Women’s Cricket World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe called off over Covid variant | Women’s cricket

The qualifying event for the 2022 Women’s Cricket World Cup taking place in Zimbabwe has been abandoned due to the emergence of the new variant of coronavirus in South Africa.

Ireland had been playing in the event in the hope of securing one of the final three places for next year’s showpiece in New Zealand but will now miss out. Bangladesh, Pakistan and the West Indies join the hosts, Australia, England, South Africa and India in the finals by virtue of their place in the ODI rankings.

“We are incredibly disappointed to have to cancel the remainder of this event but with travel restrictions from a number of African countries being imposed at such short notice, there was a serious risk that teams would be unable to return home,” said the International Cricket Council’s head of events, Chris Tetley.

Both South Africa and Zimbabwe have been added to the UK government’s red travel list, meaning anyone arriving in the UK from either country after 4am on Sunday will likely have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days. Many other countries have also imposed their own restrictions on travellers from South Africa.

While Ireland have missed out on the chance to qualify, they will be included in the next cycle of the ICC Women’s Championship along with Sri Lanka, providing an extra opportunity to qualify for the next World Cup after the 2022 edition. Sri Lanka’s scheduled qualifier against West Indies had already been postponed after a member of their support staff tested positive for Covid-19.

“We are disappointed for all the players and teams who are in Zimbabwe at the moment, but from a health and safety perspective this is the correct decision,” said the Cricket Ireland high performance director, Richard Holdsworth. “We will now concentrate on working with the ICC in getting our squad home as soon as practicable.”

“While it’s never the manner in which you hope to qualify for a competition, it is a big result for Ed Joyce and his squad to be part of the 2022-2025 Championship,” Holdsworth added. “It’s not an understatement to say it should see a fundamental change in women’s cricket in Ireland.”

Munster players trained in Pretoria this week before their match against Bulls was called off.
Munster players trained in Pretoria this week before their match against Bulls was called off. Photograph: Gordon Arons/Inpho/Shutterstock

Concerns about the Omicron variant of coronavirus in southern Africa have led to a number of sporting events being called off. South Africa’s three-match men’s ODI series against the Netherlands has been called off “as a result of mounting anxiety and concern” from the touring side, Cricket South Africa has reported.

In rugby union, Cardiff, Scarlets and Munster are all working to get their travelling squads back to the UK and Ireland after their United Rugby Championship games against South African opponents were postponed.

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On Friday night, Cardiff and the Scarlets said they were struggling to fly their teams back from South Africa despite securing a charter plane, while Munster are “working tirelessly on travel plans” as of Saturday morning.

Golf’s European Tour (now known as the DP World Tour) has had to change many of its plans after commencing a three-week swing of events in South Africa this week, with numerous withdrawals from the Joburg Open. England’s Ross Fisher was one of 18 players from the UK and Ireland to withdraw.

The event has now been reduced to 54 holes, with next week’s South African Open in Sun City will take place solely as a Sunshine Tour event with a reduced prize fund. The Alfred Dunhill Championship, due to take place at Leopard Creek from 9-12 December, has been cancelled.

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