Australia's stunning COVID-19 demand ahead of South Africa tour

Andrew Reid
·5-min read
Pictured here, Australia's players celebrate during a match and David Warner wears a face mask in the image on the right.
Cricket Australia is doing everything it can to ensure the safety of players when they tour South Africa. Pic: Getty

Cricket Australia is taking an extraordinary step to ensure the safety of its players when the Test squad travels to South Africa for their upcoming series in March.

The new-look Aussie side heads to South Africa for a three-Test tour in March, which is still yet to be confirmed and subject to suitable biosecurity arrangements.

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Question marks have surrounded the South Africa tour for weeks after a devastating second wave of coronavirus that has affected the country.

December ushered in a renewed spike in Covid-19 in South Africa, with thousands of new cases emerging daily and continuing into the new year.

England's recent tour of South Africa saw multiple fixtures postponed because of Covid-19 cases involving players and hotel staff.

Pictured here, a sign showing an abandoned cricket match between South Africa and England in December 2020.
South Africa's recent series against England saw several fixtures affected by Covid-19 cases. Pic: Getty

It's prompted a drastic response from CA, which says it's "doing everything we can" to ensure the upcoming tour goes off without a hitch.

The Daily Telegraph reports that one of CA's most extraordinary demands centres around the insistence that hotel workers quarantine for three weeks before the Aussie squad arrives in the corresponding location.

CA says drastic measures are necessary to ensure biosecurity bubbles remain safe while the players are staying in South African hotels.

“We’re doing everything we can to give the tour every chance to be successful and to get away,” Cricket Australia’s high performance boss Ben Oliver said on Wednesday.

“There are a number of fairly significant challenges in running international sport during a pandemic.

“We’ve been fortunate here in Australia to have relatively low cases of COVID, but we know in South Africa, they’re unfortunately experiencing a second wave of this virus.

“We’re working hard with Cricket South Africa to establish all of the protocols that would sit around the environment in which the teams would need to operate.

“We’re working hard with our own authorities here on making sure we’ve got clear and safe passage going into and out of South Africa.

“There are a couple of the key considerations of the tour that we need to work through. We’ll obviously keep the health and safety of our players, staff and community at the absolute forefront of our minds.”

The tour will mark the first time the Aussie side has returned to South Africa since the ball-tampering saga that rocked the sport in 2018.

Selectors on Wednesday named a new-look squad for the tour, with Matthew Wade paying the price for his poor series with the bat against India.

Wade will instead act as vice-captain of Australia's Twenty20 side when they tour New Zealand at the same time.

Will Pucovski is expected to have recovered from a shoulder injury that saw him ruled out of this month's Gabba Test loss to India and, after debuting at the top of the order, could return in the middle order if selectors stick with incumbent opener Marcus Harris.

Moises Henriques is the other man vying for the middle-order spot vacated by Wade, who selectors opted for over Travis Head for the final two Tests against India.

Wade pays price for lack of form

But with selector Trevor Hohns stressing that Carey had primarily been included as a back-up to wicketkeeper Tim Paine, Heads appears to be back in demand.

"Matthew in our view hasn't done enough over quite a few Test matches now," Hohns said of Wade, who is currently on a streak of 14 innings without a Test half-century.

"I'm not being unfair to him; he would recognise that fact and as a senior player we expect a little bit more.

Pictured here, Matthew Wade has been dropped from Australia's Test side.
Matthew Wade was dropped after a succession of Test innings without a half century. Pic: Getty

Head, 27, has averaged nearly 40 across his 19-Test career while 33-year-old Wade, who began his Test career as a wicketkeeper, has averaged 29.87 in 36 Tests.

"In Travis's case he to us has a little bit more upside and we've given him a bit of a vote of confidence to win his spot back," Hohns said.

"He'll be a frontline contender (to bat at No.5 in the first Test against South Africa)."

Hohns said there was some consideration to recall fit-again fast bowler Jhye Richardson for the Test tour, before the decision was made to welcome him back "gradually" via the T20 format.

Instead, quick Mark Steketee has earned his first tour call-up, the Queenslander second behind Richardson (27 wickets) with 22 scalps for the Brisbane Heat in this season's Big Bash League.

TEST SQUAD: Tim Paine (c), Pat Cummins (vc), Sean Abbott, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Will Pucovski, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner.

with AAP

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