The COVID-19 pandemic has caused further Ashes disruption after Travis Head contracted the virus, prompting Australia to call in three players as cover for the fourth Test.
Head will miss the SCG match, beginning on January 5, after becoming the first Australian cricketer to test positive for COVID-19 while on duty with the Test squad.
The South Australian, who was man of the match in the hosts’ series-opening win at the Gabba, is asymptomatic but will spend seven days isolating in Melbourne with his partner.
The potential for further positive cases among Australia’s players, families and support staff looms large with everyone in the touring party undergoing PCR and RAT tests on Friday morning.
Mitch Marsh, Nic Maddinson and would-be debutant Josh Inglis have joined Usman Khawaja in Australia’s enlarged squad.
Cricket Australia (CA) is determined to press on with this summer’s schedule as planned despite a backdrop of cases in both squads, and 21,151 cases of COVID-19 reported by NSW Health on New Year’s Eve.
Pat Cummins’ side is slated to travel to Sydney on Friday via charter flight.
England, minus head coach Chris Silverwood, is set to fly out on a separate charter flight after a late change to travel arrangements.
England’s touring party reported no new COVID-19 cases on Friday, meaning their outbreak is still limited to three support staff and four family members.
Silverwood is isolating because he is a close contact while match referee David Boon will be another omission for the SCG Test after testing positive for COVID-19.
Australia expect Head will be available for the series finale in Hobart, which begins on January 14.
“As part of our testing procedures, we are PCR testing players, their families and our support staff daily,” a CA spokesperson said.
“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.”
The BBL is also facing COVID-19 hurdles.
Thursday night’s match between Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Stars was postponed because a Stars staffer returned a positive test.
There is speculation the New Year’s Eve clash between Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Thunder could also be moved.