Ashleigh Gardner to miss start of Women’s Cricket World Cup after COVID-19 diagnosis

Big-hitting Australian all-rounder Ash Gardner will miss the start of the Women’s Cricket World Cup after contracting COVID-19 in New Zealand.

Gardner is set to miss Australia’s opening two matches, beginning with the tournament opener against England on Saturday in Hamilton.

Cricket Australia (CA) says Gardner produced a positive rapid antigen test (RAT) result while in a training camp in the South Island and will have to stay put there in isolation when the team travels north.

She produced the positive RAT on Wednesday morning, receiving confirmation from a positive PCR result on Thursday morning.

“Gardner will remain in Christchurch and, in line with ICC and New Zealand government health guidelines, will continue isolating for 10 days,” the CA statement read.

“All remaining Australian players and support staff have tested negative following subsequent RATs, and will proceed with existing plans to travel to Hamilton.”

A CA staff member is staying in Christchurch to support Gardner.

In January, Gardner received the Belinda Clark Award, deemed Australia’s best women’s cricketer over the last 12 months.

She was the first Indigenous Australian to receive one of Australia’s top cricketing honours, having scored 281 runs at an average of 35.1 across all formats in the previous year.

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Gardner played in a warm-up clash on Tuesday, thrashing 60 off 32 in the high-scoring loss to New Zealand.

Given government rules, she will also be sidelined for Australia’s second match — against Pakistan on Tuesday in Mount Maunganui — before coming into contention for game three against New Zealand in Wellington on March 13.

A bigger concern might be whether the virus could spread to her teammates, even if they are yet to produce positive results.

Governing body ICC has introduced emergency rules for the tournament, allowing matches to go on with just nine players if necessary.

They have also declared their willingness to reschedule matches if required.

New Zealand is in the grip of its worst COVID-19 outbreak during the entire pandemic, with cases topping 20,000 for the first time on Wednesday.

Teams are not confined to bubbles, though precautionary requirements have been taken by both the ICC and teams, including booking out whole floors of hotels, the use of charter planes and limited interaction with outside people.

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