England’s tour of South Africa has been called off following the outbreak of Covid-19 among both teams’ camps and staff at their hotel. The three ODIs have officially been postponed, with a possibility they could be played at a later date.
The decision came after the opening ODI of the series was pushed back three times in four days, having originally been scheduled to take place at Newlands on Friday, before failed attempts to stage games at Paarl on Sunday, and at Newlands again on Monday.
With England due to fly home on a chartered flight on Thursday, and with the squad still awaiting the ratification of two unconfirmed positive tests within the camp, CSA had hoped to be able to host back-to-back ODIs on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, news that the tour would be abandoned out of consideration for the “mental and physical health and welfare of players from both teams” came on Monday afternoon.
The announcement was made via a joint statement from CSA and the ECB, although ESPNcricinfo understands that the decision to pull out came at the behest of the English board.
Earlier on Monday, an England team spokesman hit back at suggestions that the players had breached Covid protocols during an unsanctioned practice session at Newlands on the eve of the scheduled first ODI, claiming that they had been given permission to set up a secure cordon around the nets, in spite of their proximity to a construction site, due to the “unacceptable” standards of the pitches they had been provided on the Newlands square.
The chief executives of both boards cited player welfare as a primary concern in the decision to curtail the tour, with players understood to be uneasy about recent developments and the fact that the bio-secure bubble had been breached.
The three-match ODI series forms part of the qualification process for the 2023 World Cup via the ICC’s new Super League, and the boards signalled their intention to stage the series at a later date. With England due to tour Bangladesh, Pakistan, Australia and West Indies next winter, on top of the T20 World Cup in India, it will be a challenge to find a suitable window.
“The decision was taken jointly by the two boards to ensure the mental and physical health and welfare of players from both teams,” the statement said. “CSA and the ECB will now work together to determine when the three-match series, which forms part of the ICC Cricket Men’s Super League, can take place in the future.”
Kugandrie Govender, CSA’s acting CEO, 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 team in the near future.”
Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, 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.”
The postponement of the series will cast further doubt on the viability of South Africa’s scheduled home series against Sri Lanka, Australia and Pakistan this season, not least with the number of infections rising by 43% in the Western Cape last week.
It is understood that CSA will lose in the region of US$2 million in broadcast revenue from the postponement of the three ODIs, and any further cancellations would have significant financial ramifications.