England’s tour of South Africa has been called off without the one-day series being played following the recent outbreak of Covid-19 at the team hotel.
The players and support staff were informed of the early departure at a team meeting on Monday afternoon and are now preparing to leave Cape Town. Their original charter flight was due to depart on Thursday.
It follows an apparent loss of faith in the bio-secure arrangements laid on by Cricket South Africa and the cancellation of the one-day internationals at Newlands on Friday and in Paarl on Sunday, with five positive test results emerging during this time.
These include one South African player, two members of the England touring party and two members of staff at the Vineyard hotel that is being shared by both teams. South Africa also had two positive cases ahead of the Twenty20 series that was successfully staged, with a 10-day gap between these and the latest outbreak.
“The decision was taken jointly by the two Boards to ensure the mental and physical health and welfare of players from both teams,” read a joint statement from Cricket South Africa and the England & Wales Cricket Board. “The CSA and ECB will now work together to determine when the three-match Series, which forms part of the ICC Cricket Men’s Super League, can take place in the future.”
Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, added: “We have always maintained that the welfare of our players and management is paramount. 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.”
The veracity of England’s two positive cases have been questioned by the team’s medical officer on the ground, Dr Moiz Moghal, and sent away for independent analysis. Further PCR tests have been undertaken by the pair, with the result still pending at the time of the tour’s cancellation.
Both of these positive cases, believed to be a coach and a player, have been isolating in their rooms since receiving the news. If confirmed, they face the prospect of a 10-day isolation period that sees them left behind in South Africa.
It is a hammer blow for South Africa, both in terms of initial lost revenue – estimated to be around £1.5m – and the fact they have incoming tours by Sri Lanka, Australia and Pakistan that will now surely be questioned by those boards.
The one-day series was part of the ICC ODI Super League that counts towards qualification for the 2023 World Cup. Unless the series is rearranged for another time, the expectation here is that the points will be shared by the two sides.