Vodafone Men's Ashes
Ashes reinforcements hit the road amid COVID scares
Australia opener Marcus Harris and cover players Mitch Marsh and Josh Inglis travel to Sydney via road ahead of the fourth Test
2 January 2022, 04:04 PM AEST
Nathan Lyon admits a general sense of anxiety is hovering over Ashes participants due to COVID-19 cases, with Test legend Glenn McGrath the latest to contract the virus.
It comes after positive cases in both the Australian (Travis Head) and English (seven support staff including head coach Chris Silverwood) camps, as well as among match officials with match referee David Boon currently isolating in Melbourne.
A local net bowler who was positive then provided the series' latest scare on Sunday, when it is believed he attended England's training session but did not come into close contact with a player.
Australia opener Marcus Harris and cover players Mitch Marsh and Josh Inglis are travelling to Sydney via road from Melbourne after Lyon and Mitchell Starc both elected to make the trip to spend a few extra days at home in Sydney before the SCG Test gets underway on Wednesday.
Head becomes the second Australian player to miss a Test due to health protocols after captain Pat Cummins had to sit out the Adelaide day-night contest having dined at a restaurant attended a positive case.
"There’s a lot of anxiety about it,” Lyon, who dined at the same venue as Cummins in Adelaide but sat outside and was therefore not deemed a risk, told the Unplayable Podcast.
"I never want to miss a game for Australia, I always want to be available for selection.
"To be vaccinated with the COVID jab and doing all the right things but still being able to be ruled out of a game due to COVID whether that you're a close contact, like Patty a couple of weeks ago, or like Trav … it's never a great thing.
"You get ruled out out of a game, (a decision) which is purely taken out of your hands.
"There's a lot of anxiety around it. All we can do is be safe and look after each other as well as we can."
Marsh and Inglis, called into Australia's enlarged Ashes squad after Head contracted the coronavirus, shared a road trip from Melbourne to Sydney on Sunday.
Harris, blocked from boarding Australia's charter flight on New Year's Eve because he dined with Head, undertook the same journey in a separate vehicle.
Nic Maddinson, the third cover player drafted into Australia's squad on Friday, has remained in Melbourne and will only make the dash north if required.
Australia remain upbeat Head will be the only enforced omission on Wednesday, when their five-Test series against England resumes.
There have been no further positive tests in either camp.
Lyon was swabbed on Sunday after linking up with teammates at the SCG having picked up his children from Canberra on the day-long car ride between Australia’s two biggest cities.
“We thought, ‘you know what, let's just go home,” Lyon said of his dash home. “I was able to pick up Harper and Miller on the on the way home which has been extremely enjoyable.
“Being able to have a little belated Christmas here with those two girls and (his partner) Emm, it's been very nice.”
Cricket Australia (CA) has not tightened biosecurity restrictions, meaning players are free to leave their team hotel to dine outdoors.
England agreed to tour on the basis they would not be placed under restrictive protocols.
Opener Zak Crawley is one member of the visiting squad happy to surrender some freedoms if it was the key to playing in Sydney and Hobart.
"Personally I would, we haven't got long left (until the series ends). I can't speak for everyone," Crawley said.
"I don't want a situation where I miss a Test.
"We're sticking to what the doctors have told us. We've managed to catch the cases early, so we've been lucky not to have any players go down."
McGrath, who has helped turn Australia's year-opening Test into a fundraising drive to support those with breast cancer access care nurses, is isolating at home and feels well.
There is hope McGrath will return a negative test in time to attend day three of the SCG Test, now known as Jane McGrath Day.
But the former paceman will be restricted to a virtual presence at the ground on Monday, when both sides are presented with baggy pink caps that will be auctioned as part of the fund-raising drive.
"Glenn has had a PCR test which unfortunately returned a positive result," McGrath Foundation chief executive Holly Masters said.
"We wish Glenn and his family good health."
- with AAP
Vodafone Men's Ashes
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Nic Maddinson, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
First Test: Australia won by nine wickets
Second Test: Australia won by 275 runs
Third Test: Australia won by an innings and 14 runs
Fourth Test: January 5-9, SCG
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Blundstone Arena