Australia COVID-free ahead of Sydney Ashes Test as squad returns full round of negative tests

Australia are hopeful of a COVID-free fourth Ashes Test after their entire squad tested negative.

Doubts regarding the New Year fixture in Sydney were beginning to grow when batsman Travis Head was found to be carrying the virus prior to the team's departure from Melbourne on Friday.

He was the first player from either side to test positive in what has become a daily screening schedule. Since then, seven members of England's wider touring party, as well as match referee David Boon, had contracted the virus.

Australia had been braced for a wider spread, having called up three cover players, but their entire squad and the support staff came back negative on New Year's Day. One test, for a family member, remains unreported and both teams have taken another round of PCRs, their sixth since the first case was identified in the England camp.

Australia's Scott Boland celebrates the wicket of England's Jonathan Bairstow during day three of the third Ashes test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne. Picture date: Tuesday December 28, 2021.

The home side's replacements - Mitchell Marsh, Nic Maddinson, Josh Inglis - will link up with their team-mates alongside opener Marcus Harris, who did not travel with the main squad as a precaution having dined with Head prior to his test result.

Usman Khawaja is the man most likely to benefit from Head's misfortune having performed 12th man duties for the last three matches and is due to make his first Test appearance since the famous Headingley Test of 2019.

"It's one of those things where even if I do play, it'll only be for one game, I understand that situation," said the 35-year-old.

"Hopefully I can go out there and score a hundred and do well for the team in the absence of 'Heady'. I'm just putting my head down, making sure I'm working really hard and doing the best I can for Australia whenever I get the opportunity."

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