Matt Renshaw's first Test since 2018 has started in inauspicious fashion after the Aussie batter tested positive for Covid on the morning of the SCG match against South Africa. Renshaw was named in Australia's XI for the final Test of the series on Wednesday in his first appearance in the Aussie side in four years.
However commentators and fans noticed Renshaw was standing away from his teammates during the national anthem and didn't touch anyone. He was also spotted sitting on the boundary as Australia batted first, rather than in the dressing rooms.
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Cricket Australia later revealed that Renshaw reported feeling unwell before play and has since returned a positive RAT. "He will continue to take part in the match," the statement said.
Ricky Ponting said in commentary after the anthem: "That is very strange to see that." Under ICC rules, teams can replace a player if they come down with Covid during a match, with Peter Handscomb on standby for the Aussies.
However it's unlikely Renshaw will give up his place in the side given he hasn't played Test cricket since 2018. The rule is “in line with concussion replacements” and allows the match referee to approve the “nearest like-for-like replacement”.
Renshaw's inclusion was one of three changes the Aussies made for the third Test, with Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green sidelined with finger injuries suffered at the MCG. Renshaw comes in to replace Green at No.6, while Ashton Agar replaces Starc as a second spin option for Australia.
Josh Hazlewood is also back after missing the last three matches with a side strain at the controversial expense of Scott Boland.
"It's a luxury we have (ahead of Australia's tour of India in February)," Pat Cummins said at the toss of the twin spin option. "This (SCG wicket) is probably as close as we're going to get to India here in Australia. It'll be good to see Ash have a go after a little while and Matt as well."
Aussies turn attention to India in SCG Test
With Australia already holding an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, the Aussies are turning their attention to India - where they haven't won a series since 2004. A very dry SCG pitch looms as perfect practice for the spin-friendly conditions of the subcontinent.
"It's a huge connection to India," Cummins said of the SCG wicket. "Fast bowling and reverse swing is going to come into it, which we can expect in India.
"(We'll) probably get more spin overs here, our batters are probably going to face more spin here as well. Even personally, captaining here might be a little different to the last few Test matches. So it's a really good prep."
Cummins said there were no concerns about only having four-front line bowlers to choose from in Sydney. Marnus Labuschange and Travis Head will likely be required to bowl some of their part-time spin.
"We'd be confident either way," Cummins said. "I feel really fresh. I've only played three Test matches and think we've averaged mid 20 overs (each) for the Tests.
"I'm fresh as I'm ever going to be for a fifth Test match. I'm not playing Big Bash so I get three weeks off after this."
AUSTRALIA XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matt Renshaw, Alex Carey, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins (capt), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
SOUTH AFRICA XI: Dean Elgar (capt), Sarel Erwee, Heinrich Klaasen, Temba Bavuma, Khaya Zondo, Kyle Verreynne, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Simon Harmer, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje.
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