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'Do we really want to risk going to Sydney?': FOUR England COVID positives throw Ashes series into turmoil

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26th December, 2021
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Former England captain Michael Vaughan urged Cricket Australia to act quickly and consider abandoning the Sydney Test in favour of another match in Melbourne after the tourists suffered four positive COVID tests within the extended travelling party.–more–>

The positive results – for two members of the team’s support staff and two family members – held up the players’ arrival to the ground as they returned negative tests before being allowed to leave the hotel. Play was delayed by 30 minutes but Vaughan urged a dramatic rethink on the rest of the series.

The fourth Test is scheduled for the SCG from January 5.

“Cricket Australia have to act quickly and be proactive in terms of this situation,” Vaughan told Fox Cricket.

“It’s unprecedented times. Could the next Test match be played here in Melbourne under floodlights on January 5 to make sure we all stay in Victoria where the protocols are different to Sydney.

“Do we really want to risk taking two teams over to Sydney, broadcast production staff, you get to SCG, there’s one case in the teams on day one and the Test match is off.

“It’s not going to be easy staying here with what we’ve seen this morning and the fact it’s a family member on Christmas Day – everyone is going to have been around that family member so there is a possibility that the COVID positive could spread around the side.

“CA have to act quickly and be sensible and reasonable and think this is the situation now, it wasn’t the situation a week ago, we have to act and p[potentially starting here on January 5, under lights at the MCG could be a good possibility.”

Shane Warne said Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley had to come out with a quick and decisive plan.

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“What Vaughany is suggesting about staying here makes sense in a way, maybe we could start the fourth Test here on January 5 and then hopefully the fifth Test – it was meant to be in Hobart, without saying ‘you can have it, oh no you can’t’ – that one can be in Sydney.

“I think this is a watch this space. The administrators have to adapt and everyone has to understand and make sure they can adapt quickly on it and make decisions.

“This is where Cricket Australia need their leader to make a decision, be precise and lead Cricket Australia through this time and lead this Ashes series everyone wants to see. .

“Nick Hockley is the man, he has to take charge and say this is our plan.”

CA released a statement saying the four members of the travelling party were in isolation and Hockley later told reporters there were no plans to alter the schedule.

“We just need to remain calm and get the facts,” Hockley said.

“Everyone needs to follow the medical advice. On that basis, we keep going.

“We’ve been working on the plans for this tour for over six months.

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“Our protocols are designed for absolutely this set of events. We’ve got strong protocols. We’ve got very comprehensive testing regimes.”

“The entire playing group and all other support staff have undertaken Rapid Antigen Tests this morning and have all tested negative,” the CA statement said.

“The England cricket team will also have PCR tests today and both teams will take extra precautions throughout play. Both squads remain unchanged.

“There is currently no further impact on fans or other parts of the venue.

“Cricket Australia and the MCC will continue to monitor the situation and follow the endorsed Victorian government COVID safe event plan.”

With day two due to start at 10.30am AEDT, England put out a statement at 9.24am saying: “The England team and management are currently at the team hotel awaiting results of RFT COVID test following a positive test in the team’s family group. We will provide further information in due course.”

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At 9.44am the team announced the team had been given the ‘all clear’ and were about to set off for the ground.

The England team are staying about 10 minutes drive from the MCG and TV vision showed them arriving just before 10am.

The day’s play was scheduled to start at 11am local time with all sessions pushed back 30 minutes to allow the bowlers time to get warmed up.

Australia resumed at 1-61 in pursuit of England’s first innings of 185.

Vaughan gave an insight into the thinking within the England camp.

“They were very close to not coming to Australia because of what they’ve been through for the last 18 months,” Vaughan said on Fox Cricket.

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“This England side has pretty much been in a bubble. They were locked in cricket grounds in the UK in 2020. Jimmy Anderson was at the ground at Old Trafford for six weeks. He lived a mile away but couldn’t see his kids.

“This England team have gone through a lot. They agreed to come ton Australia on the protocol that yes they would go to Brisbane and do the two weeks. It wasn’t hard quarantine but it got them prepared for that first Test match.

“I’m led to believe that all the organisation and talk around the team was as long as by the time we’ve done that we have a semi normal life.

“Clearly over the last week restrictions have been brought back again. On the back of this I’m sure it will go again and I’d be very wary of what the England side may do if restrictions completely change and we go back into a full bubble.

“I’m not too sure they’ll agree to that.

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“I know around the states of Australia everything is different. If this would have happened in Sydney, the players who were close contacts would have had to to isolate and I’m pretty sure had that been the case for seven days the Test would have been cancelled.

“Because they’re in Victoria it’s different – if you can get a test negative you can come back out and work.

“In a funny way it’s lucky it’s here. If it had been in Sydney the Test could have quite easily been called off.”

Warne also praised the resilience of the tourists.

“We’re very lucky the players are prepared to make all these sacrifices,” Warne said. “We take it for granted. They stay at the ground in England -imagine waking up the ground look at the ground when they wake up and play the game. They’ve been doing it for two years.”

There was also a COVID scare in the Seven Network ranks with Head of Sport Lewis Martin saying one of his staff tested positive on Sunday night.

“The staff member was asymptomatic at the time of testing and has been in self-isolation since the moment the positive test was returned.

“Seven is activating its COVID measures to ensure the health and safety of all staff, as well as the broader community and is working in line with all relevant guidelines and regulations.”

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