Australia captain Pat Cummins will not play in the second Ashes test against England after being deemed a close contact of a person who returned a positive Covid-19 test.
Less than three hours before the toss for the day-night test at Adelaide Oval on Thursday, Cricket Australia said in a statement that Cummins was dining in a restaurant Wednesday night and had not breached any biosecurity protocols. He isolated as soon as he became aware of the situation and has since had a COVID-19 test, which was negative.
Cricket Australia said South Australia (state) Health confirmed that Cummins was a close contact and will be required to isolate for seven days. It said Cummins should be available for the third test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground starting Dec. 26.
“Cummins is understandably very disappointed not to be able to captain Australia," the statement said.
Vice-captain Steve Smith will captain the team in Cummins’ absence. Michael Neser comes into the playing XI to replace Cummins and make his test debut, with Travis Head vice-captain.
It will be Smith's first appearance as captain since the Cape Town, South Africa ball-tampering scandal in 2018 which cost him the captaincy and a subsequent two-year leadership ban.
Cricket Australia said fellow Australia bowlers Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon were dining at the same restaurant as Cummins but at a separate table outdoors. SA Health said they casual contacts and they are free to play.
Cummins’ absence along with that of injured Josh Hazlewood is a big blow to Australia after Hazlewood, the world’s top-ranked test bowler, claimed a five-wicket haul in Australia's series-opening nine-wicket win at the Gabba in Brisbane.
Adelaide has had a rise in COVID-19 cases over the past week, with the 25 reported on Wednesday the most in a single day in more than 18 months.