England head coach Chris Silverwood will miss the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney after a family member tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday (December 30). Batting coach Graham Thorpe will take on his duties for the penultimate Test.
The 46-year-old, along with his family, will have to isolate in Melbourne for 10 days while the rest of the team will head to Sydney for the Test which begins on January 5. The family member is the seventh person (three support staff and four family members) to test positive in the touring side since arriving in Australia.
International Cricket Council match referee David Boon, who has officiated at every Test so far, will also miss Sydney after he too tested positive. The 61-year-old will be replaced by Steve Bernard but is expected to return for the final Test in Hobart. He has no symptoms and is fully vaccinated with a booster.
On Monday, two members of England's support staff and two of their family members who tested positive for coronavirus at the Melbourne Test were also placed in isolation. It leaves England recovering from an embarrassing series defeat without their head coach, after Australia retained the Ashes with two Tests left to play.
Recently Australia have experienced a surge in infections, with the Omicron outbreak centred in Sydney. In New South Wales, anyone considered a close contact must isolate for seven days, but authorities earlier pledged the rules would not impact the Ashes.
Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley was adamant the Test will go ahead. "We've got very robust Covid-safe plans that are led by the venues working closely with the health authorities. As long as everyone follows the advice, I think people can come in the knowledge they're going to be safe," he told broadcaster ABC, with crowds of some 35,000 expected for the first few days.
The fifth and final Test is in Hobart, where there have been far fewer Covid cases than in Sydney.
Joe Root's men were the fastest to surrender the Urn after they were skittled out for just 68 on day three of the third Test to lose the match by an innings and 14 runs. England lost the first two Tests by nine wickets and 275 runs at Brisbane and Adelaide respectively.
(With inputs from AFP)