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Another blow for 'worst ever' England Test tour

Cricket

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting says England’s Test team is the worst ever to visit Australia, as its disastrous Ashes campaign worsens with coach Chris Underwood to miss the fourth Test in Sydney due to COVID.

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Australia retained the Ashes inside 12 days – England spent longer in quarantine before the start of the tour – after an innings-and-14-run win at Melbourne moved them into an unassailable 3-0 lead.

The tourists’ collapse to 68 all out in the second innings of the Boxing Day Test was labelled “embarrassing” by a couple of former players and Ponting believes many of their batters are not up to scratch at the highest level.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a worse-performing team in Australia than what I’ve seen over the last three games,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.

Ponting led Australia to a 5-0 victory during the 2006-07 Ashes campaign during which England lost by 277 runs, 206 runs, an innings and 99 runs, ten wickets, and six wickets.

He added: “Some of the English top-order batters that I’ve seen in the last couple of tours, without giving names, there’s some techniques there that I just know are not going to stand up at Test level.

“In challenging conditions and world-class bowlers up against sub-standard techniques, then you get what happened (at the MCG). What I’ve seen with their batting, they’re just simply not good enough.”

It comes as England coach Chris SIlverwood will miss the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney after the COVID-19 outbreak in the touring team’s camp grew to seven.

Silverwood awoke on Thursday to the news that he had been identified as a close contact, after a family member in the touring party contracted the virus.

The under-fire England coach returned a negative result in the latest round of tests, but will remain in Melbourne and isolate for 10 days.

With the Sydney Test starting on Wednesday he is not expected to be available for any of the match and batting coach Graham Thorpe is expected to take over as England’s head coach in the interim.

Bowling coach Jon Lewis and spin bowling coach Jeetan Patel are believed to be among others staying behind in Victoria as well as strength and conditioning coach Darren Veness.

The latest case has sparked fears of the outbreak growing again within the England camp.

A member of the family group felt unwell on the night of Boxing Day, and rapid tests the following morning showed a positive case.

The entire touring party was then rapid tested on the morning of day two, with all players returning negatives but a total of four cases found in the tour party.

Those four results were then backed up by PCR tests later that night, providing a further two cases in non-playing members of the group.

Officials continue to cross their fingers that the virus has not spread to the playing group.

The England players are being tested daily under a new regime introduced following the initial positive case, with the rest of the series remaining under some threat.

England players are due to share a chartered flight with the Australians to Sydney on Friday, before they all stay at a hotel booked out exclusively for the groups.

Cricket Australia are adamant the Sydney Test can go ahead as planned, despite raidly rising case numbers in the city and the outbreak in England’s camp.

-with AAP

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