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Head ruled out of fourth Ashes Test with Covid

Travis Head tests positive for Covid-19 and will miss the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney; England players all tested negative, despite an outbreak in the camp, and fly to Sydney to begin preparations; Cricket Australia say coach Justin Langer’s contract extension talks can wait

Last Updated: 31/12/21 6:46am

    Australia's Travis Head will miss the fourth Ashes Test

    Australia’s Travis Head will miss the fourth Ashes Test

    Covid-19 continues to cast a shadow over the Ashes, with a positive test for Australia’s Travis Head ruling him out of the fourth Test in Sydney.

    Head’s result came back after the latest round of PCR testing, forcing him into a mandatory seven-day isolation in Melbourne while the rest of the squad move onto Sydney for the fourth Test.

    That represents a further escalation following an outbreak in the England camp, which has so far seen seven cases comprising three members of support staff and four of the travelling family group.

    Head coach Chris Silverwood is also isolating after one of his family came back positive and he has for now handed control of the team over to assistant Graham Thorpe.

    Monty Panesar believes Surrey Director of Cricket Alec Stewart could replace England head coach Chris Silverwood if the ECB decide to make a change

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    Monty Panesar believes Surrey Director of Cricket Alec Stewart could replace England head coach Chris Silverwood if the ECB decide to make a change

    Monty Panesar believes Surrey Director of Cricket Alec Stewart could replace England head coach Chris Silverwood if the ECB decide to make a change

    Match referee David Boon has stood down from the New Year Test after contracting the virus and the wider backdrop in Australia also offers up cause for concern, with the continuation of the Big Bash League in doubt due to the onward march of the Omicron variant.

    While there is a shared will to complete the full series as scheduled – England flew to Sydney on Friday on time after a full round of negative results – Australia began covering their bases by drafting Mitchell Marsh, Josh Inglis and Nic Maddinson in as squad cover.

    Yet even the act of calling up three players following the withdrawal of just one suggests that there is mounting anxiety over the spread.

    England’s backroom team is already stretched thin, with spin coach Jeetan Patel, fast bowling specialist Jon Lewis and strength and conditioning lead Darren Veness all in quarantine. Should more players, from either side, start to be drawn in, there will be inevitable speculation over the viability of the series, which Australia have already won with an unassailable 3-0 lead.

    Former England batsman Mark Butcher believes Chris Silverwood has too much power as both a head coach and a chief selector

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    Former England batsman Mark Butcher believes Chris Silverwood has too much power as both a head coach and a chief selector

    Former England batsman Mark Butcher believes Chris Silverwood has too much power as both a head coach and a chief selector

    A Cricket Australia spokesperson said: “As part of our testing procedures, we are PCR testing players, their families and our support staff daily.

    “Unfortunately, Travis returned a positive Covid-19 result earlier today. Thankfully, he is asymptomatic at this stage. We anticipate that he will be available to play in the fifth Vodafone men’s Ashes Test in Hobart.

    “We are grateful to our exceptional medical staff for all the work they have done throughout this series and we will continue to work with and support the players, their families and staff from both teams.”

    Head, Australia’s leading run-scorer in the series with 248 at an average of 62, could be replaced by Usman Khawaja at the SCG, with the experienced batter having served 12th man duties throughout the series.

    Australia's David Warner feels England have bowled too short and needed to make a better start to the Ashes series to give themselves a chance of victory

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    Australia’s David Warner feels England have bowled too short and needed to make a better start to the Ashes series to give themselves a chance of victory

    Australia’s David Warner feels England have bowled too short and needed to make a better start to the Ashes series to give themselves a chance of victory

    Langer contract extension can wait

    Cricket Australia’s high-performance chief Ben Oliver said that a decision on Justin Langer’s future would be made after the completion of the Ashes series, with the coach’s contract set to expire in mid-2022.

    Langer’s leadership was criticised amid player discontent in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup but he steered Australia to victory over New Zealand in the final and has guided them to an unassailable 3-0 lead over England in the Ashes series.

    Former England batter Nick Compton believes Chris Silverwood should be replaced, and believes Gary Kirsten would be a good option to succeed him

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    Former England batter Nick Compton believes Chris Silverwood should be replaced, and believes Gary Kirsten would be a good option to succeed him

    Former England batter Nick Compton believes Chris Silverwood should be replaced, and believes Gary Kirsten would be a good option to succeed him

    “We made a commitment prior to the start of the summer that we’d be really focused on the World Cup campaign, this Ashes campaign and once this series is finished we’d come back as a collective and work through that,” Oliver said of Langer’s position.

    “Justin has done a great job. I think he really embraced the conversations that were had over the winter and he’s really evolved and leaned into that.”

    Langer’s position at the helm came under scrutiny in August as a result of discontent over his coaching style, prompting talks between players and officials that saw the former opening batsman alter his approach.

    “Those conversations were really constructive at the time and a great credit to the player leaders who were able to provide some feedback that was really constructive,” said Oliver.

    Former England batsman Mark Butcher assesses possible replacements for Joe Root if he was to step down as Test captain

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    Former England batsman Mark Butcher assesses possible replacements for Joe Root if he was to step down as Test captain

    Former England batsman Mark Butcher assesses possible replacements for Joe Root if he was to step down as Test captain

    “Justin embraced those conversations and ultimately we’ve created — and he’s helped create along with the other support staff and the player leaders — an environment where the team has been able to perform incredibly well.”

    The final test of the Ashes series begins in Hobart on Jan. 14. Australia then have white-ball meetings with New Zealand and Sri Lanka scheduled before the test side travel to Pakistan for a three-match series in March.

    Oliver said there was no specific timeline for the talks on Langer’s contract but that it was great to see the success Australia was having.

    “The team has played some incredible cricket and it’s a great credit to the players, the staff and to everyone who’s been involved in the journey over a long period of time now for these players to support them,” he added.