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
Showtime Boxing: Angelo Leo vs. Stephen Fulton fight prediction, card, odds, start time, how to watch
Undefeated junior featherweights Angelo Leo and Stephen Fulton were originally set to fight for the then-vacant WBO super bantamweight title this past August. Unfortunately, Fulton tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the planned scrap and Leo instead beat Tramaine Williams to capture the title.
Leo and Fulton are finally ready to face off on Saturday, meeting in the main event of a triple header from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut (9 p.m. ET, Showtime). In a sport that often keeps young, talented and undefeated prospects separate for as long as possible, it’s a refreshing change of pace to see the commitment to putting these two in the ring for Leo’s WBO title.
“I’ve known I was going to fight Fulton for almost a year now,” Leo told The Ring. “I’ve been preparing for him for a while. Now that it has finally come, everything we have worked on has come more naturally to me.
“It’s going to be a great match up. It’s what boxing needs: You’ve got two undefeated fighters, two fighters in their prime with similar records. What more can you ask for? All the way around, on paper, it looks like a great fight. But deep down inside, I know I’ll come out with the victory.”
The fight represents an opportunity for Fulton to become world champion after holding some secondary and fringe titles in his first 18 fights. It’s a moment Fulton says he’s ready to take advantage of.
“To me, it means everything to be a world champion from Philadelphia,” Fulton told ESPN. This is what I’ve been working for my whole career. To my city, it would show people from my neighborhood that there’s a way out. But I don’t feel any pressure because of it. This sport teaches us the discipline to perform in moments like this. The pressure is just a part of my job.”
Plus, Vic Pasilas and Raeese Aleem will square off in the co-main event with the interim WBA super bantamweight title on the line. Pasillas boasts an undefeated record at 16-0 with nine knockouts to his name. Aleem is also unbeaten at 17-0 with 11 knockouts. The winner will be next in line to challenge full WBA champ Brandon Figueroa.
Leo vs. Fulton card, odds
Stephen Fulton -160
Angelo Leo (c) +135
WBO super bantamweight title
Vacant interim WBA super bantamweight title
Rolando Romero (c)
Interim WBA lightweight title
Leo vs. Fulton is a very competitive fight on paper. Both men have a lot of skill and Leo easily handled a decent — though not great — opponent in Williams to win the WBO title last time out. Fulton isn’t likely to blow the doors off anyone with sheer power. He only has eight knockouts in 18 fights. But his skills are enough that he doesn’t require that kind of one-punch power. Fulton works well off the jab and has good hand speed to follow up that jab with straight shots that can connect before the opponent has even reacted to the initial shot. With neither man having that one-shot knockout power, it’s possible they have the confidence to mix it up a bit and there’s potential for an exciting fight to break out. All that said, Fulton’s edge in speed should be enough for him to get off first and control the action. Pick: Stephen Fulton via UD
Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs England 2nd Test 2020/21
TeaSri Lanka 381 (Mathews 110, Dickwella 92, Dilruwan 67, Chandimal 52, Anderson 6-40) vs England
An ageless James Anderson bagged six wickets while delivering England the breakthroughs they needed against Sri Lanka on the second day of the second Test. The home side fought their way into a strong position, however, through impressive innings from Niroshan Dickwella and Dilruwan Perera.
By shortly after lunch, Anderson, the 38-year-old seamer playing his 157th Test, had doubled his tally from the first day, adding three more wickets to help end Sri Lanka’s innings on 381 and finish with figures of 6 for 40 off 29 overs.
They were important wickets, too, as he removed centurion Angelo Mathews with his sixth ball on day two and denied Dickwella an elusive Test century. Dickwella gifted Anderson his five-for, chipping to Jack Leach at mid-off for 92, his highest score in 41 Test appearances. Anderson then drew Suranga Lakmal into a poke outside off-stump and Zak Crawley took a sharp catch at gully.
It was Anderson’s second straight five-wicket haul in Tests away from home, following his 5 for 40 in Cape Town a year ago, and the 30th of his career – only Richard Hadlee has more among pace bowlers with 36.
Still, Sri Lanka’s performance represented further improvement with multiple contributors and a stubborn tail. Dilruwan made an impressive fifty from No. 8, taking to Leach in particular, dancing down the pitch three times to plunder fours through mid-on and mid-off and a six down the ground. He helped add 89 in partnership with Dickwella and then another 49 for the last two wickets to frustrate England.
Anderson picked up where he left off the night before but, where Mathews could not, Dickwella stepped up to keep Sri Lanka in an engaging tussle through the morning session.
Mathews added just three runs to his overnight score before a subdued England appealed for what appeared to be lbw, with the ball appearing to pass the inside edge and deflecting via the knee roll to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. Mathews was originally given not out but Joe Root called for a review and UltraEdge revealed a spike as the ball passed the bat to end Mathews’ fine innings and give Anderson his fourth wicket for the match.
Anderson continued in miserly fashion, conceding just five runs from his four-over spell.
Dickwella, meanwhile, shifted gears into drive, quite literally at times, as he assumed the lead upon debutant Ramesh Mendis’ arrival at the crease. Dickwella unfurled a series of well-timed boundaries, carving Sam Curran through backward point and punching Mark Wood through long-on.
A fantastic take by Buttler had Mendis out for a duck, a faint edge off Wood going down the leg side and finding Buttler’s glove at full stretch to his left.
Sri Lanka had lost two wickets for 11 runs in the space of 19 balls but Dickwella remained in excellent touch, piercing the covers with two beautiful drives, first off Wood then Anderson. He used Wood’s pace to guide the ball effortlessly to the rope at fine leg before bringing up his fifty with a single off Dom Bess, whom he then swept twice to the boundary.
Leach joined Bess in the attack as England opted for dual spinners after the first hour, to Perera’s delight. Bess was also on the receiving end of some harsh Perera treatment after lunch, spilling a return catch struck so hard it caused considerable pain to Bess’s non-bowling hand.
The spinners went wicketless as Wood’s hard graft was further rewarded with the wicket of Lasith Embuldeniya and Curran finally accounted for last man out Perera, who holed out to Leach at deep backward square leg.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo