Injury and COVID-19 restrictions have ruled out star Australian opener David Warner from featuring in the Boxing Day Test.
The 34-year-old will sit out a second straight match as he recovers from a groin injury suffered in last month’s ODI series against India.
With young gun Will Pucovski already ruled out of making his Test debut at the MCG, it means Australia could remain unchanged for the second instalment of the series.
Matthew Wade will again partner a resurgent Joe Burns at the top of the order after they put on a 70-run stand in Saturday’s successful second innings chase.
Warner is in Melbourne, but has been outside of the Australian team’s COVID-safe hub.
Warner and fellow Australian squad member Sean Abbott travelled from Sydney to Melbourne to continue their injury rehabilitation as the northern beaches COVID-19 cluster grew.
The pair will both re-join the Australian team ahead of the third Test, which is still scheduled for the SCG but likely to be moved to the MCG because of Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak.
“Warner and Abbott spent time in Sydney outside the team’s biosecure hub to recover from injury,” an Australian team spokesperson said.
“While neither player has been in a specific ‘hotspot’ as outlined by NSW Health, Cricket Australia’s biosecurity protocols do not allow them to rejoin the squad in time for the Boxing Day Test.”
Warner last played a Test match in January when he smashed an unbeaten 111 against New Zealand at the SCG.
Confirmation Warner and Abbott would not be allowed inside the team’s hub came on another busy day of virus developments for the sport.
NSW launched a bold bid to host two Tests in January, claiming it could help Cricket Australia avoid any issues crossing into the closed Queensland border.
Under the idea, the SCG would host the third Test on January 7 as planned as well as the fourth a week later, meaning players, officials and broadcasters would not need a border exemption.
While that plan would look unlikely, it would not be lost on CA the swift action the NSW government took to allow India into the country in November.
The quick biosecurity plans at the time came after officials had trouble getting India clearance to train while in hotel quarantine if they arrived in Queensland as planned.
Any changes to the schedule still need approval from Indian authorities.
Meanwhile NSW’s state government also gave the biggest hint on what crowd capacities would be if any cricket was played in Sydney in January.
On Wednesday it was confirmed A-League crowds would be capped at 50 per cent in stadiums until the end of December, down from the previous 100 per cent.
CA must still decide on what to do with not only the SCG Test from January 7, but eight Big Bash matches scheduled to be played in Sydney.