Sydney Thunder will be significantly weakened for at least their next three games following confirmation four players have tested positive for Covid-19.
Batters Alex Hales and Alex Ross will need to isolate, as will spinner Tanveer Sangha and keeper-batter Sam Whiteman, after all tested positive.
Confirmation of these four positive results forced Thunder to name a new-look team for their New Year’s Eve game against Adelaide Strikers, with the visitors to be under strict protocols never seen before the Big Bash.
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The Level 5 protocols will include Thunder players needing to stay separate from one another and their opponents.T hey’ll be split between change rooms, with only one person allowed inside at a time while wearing a mask.
Even while they are batting, Thunder players will be required to sit in groups of no more than three people to minimise the risk of spreading the virus which has already fallen four of the club’s players.
There will also be no X-factor to minimise players on the ground.
Though the protocols, as outlined in Cricket Australia’s submission for an exemption from the South Australia government, would be similar to matches played in Tasmania and Western Australia this summer and all states last summer, the fact only 12 players, a coach and physio will be allowed at the ground makes it unique.
Both clubs and Cricket Australia on Friday were confident the South Australian health authorities would grant the exemption, with the official go-ahead given on Friday afternoon just hours before the first ball.
But there are implications for the Thunder beyond Friday night with the club due to play another game on January 2 against the Strikers then again on January 5 against the Scorchers.
It’s unclear whether the quartet of Thunder players will need to isolate in South Australia for 10 days – as per the state’s regulations – or whether they will be permitted to return to NSW and isolate for seven days there.
If they are required to remain in SA, Hales, Tanveer, Ross and Whiteman would also be unavailable for the January 8 games against the Melbourne Renegades.
As cover, Fox Cricket understands the Thunder have called up spinner Arjun Nair and left-handed NSW batter Lachlan Hearne, who has played two Shield games but is yet to make his BBL debut.
Nair has been a semi-regular Thunder player for five years and last played for the club in January.
Accounting for the positive cases, the Thunder will have 16 players to pick from until they return.
The chaos comes after Thursday night’s BBL clash between the Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers was postponed after a Stars staffer tested positive for COVID-19.
“Firstly, our thoughts go to everyone in the community affected by the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks, including members of our Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder squads,” BBL general manager Alistair Dobson said.
“We thank the Strikers, Thunder and SA Health for their hard work today to ensure this match can proceed.
“We will continue to work closely with our Clubs, relevant governments, broadcasters, partners and venues to ensure the season continues safely and successfully throughout January.”
The Thunder confirmed to Fox Cricket they would be able to field at least 11 players after four tested positive in the last 24 hours.
The concern for state health authorities had revolved around close contacts within the Thunder team. Though all other players and coaches have since returned negative PCR tests.
All Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers players have been undertaking Rapid Antigen Tests daily since the beginning of the BBL.
Strikers XI: Matt Short, Jake Weatherald, Matt Renshaw, Jon Wells, Thomas Kelly, George Garton, Harry Nielsen (wk), Rashid Khan, Daniel Worrall, Peter Siddle (c), Fawad Ahmed.X-Factor subs: Henry Hunt, Daniel Drew, Henry Hunt (X-factor), Daniel Drew (X-factor)
Thunder XI: Matthew Gilkes, Ollie Davies, Jason Sangha, Sam Billings (wk), Daniel Sams, Ben Cutting, Arjun Nair, Nathan McAndrew, Chris Green (c), Brendan Doggett, Saqib Mahmood, Lachie Hearne (X-factor), Gurinder Sandhu (X-factor)
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