England’s First ODI against South Africa today was dramatically called off just an hour before the game was due to begin after a member of the Proteas camp tested positive for Covid-19.
The news leaves the remainder of the tour handing by a thread. The series is now due to begin on Sunday at Paarl’s Boland Park in a day-game, with day-nighters following at Newlands in Cape Town on Monday and Wednesday.
But, as the teams go for another round of Covid testing, there is no margin for error. Already the series is desperately squeezed. It is unusual for ODIs to be played on consecutive days, but with England due to return home on Thursday, there is little choice.
On Tuesday, England completed a 3-0 whitewash in the T20 series. Both teams were tested again for Covid-19 yesterday, with one South African returning a positive result.
“This decision results from a player from the Proteas team testing positive for COVID-19 after the teams’ last round of scheduled testing performed on Thursday ahead of the ODIs,” read a Cricket South Africa statement.
"In the interests of the safety and well-being of both teams, match officials and all involved in the match, the Acting CEO of CSA, Kugandrie Govender as well as the CEO of the ECB, Tom Harrison, have agreed to postpone the first fixture to Sunday."
South Africa recorded two positive tests in the buildup to the T20 series too, but with the players immediately isolated were able to control the outbreak enough to get the games on.
It remains to be seen whether the same will be true this time, with less than 48 hours before the rescheduled start of the series. The players from both sides will be tested again today, with the fate of the series resting on those results.
Unlike other sports, South Africa have stuck steadfastly to a policy of not revealing which players have tested positive on the grounds of patient confidentiality. The two players who missed the T20 series are believed to be David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo, as they were absent when normally expected to be involved.
The two teams are staying in separate bubbles at the same hotel, The Vineyard in the shadow of Table Mountain. England returned to the hotel before the postponement was made official.
England had planned to use the games to test the depth of their white-ball squads ahead of the T20 World Cup in India next year. The likes of Mark Wood, Olly Stone, Sam Billings and Moeen Ali were likely to be given their first chance of the tour, alongside Joe Root and Chris Woakes, who currently only play ODIs.