Australia are thrown into CHAOS after captain Pat Cummins is ruled out of second Test against England due to close contact with a positive Covid case… with Steve Smith now skippering hosts in Adelaide for first time since his sandpaper disgrace
- Pat Cummins is understood to have been out for dinner on Wednesday evening
- A person at the next table in the restaurant was identified as Covid positive
- Steve Smith will lead Australia out in the second Ashes Test in Adelaide
- The Australians have handed a Test debut to Michael Neser in Cummins’ absence
Australia’s plans for the second Test at Adelaide were thrown into chaos when their captain, Pat Cummins, was ruled out of the game after a nearby diner at a local restaurant tested positive for Covid.
Cummins, who led Australia for the first time last week as England were thrashed by nine wickets at the Gabba, is understood to have been out for dinner on Wednesday evening when a person at the next table was identified as a positive coronavirus case. Cummins left the restaurant immediately, and informed Cricket Australia.
His absence from the pink-ball Test, which got underway this morning, means the captaincy has returned to Steve Smith for the first time since he lost his job in 2018 following the Sandpapergate scandal at Cape Town. Travis Head steps in as vice-captain.
Australia captain Pat Cummins has been ruled out of the second Ashes Test against England
And with fellow fast bowler Josh Hazlewood already missing with a side strain, the Australians have handed a Test debut to Michael Neser, a 31-year-old South African-born Queenslander whose international experience amounts to a pair of ODIs in England in 2018. Jhye Richardson, who has played only two Tests, had already been named as Hazlewood’s replacement.
Cummins tweeted: ‘Gutted to miss this Test but really excited to see Neser finally get his chance in the baggy green. He has done the hard yards and is a seriously skilful player. Super frustrating but COVID has thrown us all some curve balls over the last couple of years. Will be cheering along!’
A statement from CA read: ‘Pat Cummins isolated as soon as he became aware of the situation and has since had a PCR test, which produced a negative result.
‘South Australia Health has confirmed that Cummins is a close contact and will be required to isolate for seven days. As a consequence, he is unavailable to play in the second Vodafone men’s Ashes Test match in Adelaide, starting today.
‘We anticipate that he will be available to play in the third Test at the MCG in Melbourne. Cummins is understandably very disappointed not to be able to captain Australia for the day-night Test in Adelaide.’
Cummins’ absence in Adelaide means the captaincy has returned to batsman Steve Smith for the first time since he left the role in disgrace over his team’s cheating with sandpaper in 2018
Smith lined up alongside (left-right) David Warner, Travis Head and Nugget Rees for the Australian national anthem ahead of the day’s play in Adelaide on Thursday
It also emerged that fast bowler Mitchell Starc and spinner Nathan Lyon were dining at the same restaurant, but at a different table outside. Therefore SA Health deemed them ‘casual contacts’, so they were passed free to play in the second Test.
Despite cases of the Omicron variant rising in Australia, pre-agreed protocol for the Brisbane and Adelaide Tests – both in states with strict Covid regulations – allowed players to circulate freely and dine out, so long as they used their judgment and avoided indoor areas and busy settings.
Cummins’s misfortune recalls the moment in 2005 when Australian seamer Glenn McGrath was ruled out of the second Test at Edgbaston on the morning of the game after treading on a stray ball on the outfield and rolling his ankle.
Australia had comfortably won the first Test of that series, at Lord’s, but went on to lose the Edgbaston game by two runs – and a pulsating series by two Tests to one.
His absence deprives Australia not just of their captain, but of the world’s No 1-ranked bowler at the peak of his powers. In the first Test at Brisbane, Cummins was instrumental in dismissing England for 147 on the opening day, taking five for 38, and finishing with match figures of seven for 61.
Cummins led Australia for the first time last week as England were thrashed at the Gabba
The Australians have handed a Test debut to Michael Neser with skipper Cummins now out