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News

Text snub: How Australia came close to losing more bowlers

Aussies were one message away from probably needing to replace their entire bowling attack in Adelaide

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
18-Dec-2021
Australia were one snubbed text message away from probably needing to replace their entire bowling attack for the second Test in Adelaide.
Captain Pat Cummins was ruled out on the morning of the game having been deemed a close contact of a positive Covid case while dining indoors at restaurant on Wednesday night which, under South Australia's rules, meant he had to isolate for seven days.
Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon were classed as casual contacts because they were seated outside so were able to take their place in the XI, but Starc revealed how close it came to Australia having to rustle up a whole new bowling group after also losing Josh Hazlewood through injury.
"It was just fortunate we were sitting outside," Starc said. "It was almost a bit of a piss take because Pat didn't reply to my message so thought we'd sit away from him and sit outside so it's been a lucky one."
Cummins was allowed to return home to Sydney on Saturday after a deal was struck between Cricket Australia and SA Health under which he drove himself to a small airport and took a private plane. As New South Wales Health has not listed the venue Cummins ate at as a place of concern he won't have to continue to isolate, although he would need to complete his isolation period if the restaurant was added to the list.
Mark Steketee and Scott Boland were called into the squad as cover on the first day of the Test following the late debut for Michael Neser, but how the situation would have played out if three bowlers were close contacts is uncertain and was deemed "hypothetical" by Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley earlier in the week.
Both teams will face stricter protocols for the Melbourne and Sydney Tests with much higher Covid case numbers in Victoria and New South Wales. Players will only be allowed to dine outdoors and will have to socially distance from the public which means an end to the selfies and autographs which have been part of the first two Tests.
Similar protocols will feature in the Big Bash which is running concurrently with the Ashes and involves teams moving around the country regularly without the charter-flight option used by the Test sides.
"That's where we need to make sure there's social distancing, so we ask everyone to be respectful in the public," Hockley told SEN radio. "That's the real shame because what we have seen is players wanting to interact with fans. That's been a feature of the Big Bash. But we've now got very clear protocols. As it comes to those on the field of play we need to make sure that people are operating in a really biosecure way."
However, Hockley believed it was possible to avoid a return to hard biosecure bubbles for the rest of the Ashes which is now due to finish in Hobart following the switch from Perth.
"While there are an increasing number of cases in the community across Melbourne and then into Sydney, in particular, if players are keeping themselves to small groups and interacting with their own group and trying to keep away from crowded indoor settings, we think with masks and regular testing we can mitigate the protocols," he said.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo