Ashes chaos as Travis Head becomes first player from either side to test positive for Covid

 Ashes chaos as Travis Head becomes first player from either side to test positive for Covid

The fourth Ashes Test has been thrown into chaos after Australia’s Travis Head tested positive for Covid on New Year’s Eve. The Australian batter is the first player from either side to test positive. 

There have already been eight positive tests so far in the England camp but these were confined to family members and coaching staff. Head, who scored a century in the first Test, received the result just hours before the two teams were due to fly to Sydney, where the fourth Test begins on January 5.

No further positive tests were returned from the England players and their entourage on Friday morning. The last positive tests in the England camp were received by a family member of head coach Chris Silverwood, who will also remain in Melbourne and miss the upcoming Test.

The first positive results started surfacing in the England set-up while the Boxing Day Test unfolded but this caused only minor disruption to the start of play on day two as the spread of the virus appeared to have been contained to family and coaching staff. 

However, as Head is the first player to test positive, it is more likely that the virus has now spread to other players. It may take some days to find out the full extent of the spread, however, and whether the fourth Test can still continue as planned.

As a precautionary measure, the all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who was player of the match in the recent Twenty20 World Cup Final, and top-order batters Nic Maddinson and Josh Inglis have been called into the Australian squad as replacements.

England call up emergency coach

Adam Hollioake is joining England as emergency coaching cover for the fourth Test but will only be allowed to work with the players outside due to Covid rules, which have been tightened after Head’s positive test.

England have also unofficially put Big Bash players on standby in case of a covid outbreak among the squad.

Hollioake is expected to arrive on Sunday to help England with their preparations after Silverwood was forced into quarantine.

England’s bowling coach, Jon Lewis, and spin bowling coach, Jeetan Patel, tested positive earlier this week depleting the number of coaches working with the team.

Graham Thorpe is standing in for Silverwood in Sydney and has called his former Surrey team-mate for help. 

Hollioake, who lives in Queensland, can only work with the players outside because he has not gone through the same rigorous testing protocol as the existing coaches. He will be allowed to work outside with the players to minimise the risk, which will only be a problem on Tuesday, the day before the match starts, when rain is forecast.

“He’s not just another set of hands. He’s a pretty good, philosophical guy who has had certain things go on in his life, so he’ll say, this is cricket, we’ll play to win, but can you get better? I know him really well and he’ll be a good guy if we can get him in,” said Thorpe. “He can bring a bit of energy to the dressing-room.”

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