Ashes plunged into chaos as Covid rips through England camp with FOUR positive tests before day three of Third Test

THE Ashes series has been plunged into chaos with a Covid outbreak sweeping through the England camp.

Joe Root and his team are said to be gripped by anxiety after FOUR members of their party tested positive before day two of the Third Test.

The start was delayed by 30 minutes but day three took place amid growing uncertainty and tension.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley claimed it was 'business as usual' for the series but England were less bullish.

Although they are unlikely to quit the tour at this stage, England will want some answers before committing to the final two Tests.

Their big fear is that players or family members who test positive could be forced into self-isolation for up to 14 days. Any deemed close contacts would also have to quarantine.

The entire England party of players, management and families are due to have another round of PCR tests after play on Monday.

The results of those tests could determine the immediate future of the tour.

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Players are wondering if the virus was transmitted on Christmas Day, when the travelling group took over a restaurant in the Melbourne suburb of St.Kilda and all ate together.

The Fourth Test – due to start on January 5 – is scheduled for Sydney, where the rules are tighter for those testing positive for Covid and close contacts.

But NSW health authorities might sign off special regulations for the teams that allows the Sydney Test to go ahead.

Another possibility is to play that match in Melbourne and maybe even the Fifth Test, which is currently due to start in Hobart on January 14.

Covid rules are more lenient in Melbourne with close contacts having to isolate only until they receive a negative PCR test.

The drama started when a family member began feeling unwell with a sore throat after play on day one. A lateral flow test came back positive and three others – two members of the management staff and another family member – then also returned positive results.

The team was on the bus ready to leave for the ground when told they must stay at the hotel. But they were cleared to depart 45 minutes before the scheduled start after lateral flow tests of the playing XI came back negative.

Last summer, England picked a completely new squad for a one-day series against Pakistan after several members of the original party tested positive.

If new England players were needed in order to complete the series, there are plenty playing in the Big Bash or grade cricket such as Sam Billings, James Vince, Alex Hales, Reece Topley, Harry Brook, Mark Stoneman and Sam Robson.

CA will face big financial losses if the series is cancelled and boss Hockley said: “We have a comprehensive and regular PCR testing regime throughout the tour. As far as we’re concerned, it’s business as usual.

“Both playing groups have been fantastic in observing the protocols. We need to remain calm, get the facts and everyone needs to follow medical advice. 

Both sides are really committed to completing the series

“These guys are absolute professionals. We’ve had 18 months of living with this and have been working on plans for this tour for more than six months. Our protocols are designed absolutely for this set of events.

“Both sides are really committed to completing the series.”

A member of Channel 7 TV Australia’s production team also tested positive which meant bringing in emergency commentators and pundits including ex-England captain Mike Atherton.

But the regular commentators such as Lord Botham and Ricky Ponting were able to resume midway through the day after returning negative tests.

The series has always been on a knife edge and Aussie skipper Pat Cummins missed the Second Test in Adelaide because he was a close contact after sitting near somebody in a restaurant who tested positive.

There were also positive Covid tests in the broadcasting area during the Second Test.

Some members of the BBC radio team – including former England fast bowler Steven Finn – are still in quarantine in Adelaide. 

But these are the first positive tests among the England team group.

The final Test of last summer against India at Old Trafford was abandoned without a ball bowled because of a Covid outbreak among Virat Kohli’s team.

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