Ashes diary: Teams’ Covid-19 protocols updated; 70,000 expected to attend on Boxing Day

·3-min read
Ashes diary: Teams’ Covid-19 protocols updated; 70,000 expected to attend on Boxing Day

A win for the England team, although not the sort fans are most desperately searching for.

As Standard Sport reported on Tuesday, they let it be known that they were not happy with the harsher Covid-19 living arrangements they are subjected to in Melbourne, where Covid rates are higher.

After 18 months playing in bubbles, they were very happy with the relaxed living arrangements in Brisbane and Adelaide, where they lived the sort of relatively normal life they believed they were signing up for on tour. But the Omicron variant and rising rates in Melbourne and Sydney led to Cricket Australia ramping regulations up to Level 4, one below the full bubble everyone involved in this series is trying to avoid.

England’s players were less than impressed with this, particularly not being able to meet up with anyone outside the immediate team environment, a ruling which is hardest on those without partners and children on tour trying to get away from the game.

Their queries were listened to and have led to changes. They are now allowed to meet those from outside the group, as long as they remain outdoors.

Smaller but still massive

A smaller crowd than usual is expected at the Boxing Day Test, as Melburnians live cautiously with Covid rates rising, and no travelling England fans.

Around 55,000 tickets have been sold, and a crowd of 70,000 is expected. That is around 20,000 fewer than were at the same event on the last couple of tours, even though there are no formal Covid caps on attendance, as there were in Adelaide.

Fans have been asked to bring a mask so that the game does not become a super-spreader event as a couple of AFL fixtures did last year before some Australian sports went back behind closed doors. On Wednesday, Victoria recorded 1,503 new cases.

“There’s always risk [of becoming a super-spreader event], but we’ve got a COVID-safe plan in place for a reason,” Melbourne Cricket Club chief executive Stuart Fox said. “That’s served us relatively well. We had one reasonably significant issue this year in the football and we’ve managed that quite well.

“We had the data through to health for that particular event within two or three minutes. We’ve got a good handle on it.”

Green fingers

Pitches are such a talking point in Australia that a few months back, a Melbourne broadsheet ran a story about a competitive Sheffield Shield surface at the MCG on its front page.

And so another Test, another “curator” – groundsman – wheeled out for a preview interview. While the MCG’s Matthew Page did not follow Adelaide Oval’s Damian Hough in dishing out advice on who to select, he did say that the surface had “come a long way” since 2017, when Alastair Cook scored 244, the highest score by an overseas batter at the G, in one of the dullest draws imaginable.

“From four years ago, we have come a long way,” he said. “We have been looking to improve the quality of pitches. We are leaving a lot more grass on them now, trying to provide a contest as much as we can. There’s a lot more seam movement as a result of the grass that’s being left on. If we can replicate what we did last year we will be really happy and will see an exciting Boxing Day Test.”

Poor Jofra

The news that Jofra Archer would not be seen in an England shirt until the summer was a brutal blow. And it became tougher on seeing his own reaction to the news. “Life really isn’t fair,” he tweeted, before a couple more posts indicating that his beloved dog Blu had passed away.

More bad news for England

Bad news for England, as Marnus Labuschagne overtakes Joe Root to go top of the ICC Test batting rankings.

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