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.
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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.
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