South Africa v England: Could tour be called off after coronavirus case?

Sunday’s match is due to be played in Paarl before the final two matches in Cape Town

The remainder of England’s tour of South Africa was thrown into doubt on Friday when it was announced that a player had tested positive for coronavirus.

Friday’s opening one-day international in Cape Town was postponed until Sunday, with the hope of completing the further two fixtures on Monday and Wednesday.

s that likely? What happens now? And could the tour be called off?

What happened?

The three-match series was due to begin on Friday at 11:00 GMT at Newlands in Cape Town but the players did not make on to the field.

The England team bus arrived as news came through from the South Africa camp that a player had returned a positive Covid-19 test.

“They didn’t get off the bus, which simply carried on around the ground and back to the hotel,” said BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew.

The match was officially called off just before 10:00, the first time an England game has been postponed since they returned home early from Sri Lanka in March following the outbreak of the pandemic.

Who is the player and how did he contract it?

South Africa have not revealed which player tested positive and they do not know how he contracted the virus.

Both teams have been living in separate areas of the same bio-secure hotel and are not able to mix with the public.

“This test surprised us because we have confidence in the integrity of bio-secure environment,” team doctor Dr Shuaib Manjra told Cricket South Africa.

He said officials had been unable to identify the “source” and were were “speaking to the player, looking at security cameras and other information”.

“I can categorically state no player is able to leave the hotel environment… unless leaving in an official vehicle with an official driver,” Dr Manjra said.

“There is command centre here led by the colonel from the police force,” he said. “They strictly enforce the bio-bubble and wouldn’t allow anyone to leave.”

Last month, two unnamed South Africa players tested positive before the Twenty20 series – which England won 3-0 – and were moved to separate accommodation. An intra-squad practice match was cancelled as a precaution.

Information signs at Newlands

What have England said?

Dr Manjra said England have “expressed a concern” and are “questioning the confidence they have in the bio-secure environment”.

England director of men’s cricket Ashley Giles said he agreed with the decision to postpone the series and that “our number one priority is the health and safety” of players and staff.

England managed to complete a full revised home schedule this summer with no home or opposition players testing positive, although pace bowler Jofra Archer breached bio-secure protocols when returning home between matches.

England responded by withdrawing him from the second Test against West Indies.

So what happens now?

All players and hotel staff will be re-tested on Saturday, although it is not known when the results will be available.

“The worry must be that the South Africa player concerned is not alone in testing positive,” said Agnew. “Surely any positive results would scupper this series.”

Neither England nor South Africa have commented on what would happen should another player test positive.

Giles said he is “hopeful” the series will go ahead, but there appears to be little leeway in rescheduling games again because England are set to fly home on Thursday.

It also seems unlikely that South Africa would have time to call up any replacement players, isolate them and get them tested before joining the squad.

Dr Manjra said South Africa intend to test their players again on Tuesday, 24 hours before the final match of the series.

Depending on what happens on Saturday, those tests may not be needed.

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