Ashes Series Tips: Covid could save England from whitewash

Travis Head
Head is out of the Sydney Test

Ed Hawkins says the virus is closing in and it would be a surprise if the series was completed

"Australia have raided the Bash for the SCG Test, calling up Perth duo Mitchell Marsh and Josh Inglis and Syndey Sixers skipper Nic Maddinson"

(1pt) Back 3-0 Ashes correct score 12.011/1

Silverwood and Head out

It would be fitting if the Ashes were to be cancelled. In terms of competitiveness, it has had all the heat of gazpacho. And there's only one team that have been in the soup.

Yet there is a way out for England's soppy, sloppy lot. Covid could well save them the ignominy of a 5-0 whitewash.

Chris Silverwood, the England coach, is in isolation and misses the fourth Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which is due to start on Tuesday. No jokes please about whether that's a help or hindrance. Travis Head, the Australia middle-order bat, is also out having tested positive.

"Unfortunately, Travis returned a positive Covid-19 result earlier today," a spokesperson. "Thankfully, he is asymptomatic at this stage. We anticipate that he will be available to play in the fifth men's Ashes Test in Hobart.

"We are grateful to our exceptional medical staff for all the work they have done throughout this series and we will continue to work with and support the players, their families and staff from both teams."

Australia's players are waiting PCR tests from Friday. Unless you've been living in a panic room throughout the pandemic, you know what happens next. Once Covid gets into a team environment it doesn't just disappear. Players are tested, cases increase and a game is postponed. And once that happens, it's not long before the entire shooting match is called off.

Cases rising

Covid cases are on the surge in Australia. Previously the country had effectively locked its doors to all and sundry, hoping to be Covid free. Omicron has changed all that. Victoria is recoding record case numbers. New South Wales is now recording about 1.4 cases per 1,000 people in the population, rapidly catching the UK's figure of about 2 per 1,000.

The rises in cases is beginning to impact the Big Bash. Fox News ( and we take it with a pinch of salt because it is Fox News after all) have reported the tournament is 'drowning' in Covid. Surprisingly, the Adelaide Strikers-Sydney Thunder clash went ahead on Friday, despite four Thunder players testing positive.

Seven players and eight support staff at the Melbourne Stars have tested positive, placing the club's game against Perth Scorchers on Sunday in doubt. The two have already had the Docklands head-to-head called off.

The Bash directly impacts the Ashes. England could well have picked up replacements if players began to drop with Covid like their batters do against Aussie pacers. James Vince, Saqib Mahmood, Ben Duckett and Reece Topley, for example, could be drafted in for a game in an emergency.

Australia have raided the Bash for the SCG Test, calling up Perth duo Mitchell Marsh and Josh Inglis and Syndey Sixers skipper Nic Maddinson. Usman Khawaja, waiting patiently for a chance, remains Head's most likely replacement.

However, it is hard for Australia and England to move players from one bubble to another, particularly if that bubble has been burst.

3-0 a bet

There are discussions ongoing about the legitimacy of the Bash (a weak tournament anyway) if teams were required to start picking players from grade cricket to get a team out.

There will be similar concerns for Australia and England. Despite the scoreline and despite the lack of contest both are unlikely to be comfortable with handing out precious Baggy Greens or Test starts respectively willy-nilly. England's 24-hour revamp for an ODI squad in the summer is no precedent.

The upshot is that the 12.011/1 that the series is called at 3-0 before the SCG Test is a wager. A price for 4-0 has collapsed to 3.02/1, threatening the 5-0 for favouritism.

One potential solution is keeping teams, support staff and the broadcast units in Melbourne and going again at the MCG. Or there could be a move to stricter bubble protcols. And that could be the series done for. If England's players are asked to remain in hotel rooms they will almost certainly walk.

Ultimately, politicians may have the final say. It should be noted that the New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrotte, has a 'let it rup' approach to Covid. He is likely to push for the game to go ahead with fears about the local economy holding sway.

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