Australian batter Steve Smith will be back as captain for his side for the 2nd Ashes Test beginning in Adelaide in a few hours time for the first time after ‘Sandpapergate’ controversy. Regular captain Pat Cummins has been ruled out of the Pink-ball Test after coming in contact with a COVID-19 positive person and will be replaced by Michael Neser in the playing XI.
“Steve Smith will captain the side in Cummins’ absence. Michael Neser comes into the playing XI to make his Test debut and Travis Head will be vice-captain,” Cricket Australia said in a release on Thursday (December 16).
Cricket Australia investigated media reports test captain Pat Cummins has been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case, a spokesman said on Thursday. Nine Network-owned newspapers reported Cummins was at an Adelaide restaurant on Wednesday night when a patron at the next table was identified as a positive COVID-19 case.
Australian captain Pat Cummins has been deemed a close contact of a person who received a positive Covid-19 test last night and is unavailable to play in the second Vodafone #Ashes Test.
We anticipate that he will be available to play in the third Test at the MCG in Melbourne. pic.twitter.com/o6JxIdL9pn
— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) December 16, 2021
“Cummins was dining in a restaurant last and did not break any bio-security protocols. He isolated as soon as he became aware of the situation and has since had a PCR Test, which produced a negative result.
“SA Health has confirmed that Cummins is a close contact and will be required to isolate for seven days. As a consequence, Cummins is unavailable to play in the second men’s Ashes Test, starting today. We anticipate that he will be available to play in third Ashes Test at the MCG in Melbourne,” the release added.
Victorian guidelines state that a positive case must isolate for 10 days from exposure, which would see Cummins re-enter society on Christmas Day.
Accounting to sources, it would be highly unlikely he would be fit or well enough to play the following day. Australia won the first Test at the Gabba by nine wickets.
Steve Smith was sacked following the ball-tampering scandal back in 2018. During the third day of the third Test in Capetown, the TV camera caught Australia opener, Cameron Bancroft, using sandpaper to rough up the ball. At the end of the day’s play, both Bancroft and Smith admitted to ball-tampering at a press conference. Cricket Australia (CAA) stripped Smith and Warner of the captaincy and vice-captaincy respectively, and Tim Paine was made the new Test captain.
Cummins, the world’s top-ranked test bowler, led Australia to a nine-wicket win over England in the Ashes opener in Brisbane, his first match as captain. His exclusion from the Adelaide test is a blow for Australia as they look to take a 2-0 lead in the five-Test series.
Cricket Australia said fast bowler Mitchell Starc and spinner Nathan Lyon were dining at the same restaurant as Cummins but at a separate table outdoors. They were deemed casual contacts and are free to play.