The Ireland management were anxiously awaiting the latest Covid-19 test results this morning before confirming that the rescheduled second one-day international against UAE could go ahead tomorrow (0530 GMT).
The game, which had been due to take place yesterday, was put back 48 hours after the hosts announced that debutant Alishan Sharafu, who batted at No 4 in Friday’s opening game, had tested positive from the swab taken after the game.
He was actually the third UAE squad member to test positive but the first two, vice-captain Chirag Suri and Aryan Lakra, who were revealed as having tested positive from the swabs taken last Wednesday, were not involved in the first game as they were already in self isolation in a government-run hotel.
The safety protocols in place for this tour involve all squad members being tested two days before each game, so because of the schedule — with the four matches being played on alternate days — the swabs are taken immediately after each game.
Although yesterday’s match was postponed, with the next due on Tuesday, the players were all tested after training yesterday and the results come in overnight.
While the opening game on Friday, which UAE won by six wickets despite an unbeaten century by Paul Stirling, went ahead, because of the revelation of the first two positive tests in the hosts’ squad, it was agreed the teams would not even fist pump each other after the game, as a precaution.
Any player who tests positive cannot be involved again until they return two negatives.
The new proposed schedule for the remaining three games in the series will see the matches all put back two days, so the series will now finish on Saturday, after the scheduled games tomorrow and Thursday.
Even with the extended series against UAE, Ireland will still have a five-day break before the first of the three World Cup Super League games against Afghanistan, also in Abu Dhabi, as that series was put back to start on January 21, to allow their opponents sufficient time to quarantine, after a delay in the players receiving their visas.
The Cricket Ireland statement, released on Saturday announcing the postponement of yesterday’s game said: The Emirates Cricket Board has advised us today of a further positive test amongst its playing squad and we have both agreed the safest course of action is to postpone the second ODI scheduled for tomorrow. We hope to play this match on the 16th January, all going well.
“All Irish players have tested negative. We appreciate the speed and transparency of Emirates Cricket to ensure that the health and safety of players, support staff and workers at the ground comes first.”
Six Ireland players put their names into the Pakistan Super League Draft, but none of Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien, Andrew Balbirnie, Gareth Delany, Harry Tector or George Dockrell, the only member of the sextet not currently in the UAE, was snapped up.
Afghanistan’s three big stars, Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Zadran and Mohammad Nabi, plus Noor Ahmed and Qais Ahmed were all bought. The tournament, which lasts for 31 days, starts on February 20.
Meanwhile, North Down have announced their overseas professional for next season to replace Ruhan Pretorius, whom they released from his contract in November.
Sri Lankan Gayan Maneeshan is a top order batsman who averages 28 in List A cricket and 33 in T20 games and will replace Jamie Magowan, who has returned to Muckamore, as wicket-keeper.
The 29-year-old has a top one-day score of 102 not out and has made three 50s in the shortest format. He has experience of UK conditions, having played two seasons in England with Chorley and one in Scotland.
Joining him at Comber next season will be Irish passport holder Tom Mayes, a 19-year-old South African seam bowler, and Aniruddha Chore, another wicket-keeper batsman who is married to a local girl and has played for Oman A.
The Indian native played his only List A game in 2012 and the last of his 10 first-class games for Vidarbha was in 2015.
Leaving Comber and re-uniting with Pretorius at Woodvale is his opening batting partner from last season Aditya Adey.
The Indian-born all-rounder, a regular on the Emerging Knights team, only moved to North Down last season from Muckamore but the curtailed season left him with few opportunities.
“I’m excited to be joining Woodvale and it will be good to play with Ru again, but I’m just looking forward to playing a full season,” said Adey.
Champions CIYMS have also made what could be a significant signing with North West Warrior all-rounder Graham Kennedy moving from Ballyspallen, and also certain to come into contention for a place in what is turning into a competitive Northern Knights line-up.
Kennedy (21), an Ireland under-19 international, is the latest player to leave the North West for the NCU, following Graham Hume’s move from Coleraine to Waringstown.
Internationals Craig Young, Stuart Thompson, Boyd Rankin and Graeme McCarter now all ply their trade in the Belfast area, after moving south.
Speaking about his latest signing, CIYMS captain Nigel Jones told CricketEurope: “We are delighted and very fortunate that Graham has decided to join us for the 2021 season.
“We look forward to supporting him further with his cricket ambitions.
“There is no question his cricket ability speaks volumes and I’ve no doubt that GK will enjoy the challenges and opportunities that come with playing for CIYMS.”