Australian captain Pat Cummins will miss the second Ashes Test against England after he was identified as a close contact of a positive COVID case.
In Cummins’ absence, Steve Smith will captain the home side for the day-night match, leading the team for the first time since Australia’s tour of South Africa in March 2018. Travis Head will be Smith’s vice-captain, and fast-bowler Michael Neser will make his Test debut.
Cummins was at a restaurant on Wednesday evening when a patron on the premises was identified as COVID-positive. South Australia Health confirmed that Cummins was a close contact, and will be required to isolate for seven days as per state protocols. He did not breach any biosecurity protocols.
The No.1 Test bowler in the world on the MRF Tyres ICC player rankings, Cummins took seven wickets in the first Ashes Test, snaring a five-for in the first innings.
His absence means Australia will be down two members of their frontline attack, with Josh Hazlewood earlier ruled out with a side strain and Jhye Richardson confirmed as his replacement. It could have been worse for the side – Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon were both at the same restaurant as Cummins but are free to play under South Austalia Health’s protocols as they sat outside the venue at a different table and were deemed as casual contacts.
In Neser, the Australians have a bowler who has long awaited his Test debut. The Queenslander has been a part of every Australia Test squad since the 2019 Ashes. He comes into the match in good form, having taken a five-wicket haul for Australia A in last week’s game against the England Lions.