Updated: December 28, 2021 12:08:02 am
A COVID-19 scare involving two members of England’s support staff delayed the start of Monday’s second day of the third Ashes cricket test and led to speculation that the series could be under threat if further outbreaks occur.
Resuming on 61-1 in reply to England’s first-innings total of 185 on a green-tinged pitch at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia added 70 runs for the loss of three wickets, reaching 131-4 at lunch. Australia trails England by 54 runs on the first innings.
Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon departed for 10, caught behind off the bowling of Ollie Robinson. Mark Wood made the key breakthrough by removing world No.1-ranked batter Marnus Labuschagne, who was caught at first slip for one at 84-3.
Steve Smith looked tentative in his innings of 16 and was out bowled by James Anderson at 110-4.
Opener Marcus Harris was 48 not out with Travis Head on 11 at the first break.
In a day of early drama, Cricket Australia released a statement confirming the COVID-19 outbreak within the England camp, which delayed the team’s arrival at the MCG and caused a 30-minute delay to the start of play.
“Cricket Australia has been informed that two members of the England cricket team’s support staff and two of their family members have returned a positive COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test,” the statement said.
“The affected individuals are currently isolating. The entire playing group and all other support staff have undertaken Rapid Antigen Tests this morning and all have tested negative. The England cricket team will also have PCR tests today, and both teams will take extra precautions throughout play.”
A statement from the England Cricket Board had earlier revealed the team and management were at the team hotel awaiting results of COVID tests “following a positive test in the team’s family group.”
— Adam Mountford (@tmsproducer) December 26, 2021
The Australian Seven Network’s television coverage of the match has also been affected. A member of the broadcast staff tested positive to the virus, forcing commentators to isolate as the network called in a fresh team.
Australia captain Pat Cummins was unable to play in the second test in Adelaide after becoming a close contact of a COVID-19 case.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, England’s tours of South Africa and Sri Lanka were abandoned mid-tour due to COVID concerns.
Australia leads the five-match series 2-0, which means England needs to win all three remaining matches to regain the Ashes.