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News

USA-Ireland ODI series cancelled due to Covid-19 outbreak

Significant financial blow to USA Cricket as historic series fails to take off

The two-match T20I series featured some explosive action, but the ODIs never took place  •  Peter Della Penna

The two-match T20I series featured some explosive action, but the ODIs never took place  •  Peter Della Penna

A fresh Covid-19 outbreak within the managed environment has forced the three-match ODI series between USA and Ireland to be called off. The two boards have not put out an official statement as of Tuesday at noon, but the two teams did not show up for their training sessions as stadium ground staff and workers began disassembling hospitality and advertising signage at Broward County Stadium throughout the morning and early afternoon. Multiple sources have confirmed that the ODI series has been scrapped due to a number of positive Covid-19 tests in the traveling parties, and USA's players have been notified that their tickets are being booked to fly home today.
After canceling the first ODI due to a positive test among the ICC officiating crew, the second of the matches was initially postponed 24 hours after a string of positive tests on both sides - a member of Ireland's support staff as well as a number of USA's playing team - though the majority of them turned out to be false positives.
Both teams were due to train on Tuesday at the Broward County Stadium ahead of the delayed first match of the series on December 29. However, neither squad arrived at the stadium. Multiple sources told ESPNcricinfo that even though no Ireland players tested positive in a fresh round of PCR tests, multiple members of the Ireland support staff, as well as partners and family members of Ireland players tested positive, meaning that a large number of Ireland players were deemed to be close contacts.
The situation is similar in some ways to the incident that took place in Melbourne this week when four members of the England touring party - two staff members and two family members - tested positive for Covid. However, unlike the fate of the ODI series between USA and Ireland, the Ashes Test match went ahead anyway when all players returned negative Tests.
After numerous waves of retests following the false positives that came out of the USA squad camp, only one new player returned a positive PCR test, according to sources. But the fact that it was a player meant that the entire USA team was also deemed to be close contacts of the positive player.
The off-field discipline of the traveling parties is also a cause for scrutiny. The majority of the USA players were kept to their hotel rooms throughout the staging of the series as a consequence of a number of early positive Covid-19 tests ahead of the first T20I that was held on December 22.
However, the Ireland squad members are understood to have been allowed to leave the team hotel periodically throughout the past week, including on Christmas Day, and were allowed to mix and mingle with traveling family members and partners. It was only after the first Ireland support staff member tested positive on December 27 that their players went into full isolation mode in their hotel rooms.
The cancellation of the ODI series is expected to deal a significant financial blow to USA Cricket, who had gone all out by investing resources to make the historic series happen at short notice. The initial announcement came on November 9 that USA Cricket would be hosting a Full Member for a bilateral series for the first time, giving them six weeks to organize the event. Though the two-match T20I series was completed on December 23 with a total ticketed attendance of just over 1,000 fans (a USA Cricket official stated that attendance for the first match was 328 followed by 744 for the 2nd T20I*) across the two games, the ODIs never got off the ground.
As of Tuesday, the Ireland squad is still scheduled to depart on December 31 for Jamaica to take part in three ODIs and one T20I against West Indies. According to a Cricket Ireland official, "The positives on the staff will have to stay back, but with another PCR pre-travel pending, the main group will still travel as planned."
*The article was updated on December 28 at 19:35 GMT to reflect ticket attendance information from USA Cricket.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna