Australia Tour of South Africa postponed due to COVID-19

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Australia’s Test tour of South Africa has been postponed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic as South Africa is combatting the second wave of COVID-19, a new form of the virus. Cricket Australia confirmed this news on late Tuesday evening. 

The Australian Cricket Team was scheduled to fly South Africa for a three-Test series later this month but CA’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley said travelling to South Africa posed an “unacceptable” risk to the visitors.

Also, this decision means that Australia’s bid to play in the World Test Championship final, a sturdy goal of the captain of the Australian Cricket Team, Tim Paine, is now out of their hands.

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“Following extensive due diligence with medical experts, it has become clear that traveling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community,” Hockley said in a statement.

“We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour, during which we made it clear that CA was prepared to take on additional cost and effort to make the series happen.”

“This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed, especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time, our valued relationship with CSA, and our aspirations to compete in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.”

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This was the second major tour of South Africa, which got cancelled in recent times after England yanked out of their trip in the middle through an ODI series after a South African cricketer from the team and two team hotel staff were tested positive for COVID-19. In contrast, the Pakistan women’s team will this week finish a white-ball tour played in Durban completely over the past few weeks, after Sri Lanka’s men’s team played two Test matches against South Africa over the new-year period.

This was also the second men’s Test tour of Australia that has been postponed in the last 12 months after drawing themselves out of a trip to Bangladesh last year. New dates for the Bangladesh or South Africa tours are yet to be announced.

A planned visit from Afghanistan for their first Test against Australia, also got postponed earlier this summer, and The Afghanistan Cricket Board released a statement in December announcing the match will be played in 2021, but this news is yet to be confirmed by CA.

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Unless those left out tours or other new series are again added to the schedule, the Aussie men will now face a straight second year without any overseas Test matches as their next scheduled Test series on the International Cricket Council’s Future Tour schedule is the Ashes against England at their home soil next summer.

Australia has a T20 tour of New Zealand beginning this month with an 18-man squad, with many of its stars and first choices missing, including the likes of Steve Smith, David Warner, and Pat Cummins as they had been in the squad for the overlapping tour of South Africa. But CA has already confirmed that those players would not be available for the NZ tour even if the South Africa tour went ahead.

It could mean the back-end for the Sheffield Shield and Marsh One-Day Cup seasons could be administered with the country’s best long-form cricketers. That would also be a rare moment given the regularity of Australian overseas tours in February and March, albeit the Indian Premier League 2021, scheduled for the usual window of April-May, which materializes large for several Australia’s best cricketers ahead of the men’s T20 World Cup scheduled for India later this year.

“As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is, especially for Justin (Langer), Tim and the team, we have a duty of care to our people and their health and safety can’t be compromised,” Hockley said.

“We look forward to playing the series against CSA at a date to be confirmed in due course and we send CSA and the people of South Africa our very best wishes for a successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and a return to normality soon.”

Australia’s visit would have been their first Test tour since the heated and infamous series back in 2018 but the Australian Cricketers Association backed the decision.

“The Australian players were ready for the contest with South Africa, especially to support South African cricket at this time with the added challenge of making the final of the ICC Test Championship,” said the ACA’s interim chief executive, Joe Connellan.

“But this is the right call given the COVID data coming out of South Africa. It’s a decision based on the advice of the medical and health experts and that’s why the ACA supports it,” he further added. 

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