Australia's cricket tour of South Africa in doubt amid Covid bubble fears

  • England’s trip cancelled after five positive cases
  • Australia monitoring situation ahead of early 2021 tour

Australia’s scheduled three-Test tour of South Africa has been thrust under the microscope after England cancelled their one-day international series due to an apparent loss of faith in the country’s biosecurity arrangements.

England are due to fly home from Cape Town this week following Monday’s decision to call off the remaining matches after five positive Covid-19 cases in the space of three days, including two among the touring party.

Cricket Australia remains officially committed to the tour set down for February and March, but is keeping close tabs on the situation. The Australian tour follows a scheduled visit from Sri Lanka to South Africa, which has had an average of around 3,600 new cases per day over the past week.

“The tour of South Africa is part of the World Test Championship and the Futures Tour Program,” a Cricket Australia spokesman said. “We will continue to plan for the tour and monitor the biosecurity situation.”

England’s decision followed a day of fraught meetings between players and management, and preceded a joint statement from Cricket South Africa and the England and Wales Cricket Board claiming the move was mutual and taken “to ensure the mental and physical health and welfare of players from both teams”.

The veracity of England’s two unnamed positive cases were called into question by England’s team doctor and rapid Covid-19 tests have since come back as negative.

However Ashley Giles, the director of England men’s cricket, said the squad had voiced wider concerns that began when two South Africa players tested positive at the start of the trip.

“The thing that really raised the levels of anxiety and nervousness were that we were coming into a biosecure environment and from very early on it appeared it wasn’t biosecure,” Giles said.

Australia’s series in South Africa is set to be one of the most anticipated of 2021, after the drama that engulfed the last Test tour there – culminating in the ball-tampering scandal.

Front of mind in CA’s approach is that the tour is still three months away, and much can change quickly in the current international environment. Last month South Africa cricket officials even outlined hopes to have crowds through the gates.

However, events of the past fortnight indicate international cricket remains at the mercy of the pandemic. The situation could yet become a major headache for CA, which has already worked through a multitude of logistical challenges caused by November’s coronavirus cluster in South Australia which, at the time, threw into doubt the feasibility of Adelaide Oval hosting the first Test against India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan have had six players test positive to the virus while in quarantine in New Zealand for their T20 and Test series.

India’s tour of Australia has begun smoothly, but only after months of talks between both boards and government authorities. CA estimates that has cost in the vicinity of an additional $30m, taking in everything from chartered flights to hotel quarantines.

The other factor regarding the South Africa tour is the surety of biosecurity arrangements and the mental welfare of players, who may have to spend an extended period in a hub.

In recent days, two England players in Tom Curran and Tom Banton withdrew from their Big Bash League sides citing bubble fatigue after a challenging year that has worn down professional athletes globally.

Australia batsman Matthew Wade said on Monday he had not given the South Africa tour much consideration.

“And I’m not sure any of the other players have thought about it,” Wade said. “I saw the match was postponed, that’s about as far as I’ve gone into it.

“I’m sure Cricket Australia and South Africa’s board will work together and get the right solution. But as players, we’ll just crack into this series and when that rolls around we’ll see where it lands. But it’s a long way for us.”


Emma Kemp

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Australia's series loss in South Africa reflects downtrodden fate of ODIs | Russell Jackson
The 5-0 ODI whitewash against the Proteas will be quickly forgotten, but second-rate sides and one-sided results are damaging cricket’s great cash cow

Russell Jackson

12, Oct, 2016 @10:56 PM

Article image
South Africa beat Australia by 10 runs: Cricket World Cup 2019 – as it happened
David Warner’s century was not enough as Australia were unable to chase down a total of 325 for six and must now play England in the semi-finals

Adam Collins (now, at Old Trafford) Geoff Lemon (earlier)

06, Jul, 2019 @9:09 PM

Article image
Cricket pay dispute: players' association threatens Australia A tour boycott
Players have given Cricket Australia until Friday to reach a memorandum of understanding with them or face South Africa tour boycott

Australia Associated Press

02, Jul, 2017 @4:17 AM

Article image
South Africa v Australia: fourth Test, day one – as it happened
Aiden Markram made a lovely, career-best 152 before Pat Cummins and Chadd Sayers dragged Australia back into the match in the final session

Jonathan Howcroft (earlier) and Rob Smyth (later)

30, Mar, 2018 @4:06 PM

Article image
Australia beat South Africa by five wickets – as it happened
Australia hold on, winning a thriller over South Africa to start the Super 12s. Marcus Stoinis the matchwinner with two boundaries in the final over

Adam Collins

23, Oct, 2021 @1:36 PM

Article image
South Africa v Australia: fourth Test, day two – as it happened
Temba Bavuma’s unbeaten 95 and some incisive bowling from Vernon Philander put South Africa in total control of the final Test

Jonathan Howcroft (earlier) and Rob Smyth (later)

31, Mar, 2018 @3:34 PM

Article image
Australia v South Africa: third Test, day two – as it happened
Over-by-over report: an impressive century from Usman Khawaja has seen Australia edge ahead of South Africa, with the third Test still nicely poised

Jonathan Howcroft, Adam Collins & Russell Jackson

25, Nov, 2016 @11:10 AM

Article image
Steve Smith admits to Australia ball-tampering plan against South Africa
The Australia captain, Steve Smith, said it was ‘the players and the leadership group that came up with’ the ball-tampering plan against South Africa

Adam Collins at Newlands

24, Mar, 2018 @8:17 PM

Article image
Australia beat South Africa in second one-day international – as it happened
Over-by-over report: Australia secured a rare ODI win to level the series at 1-1 and set up a decider in Hobart on Sunday

Geoff Lemon and Jonathan Howcroft

09, Nov, 2018 @11:47 AM

Article image
Australia v South Africa: third Test, day three – as it happened
Over-by-over report: Australia move to a dominant position with Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyons taking key wickets on day three

Jonathan Howcroft, Geoff Lemon & Adam Collins

26, Nov, 2016 @11:55 AM