Just who messed up the bio-secure bubble for the Proteas and England teams at The Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town has become the subject of some dispute between Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
The ODI series between South Africa and England is in grave danger of not being played at all after two English players tested positive for Covid-19 at the weekend, following positive tests for two Vineyard staff members. The touring squad were all re-tested after the first ODI, due to be played on Friday, but had to be postponed due to a positive test in the Proteas camp.
It was rescheduled for Sunday, but that match, as well as a game at Newlands on Monday, was also called off after England’s positive tests. Those results are now being scrutinised by independent medical experts, and if the positive outcome is confirmed, then the series will almost certainly be cancelled. The results are expected to be known on Monday evening.
This would cost cash-strapped CSA millions of Rands, but several England players have lucrative Big Bash contracts in Australia to fulfil and the others just want to get home for Christmas, so having to spend time in isolation is something they are desperately trying to avoid.
And the ECB on Monday countered an allegation made by Newlands stadium manager Clifford Dodgen that they had broken protocol at the ground on Thursday.
In an e-mail sent to representatives of the ECB, CSA, the Claremont South African Police Services station commander and the visible policing commander, and seen by The Citizen, Dodgen reveals a breach by the England team.
“Please be advised that the England cricket team has not adhered to the arrangements as agreed by all in the ESSPC (Event Safety and Security Planning Committee) meetings. The practice nets next to the construction site is not allowed to be used on practice days. Three cages of nets was set up on the square on the field,” Dodgen wrote.
“This serves to inform you that the England cricket team has accessed and used the nets today (3 December) at their own risk. Western Province Cricket Association and the ESSPC will not be held liable or responsible for the safety and health of the England cricket team.”
But an England Cricket spokesperson told The Citizen on Monday: “On arrival at Newlands on 3 December, we advised the venue that the three nets provided on the main pitch were not of a standard for conducive practice, as per the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the respective boards. Batsmen were unable to face seam bowlers in the nets on the main pitch as the surfaces were rendered and unacceptable.
“We requested with CSA that we would like to use the practice nets and that we would create a security cordon to ensure the players and coaches could enter the facility safely, as done previously on 28 November. This was confirmed by England’s Security Team, the Team Operations Manager and the Team Doctor. We were satisfied with this outcome and we were able to practice in the net facility safely.
“As far as the England touring party are concerned, the safety and health of our players and coaches was not compromised.”
The nets in question are the ones usually used by teams playing at Newlands, but the area now sees foot traffic from workers on the construction site.
Members of both teams have also been exposed to people outside of the bubble by being allowed to play golf at Boschenmeer in Paarl.