The postponement is the third major incident to affect domestic cricket this summer
South Africa’s final round of four-day domestic franchise fixtures in 2020 have been postponed after a spate of Covid-19 cases in the midst of the country’s second wave of the pandemic. The matches will be replayed in 2021, with domestic cricket on pause until the start of the One Day cup, on January 8.
ESPNcricinfo had earlier reported that 10 of South Africa’s 16-man squad participated in matches where positive cases of coronavirus were detected, putting their participation for the first Test against Sri Lanka in doubt. As a result, with several players infected across at least two of the six franchises, CSA could not take the risk of having the round that was scheduled to start on Sunday go ahead.
That means matches between the Knights and the Cobras at Newlands, between the Warriors and Dolphins in Port Elizabeth, and between the Lions and Titans in Johannesburg will be played at a later stage. All three venues are in provinces where infections are climbing at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country, which is how CSA explained their decision for the games not to go ahead.
“The decision to postpone the upcoming round of four-day matches, which were scheduled from 20-23 December, comes in light of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic which is currently affecting South Africa. In addition, some of the host stadiums are in Covid-19 hotspots,” a CSA statement read.
Further, CSA has one eye on the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka and would not want to incur further infections before that begins, which resulted in putting the breaks on the domestic game. Those in the national squad, including the 10 who were involved in the Covid-19 affected matches, have been tested today and will be tested two more times before being given the all-clear to play.
South Africa are due to go into camp on Saturday, when they will be tested and isolated in their rooms, with training to take place on a one-on-one basis for the first 72 hours.
They will then be tested again on Tuesday ahead of the first day of the series next Thursday.
“CSA is committed to mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020-21 season, with the upcoming two-match Test Series between South Africa and Sri Lanka being played in a bio-secure environment, which is a more controlled space than the domestic competition,” Graeme Smith, director of cricket said.
The postponement of this round of fixtures is the third major incident to affect domestic cricket this summer. Six players from the Warriors were forced out of the first two rounds of competition after two tested positive and four were deemed close contacts. The Warriors lost both matches.
Then, earlier this week, the match between the Titans and Dolphins was called off after the first day’s play when a Dolphins player tested positive for coronavirus. At least five others from the franchise are also infected, as well as two who returned positive tests before the team traveled to play the Titans, and three others who were close contacts of the player who tested positive on day one.
No decision has been made on when or whether the match will be replayed or if it will be declared a draw, with points shared. The other match affected was between the Lions and the Knights, in which a Lions player tested positive on the third day but the fixture ran to completion.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent