England confirmed that Chris Silverwood, the head coach isolating in Melbourne following a positive test in his family, also now has Covid. Three of the five Silverwoods quarantining together have tested positive, taking the outbreak in the England camp to nine in total. Silverwood is fully vaccinated, asymptomatic, and is now required to isolate until January 8.
A pair of further incidents around England training in Sydney, where cases are surging, on Sunday summed the state of uncertainty around the Test.
First, Adam Hollioake was unable to fulfil his role as a support coach to cover the four members of the coaching team unavailable because they are still in isolation in Melbourne (Silverwood joined Jeetan Patel, Jon Lewis and strength and conditioning coach Daz Veness in testing positive).
Hollioake travelled nine hours by car from his home in Gold Coast to the team hotel in Sydney before learning that he had been identified as a close contact of an individual who tested positive. He is therefore isolating in Sydney.
“Happy New Year everyone,” tweeted Hollioake. “Was hoping to start the year off well when I got called up to coach England all was looking good, only for me to be a covid close contact and have to do a week quarantine.
“Can’t make it up. If this is Gods will for me then that’s ok…I accept my hand and am grateful for my health.”
Was hoping 2 start the year off well when I got called up to coach @ECB_cricket all was looking 👍🏽
Only 4 me 2b a covid close contact & have to do a week quarantine
Cant make it up
If this is Gods will for me then that’s ok…I accept my hand & am grateful 4 my health
— Adam Hollioake (@adamhollioake) January 2, 2022
That leaves England with just three coaches – Graham Thorpe, James Foster and Ant Botha – to train the team, which has meant players and other members of support staff shouldering an extra burden, including throwing balls to batters.
In the coming days, Ashley Giles, the managing director of cricket (and a former England coach), could become an option, but he is yet to receive a PCR result confirming that he can leave isolation having returned to Australia after spending Christmas at home.
Covid has also found its way into the Australian camp, with Travis Head – their leading runscorer in the series – ruled out. David Boon, the match referee, has also tested positive.
The second incident saw local bowlers – understood to be two – working with the England team in the nets receive positive test results during a training session. As soon as England became aware of the situation, all net bowlers were removed from the session.
England continued to train for at least an hour, before undergoing another round of PCR testing – their seventh in eight days. It is expected that if there are no more positives in the latest round, the PCRs can happen less regularly.
Cricket Australia (CA) provided a cryptic statement, saying : “Earlier today, the net bowlers provided for England’s training session were withdrawn, following two of the bowlers returning positive Covid tests as part of Cricket Australia’s pre-entry screening protocols.
“Both bowlers have recently recovered from Covid infections and therefore did not pose any risk to the England playing group.”
It also emerged that the legendary Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath has tested positive for Covid. McGrath is a significant figure at the Sydney Test each summer because of Jane McGrath Day, scheduled to take place on day three, where fans are encouraged to dress in pink in memory of his wife who died of breast cancer. It is hoped he will return from isolation in time for the third day.
McGrath now works in the media, among whom there has been a significant outbreak following the MCG Test.
CA are yet to mandate even rapid testing for those looking to enter the SCG to work in the media. CA have rapid tests on hand for the teams, while broadcasters are providing PCRs. But for individuals in the community, getting tested in Sydney is not straightforward right now; rapid (lateral flow tests) are difficult – and costly – to get hold of, while PCR test venues have huge queues and wait times for results can be up to 72 hours.
The picture regarding test turnarounds is so bleak that members of the England camp underwent today’s routine testing without having received the results of the last round.
The situation in the England camp will be eased somewhat by the departure of some family members, who have chosen to return to the UK because of the uncomfortable and uncertain nature of the situation. Over Christmas, England’s party was close to 70-strong.
Opening batter Zak Crawley said he was happy for the series to continue.
“We’ve spoken to the doctors, they’ve given us the facts and more than happy to carry on,” he said. “We fully trust that and I 100 per cent want to play this test, definitely comfortable.”
The series, in which Australia already hold an unassailable 3-0 lead, is due to conclude in Hobart between January 14 and 18, but that is looking like a logistical mountain as Covid cases surge across the country.