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Australia call off tour, S Africa upset

Australia has pulled out the upcoming Test tour of South Africa because of coronavirus concerns, angering the hosts who say the “eleventh-hour” decision is costly and unnecessary.

Cricket Australia on Tuesday called off next month’s three-Test series due to start on March 3 as the host nation struggles to contain the virus and a new variant.

The decision came down to health and safety risks after discussions with medical experts, Cricket Australia’s interim chief executive Nick Hockley said.

“We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour,” Hockley said.

“This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed, especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time.”

But Cricket South Africa’s director of cricket Graeme Smith believes Australia’s concerns are unfounded given the safety measures the hosts had taken.

“We are extremely disappointed by the decision of CA,” he said in a statement.

“CSA has been working tirelessly in recent weeks to ensure that we meet every single expectation of CA.

“So to be informed about the CA decision at the eleventh hour is frustrating.”

CSA’s acting chief executive officer Pholetsi Moseki said the organisation had already incurred significant costs while preparing for the Australia tour.

“In this challenging period for cricket and its member countries, we believe the stance taken by CA is regrettable and will have a serious impact on the sustainability of the less wealthy cricket playing nations,” he said.

Cricket Australia had earlier said the second wave of the virus in South Africa and the new variant posed too much of a risk for the tour.

“It has become clear that travelling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community,” Hockley said.

“As difficult and disappointing a decision as this is, especially for Justin (Langer), Tim (Paine) and the team, we have a duty of care to our people and their health and safety can’t be compromised.”

South Africa has recorded more than 1.45 million coronavirus cases and more than 44,000 deaths.

The country recently hosted Sri Lanka for two Tests and their side are currently touring Pakistan.

Cricket Australia said they hoped to play the series at a later date.

Australia’s bid to earn a spot in the world Test championship is now out of their hands.

New Zealand are in the box seat to secure one of the spots, while the four-Test series between India and England will determine who snares the other spot.

India, England and Australia are all in the mix for that spot depending on the result of that series.

Cricket Australia isn’t expected to send any of Australia’s Test stars to the T20 tour of New Zealand.

But coach Justin Langer, who was due to go to South Africa with the Test team, could now coach the T20 outfit in New Zealand.

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