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England's South Africa tour abandoned amid coronavirus concerns

The decision was reached on Monday afternoon after three failed attempts to get the one-day international series up and running.

England's tour of South Africa has been abandoned due to concerns over a Covid-19 outbreak, the PA news agency understands.

The increasingly inevitable conclusion was reached by the respective boards on Monday afternoon after three failed attempts to get the one-day international series up and running led only to scheduled matches being scrapped three times in the past four days.

Concerns over the integrity of the so-called 'bio-secure environment' at the teams' shared base – the five-star Vineyard Hotel near Newlands in Cape Town – have been growing over the past fortnight and the rising incidence of positive cases effectively ended any hopes of further cricket being played.

One Proteas player tested positive after the Twenty20 series – which England won 3-0 – leading to an initial postponement of the first ODI, but the news that two unnamed members of the touring party had also received 'unconfirmed positives' alongside two members of hotel staff, raised the alarm levels.

England's medical team, led by Dr Moiz Moghal, asked for independent analysis of their samples having suspected potential 'false positives' from the pair, who are both understood to be asymptomatic.

At that stage there was still some talk of playing back-to-back matches at Newlands on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Cricket South Africa standing to lose around £500,000 in broadcast money for every unfulfilled fixture.

But with players on each side understood to be uneasy about continuing in a bubble that had demonstrably burst, the writing was on the wall. The latest in a sequence of emergency talks between the ECB and CSA confirmed what most were by now expecting, leaving England to cut short their second overseas assignment in a row.

Back in March they left Sri Lanka ahead of two Test matches as the pandemic began to wreak havoc with the global sporting calendar.

South Africa England Cricket
England won the Twenty20 series 3-0 (Halden Krog/AP)

Meanwhile, it was reported locally that England had trained in a net practice area at Newlands that was not initially cleared for use.

The area is in part of the ground currently under reconstruction and is open for tradesmen. The ECB issued a statement regarding those claims, criticising the quality of the pitches otherwise available and stressing all protocols were followed correctly.

It read: "On arrival at Newlands on 3 December, we advised the venue that the three nets provided on the main pitch were not of a standard for conducive practice, as per the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the respective boards. Batsmen were unable to face seam bowlers on the nets on the main pitch as the surfaces were rendered and unacceptable.

"We requested with CSA that we would like to use the practice nets and that we would create a security cordon to ensure the players and coaches could enter the facility safely, as done previously on 28 November. This was confirmed by England's Security Team, the Team Operations Manager and the Team Doctor. We were satisfied with this outcome and we were able to practice in the net facility safely.

"The team also used the main outfield for fielding drills, a seam bowlers bowl through pitch and a number of nets were used for range-hitting against spin bowlers and coaches throws. As far as the England touring party are concerned, the safety and health of our players and coaches was not compromised."

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