The Ashes | Australia takes 1st-innings lead amid virus scare

Two members of England’s support staff and two of their family members tested positive before the start of the 2nd Day

Cricket Australia called for calm after a COVID-19 scare involving two members of England’s support staff resulted in a delay to the start of Monday’s second day of the third Ashes test.

Cricket Australia’s chief executive Nick Hockley said there was no need to change current plans, which include staging the fourth and fifth tests in Sydney and Hobart, respectively, in January.

“We just need to remain calm and get the facts,” Hockley said.

“Everyone needs to follow the medical advice. On that basis, we keep going.

“Our protocols are designed for absolutely this set of events.” On the Melbourne Cricket Ground pitch, Australia, resuming on 61-1 in reply to England’s first-innings total of 185 on a green-tinged pitch, edged carefully to 200-6 at tea, an overall lead of 15 runs, on a wicket that was not suited to extravagant shot-making.

After a clumsy batting display on Sunday, England came back with the ball on Monday by claiming the wickets of Nathan Lyon (10), Marnus Labuschagne (1) and Steve Smith (16) in the pre-lunch session.

Opener Marcus Harris (76) shared a 60-run stand with Travis Head (27) before Head was caught at slip by Joe Root at 170-5.

Harris followed 10 runs later as economical seamer James Anderson (3-24 off 19 overs) claimed his third wicket of the innings, also caught by Root. Cameron Green on 12 and Alex Carey on 9 were not out at tea.

In a day of early drama, Cricket Australia released a statement confirming the COVID-19 outbreak within the England camp, which delayed the team’s arrival at the MCG and caused a 30-minute delay to the start of play.

“Cricket Australia has been informed that two members of the England cricket team’s support staff and two of their family members have returned a positive COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test,” the statement said.

“The affected individuals are currently isolating. The entire playing group and all other support staff have undertaken Rapid Antigen Tests this morning and all have tested negative.

“The England cricket team will also have PCR tests today, and both teams will take extra precautions throughout play.” The Australian Seven Network’s television coverage of the match was also affected. A member of the broadcast staff tested positive to the virus, forcing commentators to isolate as the network called in a fresh team.

Australia captain Pat Cummins was unable to play in the second test after becoming a close contact of a COVID-19 case.

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, England’s tours of South Africa and Sri Lanka were abandoned mid-tour due to COVID concerns.

Hockley said changing the scheduling of the series was not part of Cricket Australia’s planning, but he added: “It’s a day-to-day proposition.” Australia leads the five-match series 2-0, which means England needs to win all three remaining matches to regain the Ashes.

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