NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard insists the fourth Ashes Test will be played in Sydney next week despite state regulations that could force the match to be abandoned or moved.
Hazzard’s guarantee came as Australia retained the Ashes urn in an innings defeat of England on the third day of the MCG Test, after players from both sides returned negative COVID-19 tests.
Holding an Ashes Test in Sydney comes at a greater risk than playing a match in Melbourne due to the differing state regulations.
While a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case must isolate for seven days under NSW rules, the Victorian government’s stance is a workplace close contact only needs a negative result.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan argued for the fourth Test to be held at the MCG instead of the SCG to avoid the heightened risk.
“Do we want to risk taking two teams over and broadcast crews and production staff?” Vaughan said on Fox Cricket.
“Then you get to the SCG and there’s one case in the team on (the first day) and the Test match is off.”
But Hazzard said NSW Health would work with Victorian health authorities in the fight against potential COVID-19 cases “in a way that ensures the next Ashes Test at the SCG in January can proceed”.
“The SCG Test is sacred, an important date at the start of the third year of our life with COVID-19,” Hazzard said.
“I want to assure the cricket-loving public, under our rules any players with exposure to a known case of COVID-19 would be asked to test and isolate only until a negative result was received.
“If there are any cases within the teams, their support staff or families, we will work with the people involved to ensure they are safe, and there is as little disruption to others as possible.”
England committed to the Ashes on the condition that neither a bubble nor isolation would be imposed, after the camp was forced to endure several difficult experiences in the face of COVID-19.
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Former Australia captain Mark Taylor says it’s important the tourists are assured they won’t be forced into another of those experiences.
“I think we’ve got to have a word to the England camp and reassure them they won’t be all locked up for the next two weeks if someone was to return a positive test,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports.
“That’s going to be the sticking point, and how they handle that I don’t really know.
“We all want to see a Sydney Test go ahead, but I can understand the England cricket side’s concerns. They’ve played a lot of cricket in recent times and the last thing they want is to get locked up for seven days.
“There will be a bit of nurturing and managing of players over the next week or so, but hopefully the Sydney Test will go ahead.”
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