have been selected.

A decision on the remaining matches in the series will be made when the results of the tests on England’s party members are “ratified independently by medical experts”, the ECB said.

“We regret that we can not play in today’s ODI,” said England cricket manager Ashley Giles, “but the well-being of the players and support staff is our main concern and while we wait for the results of further tests doctors’ advice from both teams was that this game would not own room.

“We remain in constant dialogue with Cricket South Africa and will continue to work closely with them to determine how best to proceed.”

Despite diplomatic statements by the ECB, the situation is very embarrassing for Cricket South Africa and the authorities responsible for protecting the bio-bubble in the hotel.

Sky Sports cricket presenters Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussein and Ian Ward discuss the launch of the first ODI in Newlands on Friday.

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

Sky Sports cricket presenters Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussein and Ian Ward discuss the launch of the first ODI in Newlands on Friday.

Two South African players tested positive before the Twenty20 series with three games, which still continued despite concerns. England won that series 3-0. The latest positive test in the South African team had led CSA to launch an investigation into how he became infected with the biobubble. The CSA also acknowledged on Friday that England had a right to be concerned about the Covid-19 protocols at the hotel.

Sunday’s news that hotel staff and possibly tournament party members in England were also now infected illustrated how the attempts to keep both teams safe had failed.

“We deeply regret the situation we are in after the time and energy that has been put in place to host a successful tour,” said Cricket chief CSA manager Graeme Smith. “We have continuous discussions with the ECB as we navigate the situation under the leadership of our combined medical teams.”

In a statement, the hotel said it was investigating how its two employees became infected. They had lived in the premises of the cinema bubble and had not left the hotel since November 16, the hotel said. They worked in different parts of the hotel. Employees and the latest South African player to be awarded a contract with Covid-19 were “isolated in apartments on site a distance from the hotel”, the hotel management said.

Signs showing Covid restrictions at Newlands Cricket Ground.

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

Signs showing Covid restrictions at Newlands Cricket Ground.

All players and officials in England are now facing any additional quarantine requirements before being reunited with their families before Christmas. South African rules require that anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus or been in close contact with someone with the virus be quarantined for 14 days. The ODI series was scheduled to end on Wednesday, with England leaving the next day on a charter flight to London. It is unclear whether they will be allowed to return home according to schedule.

England’s tournament with six matches with a limited overview was arranged at short notice to fill the gaps in both teams’ schedules created by the virus pandemic. But it has coincided with South Africa, once one of the worst-affected countries in the world, has seen signs of a second rise in the virus.

All six matches were to be played in Cape Town and nearby Paarl to limit travel for players and officials, but it is one of the regions in South Africa that is now seeing an increase in virus cases.


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