Australian Test captain Pat Cummins has been ruled out of the second Ashes Test against England, starting on Thursday (December 16), in Adelaide after having come in close contact with a COVID-19 positive case at a restaurant last night. Australia's start batsman Steve Smith will lead the side in his absence.
The top-ranked Test bowler was at an Adelaide restaurant on Wednesday evening when a person at the neighbouring table was identified as positive for coronavirus. Cummins isolated when he became aware of the situation and has since returned a negative COVID test.
But under South Australia's strict bio-security rules he must now isolate for seven days, meaning Smith will captain the side for the first time since a ball-tampering scandal in 2018.
Gutted to miss this Test but really excited to see Neser finally get his chance in the baggy green. He has done the hard yards and is a seriously skilful player. Super frustrating but COVID has thrown us all some curve balls over the last couple of years. Will be cheering along!— Pat Cummins (@patcummins30) December 16, 2021
"Cummins is understandably very disappointed not to be able to captain Australia for the day-night Test in Adelaide," said Cricket Australia. "We anticipate that he will be available to play in the third men's Ashes Test at the MCG in Melbourne (on December 26)."
Smith was axed as captain over his part in the 2018 "Sandpaper-gate" fiasco in South Africa.
Travis Head, who scored a rollicking century in Australia's nine-wicket win at the first Test in Brisbane, takes over as vice-captain on his home ground, while Michael Neser comes in a replacement bowler.
Neser was picked in Australia's 2019 Ashes squad but has yet to make the Test team, with Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc leading the way.
The situation could have been much worse for Australia with Starc and spinner Nathan Lyon dining in the same restaurant, but at a separate table outdoors. "SA Health has deemed them casual contacts and they are free to play," said Cricket Australia.
Cummins' absence is be a big blow for the home team who are already without Hazlewood, who has a side strain. He played his first Test as captain in Brisbane last week after assuming the role when Tim Paine resigned over a text-message scandal.
(With inputs from AFP)