CAPE TOWN, South Africa — England’s ODI cricket series in South Africa was called off Monday after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at the luxurious and supposedly bio-secure Cape Town hotel where both teams are staying.
Both squads have had members infected, while two workers at the hotel also contracted the disease.
The decision to cancel the series was taken by both the England and Wales Cricket Board and Cricket South Africa, the two federations said in a statement, and was made “to ensure the mental and physical health and welfare of players from both teams.”
The ECB and CSA said they were effectively postponing the series until a suitable time could be found for England to travel back to South Africa to play the games.
The opening game of the series was scheduled for Friday at Newlands in Cape Town but was postponed to Sunday and moved to the nearby city of Paarl after a South African player tested positive for COVID-19 on the morning of the game.
That first ODI was then cancelled completely on Sunday after it was revealed that two hotel staff members had tested positive. That development forced the England contingent to undergo a new round of tests. Two members of the England group then tested positive for COVID-19, although the ECB said it wanted the tests verified by an independent medical team before making a decision on the remainder of the tour.
Both the ECB and Cricket South Africa had said there was hope that the remaining two ODI games might be able to go ahead but that was ended with Monday’s announcement.
“We have always maintained that the welfare of our players and management is paramount,” ECB CEO Tom Harrison said. “We were concerned about the potential impact that recent developments might have on the wellbeing of the touring party, and so after consultation with Cricket South Africa, we have jointly made the decision to postpone the remaining matches in this series in the best interest of the players’ welfare.”
England still hadn’t received the results of the follow-up tests to confirm those two positives, team spokesman Danny Reuben said. The results were expected Tuesday at the earliest, he said. The England party also didn’t have a confirmed date to leave for home. The squad was scheduled to return home on a chartered plane on Thursday.
If the two members of England’s touring party were confirmed as positive for COVID-19, they would likely have to remain in South Africa and self-isolate for 10 days, as has been the protocol for South African players who have tested positive during the tour.
None of the people to test positive on the tour have been named.
The premature end to the tour is highly embarrassing for South African cricket, which has failed to keep the “bio-bubble” in the Cape Town hotel secure. Three South African players have tested positive during the tour, which began in mid-November — two of them after entering the supposedly secure environment.
“The decision to postpone the tour is the most responsible and reasonable course of action for us,” CSA acting CEO Kugandrie Govender said.
South Africa’s failed bio-bubble might also have repercussions for future series, with Sri Lanka due to arrive late this year for a two-test series and Australia and Pakistan due to tour South Africa early next year.
England’s limited-overs tour was organized at short-notice to give both teams a chance to play some cricket after the coronavirus pandemic led to a string of series cancellations across the world. The teams have already played a three-game Twenty20 series, which went ahead even after the first two South African players contracted COVID-19, and which England won 3-0.
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