The Ashes series faces uncertain future after COVID-19 scare threatens third Test

England and Australia faced a nervous overnight wait for COVID-19 test results before starting play, with the virus affecting a number of England's touring party.

The Boxing Day Test in Melbourne was plunged into uncertainty on the second morning, with a family member of a player showing symptoms during the previous evening, before eventually testing positive the following day.

It's been the only positive result of England's tour so far, but has put the entire series into doubt, with a further three positives being discovered in a later round of testing.

Crucially, all the playing squad came back negative, meaning the Test eventually did take place, with England bowling Australia all out for 267 before ending the day on 31 for four.

Following the positive tests, talks took place between England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison, who linked up with the side this week, his Cricket Australia counterpart Nick Hockley and local health officials in Victoria.

They decided that play could go ahead with nothing more than a half-hour delay. Stuart Broad and Craig Overton, who were not in the playing XI this week, did not travel to the MCG as a precaution.

It was agreed that both teams would take PCR tests, which take longer to process but are more reliable indicators, on Monday evening. Should there be cases within either camp the match and the series would be in doubt.

Playing conditions do currently allow for COVID-19 substitutes but the scale of any additional spread, plus who counts as a close contact, leaves plenty of unanswered questions.

Both teams adopted more stringent measures around the shared dressing room spaces but there was no attempt at distancing on the field of play, as each team celebrated wickets with a joyous embrace.

When discussing the possibility of not playing all five Tests, England bowler James Anderson reiterated that the squad is keen to carry on as they look to fight back from 2-0 down.

"As long as the group that's at the ground today are negative I don't see why we can't carry on," he said.

"I'm sure that's the plan but it depends on PCR tests and what situation that leaves us in. It's very hard for me to answer that, to be honest. We're all having PCR tests now and we'll need all those to be clear really, if possible. We'll just have to wait and see what the results are.

"That will get talked about by much more important people than me if and when those results come back."

England made it clear in the build-up to the series that they were unwilling to accept a hard bubble 'lockdown' on tour, which will likely have an impact on the conversations taking place in the hours and days to come.

The next Test is due to take place in Sydney - Australia's Covid hot-spot. Should the hosts wrap up a 3-0 lead this week, then it poses further questions about the importance of the final two tests.

READ MORE: James Anderson insists bowlers won't turn on batters despite collapse in third Test

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