Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine has insisted the Ashes will go ahead as scheduled, even as Cricket Australia went to extraordinary lengths to avoid state border closures by sending Queensland’s delayed fixture against Tasmania to Adelaide.
While administrators remain optimistic that increased COVID-19 vaccination rates across the country will settle down the current state of chaos before the England men’s team arrives in November, the inability to play scheduled domestic matches in Brisbane due to a handful of cases underlined the tenuous nature of any planning.
The Tasmanian team’s decision to fly home to Hobart, delaying the start of the game against Queensland, has had the knock-on effect of depriving Australia’s No.2 spin bowler, Mitchell Swepson, of his only possible Sheffield Shield match before the Ashes.
Swepson, who plucked 32 wickets in just five games for the Shield-winning Bulls last season to challenge Nathan Lyon as Australia’s pre-eminent tweaker, is staying in Brisbane due to his place as a back-up to Adam Zampa for the Twenty20 World Cup in the UAE later this month.
Lyon’s NSW, meanwhile, remains in limbo alongside Victoria after state health authorities blocked their planned travel to South Australia for hotel quarantine and their opening games of the season. Despite these extraordinary circumstances, Paine was adamant the Ashes – expected to be his final series – would not be affected.
CA and the ECB remain in negotiations over the quarantine and biosecurity measures to be put in place for the tour. England’s players, having played far more cricket than Australia’s since the onset of COVID-19, are desperate to avoid more tight “bubble” arrangements on the trip.
Tim Paine and Australia’s campaign to retain the Ashes is due to begin on December 8.Credit:AP
“The Ashes are going ahead. The first Test is on December 8th – whether Joe [Root] is here or not to be honest with you,” Paine told SEN on Friday.
“They all want to come, there’s no doubt about that. They’re trying to get themselves the best possible conditions they can get, but we all are, and we don’t want to give them poor conditions because we’re going to be in the same boat.
“It’ll be worked out above us, and then they’ll have a choice whether you get on that plane or you don’t. But there’ll be a squad of England players coming here. I don’t care who comes. I really don’t. I hope their best team comes. No one is forcing you to come. No one is forcing any England player to come. That’s the beauty of the world we live in – you have a choice.”
Paine, who is still recovering from neck surgery, explained that Tasmania’s decision to fly home to Hobart on Tuesday, which angered Queensland, was based on the possibility that if the match in Brisbane was affected by the minor COVID-19 outbreak in the state, their subsequent fixture against Western Australia in Perth would also be impacted.
“The original plan was Tassie would fly home, but if the cases didn’t grow they would fly back and play the one-dayer against Queensland on Sunday and then the Shield game on Tuesday,” he said.
“Cases grew, so that game has now been moved to Adelaide, and now Tasmania haven’t been in Brisbane, they can continue on to round two in Perth.
“Had they stayed, we would’ve played one day, the game would’ve been called off, Tasmania would’ve had to fly home then, and would not have been able to play in round two either.”
After their game against Tasmania, Queensland will stay in Adelaide to play Shield and one day games against SA.
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