England’s one-day series in South Africa will go ahead after the home side’s latest round of coronavirus tests came back negative.
The first ODI was postponed barely an hour before play was due to start at Newlands on Friday following a positive test in the Proteas camp – the third since England’s arrival on the country – and any further cases would have likely led to the tour’s abrupt end.
But Cricket South Africa announced on Saturday morning that the emergency screening which took place at the shared team hotel in Cape Town had shown no spread of the virus in their camp.
The revised schedule which had been agreed in principle by England and Wales Cricket Board will now take place, with the the series opener in Paarl on Sunday and a double header back at Newlands on Monday and Wednesday.
A brief statement confirming the news read: “Cricket South Africa (CSA) is pleased to announce that the entire Proteas team has returned negative results from the Covid-19 tests that were conducted yesterday evening in Cape Town ahead of the three-match, Betway One-Day International (ODI) series against England.
“The series opener will get underway as scheduled at Eurolux Boland Park on Sunday at 1000.”
In the event of further positive tests England would have been forced to make a decision on whether or not to proceed, with managing director of men’s cricket Ashley Giles on site with the squad and chief executive Tom Harrison standing by at home.
It seems highly unlikely they would have agreed to stay, particularly given concerns over the integrity of the bio-secure bubble, meaning an early exit from the second overseas tour in a row.
England departed Sri Lanka in March ahead of a two-Test series due to concerns over the pandemic.
South Africa have named an unchanged 18-man squad in a bid to protect the anonymity of the affected player, in line with local labour laws, but he is no longer in the team bubble and was not part of the most recent batch of tests.
Meanwhile, CSA will hope the news will put at ease the minds of their tourists – and others to follow. There had been growing worries about how two of the three positive Proteas cases have come about since the teams effectively locked down together.
England managed to get through their own domestic summer, consisting of 18 matches across three formats and with four opposition sides, without a single coronavirus case.
Speaking after Friday’s postponement, CSA’s chief medical officer Dr Shuaib Manjra said: “Clearly there’s a cause for concern and England has expressed a concern. England is questioning their confidence that they have in the bio-secure environment and rightfully so.
“I’m fairly convinced that 99 per cent of the time this environment is working, but there may be a breach that’s unknown to us, that may have caused this positive test.
“We’ve investigated in great detail to try and determine where this happened. We’ve tried to recount events – speaking to players, looking at security cameras, looking at other information – and we haven’t been able to identify where that source was.”