Cricket

Sutherland likely as Aussie considers all options

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Australia are cautiously optimistic about containing the spread of COVID-19 within their World Cup squad, with Annabel Sutherland looming as Ashleigh Gardner’s likely replacement in Saturday’s game against England.

The remaining Australian players and staff all produced negative COVID-19 tests on Friday ahead of their only training session at Hamilton’s Seddon Park, and they will continue to undergo regular surveillance testing.

Powerful all-rounder Gardner will miss at least Australia’s first two games against England and Pakistan, and likely their third against New Zealand, after being diagnosed with COVID-19 during regular testing and now forced to self-isolate for 10 days.

Sutherland and fellow all-round bowler Nicola Carey have played in Australia’s two most recent ODIs during the Ashes, but only entered the XI when Beth Mooney and Darcie Brown were rested, and therefore looked most likely to make way for Seddon Park on Saturday.

Versatile spin bowler Grace Harris is Gardner’s closest replacement, but off-spin is not seen as a preferred option against England’s all-right-handed batting line-up, and Gardner has none played only one in all three ODI Ashes.

Meanwhile, Sutherland presented a compelling record with an aggressive half-century in the first warm-up against the West Indies, as she won a career-best 4-31 in the third Ashes ODI in Melbourne.

“Obviously we have sympathy for Ash, it’s a shame she tested positive,” Australia captain Meg Lanning told reporters on Friday.

“From what I heard she is fine and we have tried to keep in touch with her as best we can.

“In terms of the line-up, we’re still working on what exactly that looks like.

“Annabel Sutherland plays extremely well at bowling and batting so she’s an option there. Nic Carey has also bowled some really good innings for Australia and also hit some good overs so we think we have options. .”

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There are an anxious few days left for Australia before they can safely say they are safe from new COVID-19 cases, but Lanning said they were cautiously optimistic with the group taking extra precautions at the beyond ICC regulations.

The source of Gardner’s infection remains a mystery, but Lanning confirmed that there were no violations of ICC restrictions. The all-rounder has remained in Christchurch to self-isolate, where she is supported by national coach Shawn Flegler, and the pair are expected to travel to Wellington to join the Australian squad following Gardner’s release on March 12.

“I guess there were some nerves around whether it spread within the band,” Lanning said.

“In a way, it’s kind of inevitable, given the number of cases that are in New Zealand, so we expected it could happen – but the fact that we were able to isolate it only for Ash at the moment is a really good sign.

“It’s just sort of a day-to-day thing (and) we’ve been very careful over the last few days, just to make sure we could isolate it as much as possible.

“But it’s about finding that balance trying to be able to escape cricket and have fun off the pitch while still being very careful.”

All World Cup teams live under restrictions that limit their contact with people outside their team bubble, but they are allowed to dine out and buy takeaway food and drink.

When asked if stricter rules should be in place to protect the integrity of the tournament, as New Zealand approached the peak of its Omicron wave and recorded 22,527 cases on Friday, Anya Shrubsole’s quick response in England was adamant.

“Having been involved in very strict COVID bubbles, my answer would be no,” Shrubsole said.

“Mentally, they’re really, really tough and I think asking players to do it over and over again just isn’t viable.

“It’s the reality, it’s been two years now and COVID is not going away and we need to find a way globally with the governing bodies to make it work with a bit of the COVID context.

“I’m absolutely disgusted for Ash that this happened to him, but I think it’s inevitable and I don’t think the answer is really strict biosecurity bubbles because they’re just not realistic over a long period of time.

“I guess it puts everyone on high alert and you know it’s always a possibility. Fingers crossed there aren’t too many and we can have a really good tournament.”

ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022

Australia team: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes (vc), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Ashleigh Gardner, Grace Harris, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Alana King, Beth Mooney, Tahlia McGrath, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Annabel Sutherland, Amanda – Jade Wellington. Traveling Reserves: Heather Graham, Georgia Redmayne

Australia 2022 World Cup schedule

March 5: v England, Seddon Park, Hamilton, 12.00pm AEDT

8 March : v Pakistan, Bay Oval, Tauranga, 12pm AEDT

March 13: v New Zealand, Basin Reserve, Wellington, 8:00 a.m. AEDT

March 15: v West Indies, Basin Reserve, Wellington, 8:00 AEDT

March 19: v India, Eden Park, Auckland, 12:00pm AEDT

March 22: v South Africa, Basin Reserve, Wellington, 8:00 a.m. AEDT

March 25: v Bangladesh, Basin Reserve, Wellington, 8:00am AEDT

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL WORLD CUP SCHEDULE

Semi-finals

March 30: Basin Reserve, Wellington, 8:00 a.m. AEDT

March, 31st : Hagley Park Christchurch, 12pm AEDT

Final

April 3: Hagley Park Christchurch, 11am AEDT

All matches will be shown in Australia on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports