Steve Smith will once again captain Australia after new skipper Pat Cummins was officially ruled out of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide.
Australia's plans have been thrown into chaos after Cummins was identified as a close contact of a positive coronavirus case, after being seated nearby the person at a restaurant.
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Despite some controversy surrounding his appointment to vice-captain in the wake of Tim Paine's departure, Smith will resume the role stripped from him in the wake of the 2018 ball tampering scandal.
Fast bowler Michael Neser will make his Test debut in place of Cummins.
Cricket Australia will no doubt be breathing a sigh of relief after Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon were not listed as close contacts, despite dining at the same venue as Cummins.
Starc and Lyon were reportedly seated outdoors and away from the positive case, who was believed to be seated indoors near Cummins.
In a statement, CA confirmed Cummins would be required by SA Health to isolate for seven days, thereby missing the second Test.
"SA Health has confirmed that Cummins is a close contact and will be required to isolate for seven days," the statement read.
"We anticipate that he will be available to play in the third Ashes Test at the MCG in Melbourne.
"Cummins is understandably disappointed not to be able to captain Australia for the day-night Test in Adelaide."
Some fans were quick to take to Twitter to discuss Smith's return to the captaincy, with many raising an eyebrow at the news.
Steve Smith returns as Australia captain… Hope they get searched entering the field for sandpaper https://t.co/83jSi5otYr
— Jackson Sheppard (@jsheppard21) December 16, 2021
Steve Smith captaining Australia in the 2nd Test is not on! He cheated at the game and should not be considered for Captaincy. Cheating is not a mistake, it is a character flaw.
— Wayne (@Whiskey_Tango12) December 16, 2021
Steve Smith back as captain. Sandpaper down the pants time again? https://t.co/9tT9cjj6vg
— Goo (@goo_stewart) December 16, 2021
Shane Warne unhappy about Steve Smith's leadership return
Smith's return to a leadership role as vice-captain for the Ashes left former Australian great Shane Warne unhappy, with the spin bowling legend saying the move opened CA up for 'ridicule'.
“We all love Steve Smith and are proud that he’s the best Test batsmen in the world again,” Warne wrote for the Herald Sun prior to the first Test in Brisbane.
“But he should not be the Australia vice-captain.
“Everyone makes mistakes, we know that and we’ve all moved on from sandpaper-gate. But what happened under Steve Smith’s captaincy, he allowed that to happen on his watch.
“I think the punishment he was given was way too severe, which I said at the time. He paid a huge price for his mistake.
“But his second chance is getting to play for Australia again and in my opinion announcing him as vice-captain opens up CA for ridicule and criticism, and they should throw the code of conduct out the window.”
Cummins, the world's top-ranked Test bowler, claimed a five-wicket haul in the series-opening win at the Gabba and his absence comes as massive blow to Australia when considering Josh Hazlewood is already out with a side strain.
With Hazlewood unavailable, Cummins was expected to reclaim the new ball for the pink-ball match having taken 46 wickets at an average of 16.23 in day-night Tests,
Adelaide has had a rise in COVID-19 cases over the past week, with the 25 reported on Wednesday the most in a single day in more than 18 months.
Players are not in strict bubbles for the Adelaide Test, with both Australia and England players wanting as many freedoms as possible on the tour.
But the Cummins incident does call into question what protocols will be required for the next two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney, where case numbers are beyond 1000 per day.
Officials would also be keen to avoid a repeat of the cancelled Test between England and India this year, after fears of an outbreak in the India camp.
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