Could the Ashes get called off after Covid-19 scare in Melbourne Test?

Four positive cases in English camp before second day's play raise health and safety concerns

The third Ashes Test in Melbourne and the entire tour was plunged into doubt after a Covid-19 scare in the England camp and even though the second day of the Boxing Day Test went ahead, concerns persist.

A total of four positive cases were reported in the travelling England group - two members of the backroom staff and two family members - while Stuart Broad and Craig Overton were confined to the team hotel as a precaution.

There was a similar scare earlier in the tour as well when Australia captain Pat Cummins was ruled out of the Adelaide Test after was he deemed to be a close contact after dining next to a Covid carrier. Also, there have been a number of positives cases in the media and broadcast crew. On Monday, Seven Netwok confirmed a positive case in its staff and had a new-look commentary team.

Before the second day's play at the MCG, it emerged that the visitors had not made it to the ground.

The positive results came in just hours before the start of play. The England team and management were then required to undergo rapid antigen tests. They were given the all-clear less than an hour before play was due to begin.

The match went ahead. Australia were bowled out for 267 for a first-innings lead of 82 runs, which they made the most of by reducing England to 31-4 by stumps.

However, the bigger concern is the fate of the tour. Given the level of socialising that would most likely have happened over the festive period, there are fears the virus could have spread to more members of the contingent.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley remained upbeat and said the plan was to go ahead as scheduled.

"That's absolutely the plan, there's nothing to suggest otherwise. We'll rely on the protocols," he told reporters, before cautioning: "It's a day-by-day proposition."

England seamer James Anderson said he was keen to finish the Ashes series.

"That's the plan. Again, it's going to depend on the PCR tests and what situation that is going to leave us in," he said.

"As long as the group that was here at the ground today are negative, I don't see why we can't carry on."

However, there will be many anxious moments over the next few days. Since the start of the pandemic, England have abandoned tours of South Africa and Sri Lanka mid-series due to Covid-19 concerns. Sydney is scheduled to host the fourth Test on January 5, before the Ashes ends in Hobart.

The presence of crowds in the stands and England's unwillingness to accept a strict bubble lockdown are likely to make any contingency plans that much more complicated.

Updated: December 27th 2021, 11:22 AM