ngland’s tour of South Africa has been cancelled after a string of positive Covid-19 tests before any of the three ODIs were played.
The matches have officially been postponed, as they are part of the ICC Cricket Men’s Super League, building up to the next World Cup, with the boards citing the players’ mental welfare as the driver of the decision.
It is unclear when England will leave South Africa on their charter flight. They were due to depart on Thursday, but that could be brought forward.
It was hoped that the three matches – which followed a 3-0 T20 whitewash by England – could be played on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday before the tourists fly home on Thursday.
But on Saturday night it emerged that two staff at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town, where both teams are staying in separate bubbles, had tested positive.
Before that arrived, however, the tour was called off, with both boards citing the impact on the players’ mental health.
Cricket South Africa Acting CEO, Kugandrie Govender said: “The concern over the mental health impact of recent events on all involved is not one that we as CSA or the ECB take lightly, and the decision to postpone the tour is the most responsible and reasonable course of action for us.
“I would like to thank the ECB for the continued positive relations, and we look forward to hosting the England men’s team in the near future.”
Tom Harrison, ECB CEO, said: “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.
“I would like to thank Cricket South Africa for their support and understanding on this matter and look forward to working with them to identify a time when we can return to play these fixtures in the future.”
England had had doubts about the integrity of the biosecure environment put in place for the series – which was different from those at home in the summer because Newlands in Cape Town and Boland Park in Paarl does not have an on-site hotel.
It probably did not help matters that ESPNcricinfo reported on Monday that the Western Province Cricket Association appeared to blame England for the Covid outbreak by using some unsanctioned net facilities last week. England responded by saying they had received permission from CSA to use the facilities because the nets erected on the outfield were of an “unacceptable” standard.
The statement from the two teams, though, was amicable.
The cancellation is hugely costly for the embattled CSA, who have been involved in a crisis of governance over the last 12 months. They have other tours coming up in the next few months – including by Australia – and must put in place conditions that will remain secure.
Overnight Tom Curran became the second English player, following Tom Banton, to pull out of the Big Bash, which starts this week, due to bubble fatigue.
Curran followed the English summer with a trip to the IPL, so has been in “biosecure bubbles” for much of the year. The Australian government subjects international arrivals to two weeks quarantine alone in a hotel room, which takes a further toll.
Curran said he “just needed some time, normality, see family and be home”.
Sam Billings, Jason Roy, Lewis Gregory and Liam Livingstone are still due to travel to Australia for the tournament from South Africa this week.