Australia's Test tour of South Africa postponed
Planned three-match Test series will not go ahead this month because of coronavirus health concerns in the Rainbow Nation
2 February 2021, 08:46 PM AEST
Australia’s Test tour of South Africa has been postponed due to health concerns, Cricket Australia confirmed late Tuesday evening.
The Aussies were scheduled to fly out for a three-Test series later this month but CA’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley said travelling to South Africa posed “unacceptable” risk to the touring party.
South Africa is battling a second wave of COVID-19 and a new variant of the virus.
The decision means Australia’s bid to play in the World Test Championship final, a stated goal of captain Tim Paine, is now out of their hands and increasingly unlikely.
“Following extensive due diligence with medical experts, it has become clear that traveling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community,” Hockley said in a statement.
“We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour, during which we made it clear that CA was prepared to take on additional cost and effort to make the series happen.
“This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed, especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time, our valued relationship with CSA, and our aspirations to compete in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.”
It is the second major tour of South Africa to be cancelled in recent months after England pulled out of their trip midway through an ODI series after a Proteas player and two team hotel staff tested positive for COVID-19, while the Pakistan women’s team will this week conclude a white-ball tour played entirely in Durban over the past few weeks after Sri Lanka’s men’s team played two Test matches against South Africa over the new-year period.
It is also the second men’s Test tour Australia have postponed in the last 12 months after pulling out of a trip to Bangladesh last year. New dates for the Bangladesh or South Africa tours have not been set.
A planned visit from Afghanistan – for their first Test against Australia – was also postponed earlier this summer. The Afghanistan Cricket Board released a statement in December announcing the match will be played in 2021, but this has not been confirmed by CA.
Unless those tours or other new series are added to the schedule, the Aussie men now face a second straight year without any overseas Test campaigns. Their next scheduled Test series on the International Cricket Council’s Future Tour Programme is the Ashes against England at home next summer.
Australia have a T20 tour of New Zealand beginning this month with the 18-man squad missing many of its first-choice players – the likes of Steve Smith, David Warner and Pat Cummins – given they had been in the squad for the overlapping tour of South Africa.
But CA has already confirmed those players would not be available for the NZ tour regardless of whether the South Africa tour went ahead.
It could potentially mean the back-end of the Sheffield Shield and Marsh One-Day Cup seasons could be injected with the country’s best long-form cricketers.
That would be a rare occurrence given the regularity of Australian overseas tours in February and March, although the 2021 edition of the Indian Premier League - slated for the usual window of April-May - looms large for a number of Australia's best cricketers ahead of the men's T20 World Cup scheduled for India later this year.
“As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is, especially for Justin (Langer), Tim and the team, we have a duty of care to our people and their health and safety can’t be compromised,” Hockley said.
“We look forward to playing the series against CSA at a date to be confirmed in due course and we send CSA and the people of South Africa our very best wishes for a successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine and a return to normality soon.”
Australia’s visit would have been their first Test tour since the heated and infamous series back in 2018.
The Australian Cricketers Association backed the decision.
“The Australian players were ready for the contest with South Africa, especially to support South African cricket at this time with the added challenge of making the final of the ICC Test Championship,” said the ACA’s interim chief executive, Joe Connellan.
“But this is the right call given the COVID data coming out of South Africa. It’s a decision based on the advice of the medical and health experts and that’s why the ACA supports it.”