South Africa’s ODI series against world champions England was officially called off on Monday afternoon, a victim of a sudden rash of Covid-19 cases at the supposedly bio-secure hotel the two teams have been staying at – The Vineyard in Cape Town.
The cancellation of the three-match series will result in a shortfall of around $2 million (R30.3 million) in broadcast revenue for a cash-strapped Cricket South Africa. The series is a part of the ICC Super League, a new qualification system for the 2023 World Cup, so both boards termed Monday’s decision a “postponement” rather than a total cancellation.
But with England much in demand – they are due to tour Bangladesh, Pakistan, Australia and the West Indies next year, on top of the T20 World Cup in India – it is difficult to see where the series can be fitted into the schedule.
And a dearth of top-class cricket action could possibly get worse. Sri Lanka, who have had relatively few Covid cases on their island, are due to play the Boxing Day and New Years Tests in South Africa. They are due to be accommodated in a bio-bubble in Gauteng, but the failure of the same system in Cape Town will certainly give them a pause for thought.
Pakistan and Australia are scheduled to tour early next year, and they will also be casting a worried eye towards the southern tip of Africa.
The Western Cape has seen a recent spike in Covid-19 cases and areas of the province have been declared hotspots.
While the three-match T20 series between South Africa and England went off smoothly, the problems started on the morning of the first ODI last Friday when a Proteas player tested positive for Covid, despite having been in the bio-secure bubble.
After the rest of the South African squad were re-tested and were all negative for the virus, the match was rescheduled for Sunday morning.
But on Saturday night two members of The Vineyard staff tested positive, causing great alarm in the England squad. The tourists were all tested again on Saturday night and then Sunday’s game was called off less than an hour before the start when two members of the England squad returned positive tests.
Allegations from Newlands management that England had broken protocol by using the practice nets next to the construction site at the ground were countered on Monday by an England Cricket statement that the practice facilities provided on the main field were sub-standard and unacceptable, forcing them to use the other nets. But not before they had advised CSA of the problem and had set up a security cordon to ensure the safety of their players and coaching staff.