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New COVID-19 variant forces postponement of final two ODIs between hosts SA and Netherlands
The three-match ODI series between South Africa and Netherlands was on Saturday postponed amid concerns over a new variant of COVID-19 in the country.
The first ODI, part of the World Cup Super League, was abandoned due to heavy rain in Centurion on Friday. The next two matches were also scheduled at the same venue on November 28 and December 1. However, due to the emergence of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, the two cricket boards -- Koninklijke Nederlandse Cricket Bond (KNCB) and Cricket South Africa (CSA) -- mutually decided to defer the series.
"We are disappointed by the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in, but the comfort of all visiting teams must always be paramount," said Pholetsi Moseki, the acting CEO of Cricket South Africa.
"The mental well-being of players is CSA's top priorities and we respect our visitors' position and point of view. CSA and KNCB will get into discussions around possibly rescheduling the tour within this cycle of the ICC Future Tours Programme ending in 2023," he added.
Nethelands coach Ryan Campbell had said in a tweet that the team played the first ODI under "unbelievable pressure hanging over their heads" after many countries including UK, USA and the European Union imposed restrictions on flights arriving from South Africa.
"We are saddened by these circumstances but are grateful to Cricket South Africa for their assistance and understanding of our team's position," said Jurgen Delfos, the Chairman of the KNCB.
"It must be made clear that the concerns are strictly over travel issues and how soon the team can get home and have nothing to do with the integrity of the Bio-Secure Environment (BSE) that CSA has successfully hosted," said Delfos.
"Our team has been pleased with every aspect of the organisation of the tour and have been well treated by our hosts. We have been looking forward to this series against the Proteas for some time and are keen on returning to South Africa in the near future," he added.
Following the washout of the first ODI, Netherlands remained in the last spot on the points table, while South Africa are in ninth, outside the automatic qualification zone.
The detection of the new variant -- B.1.1.529 -- has set alarm bells ringing across the globe with scientists believing that the high number of spike mutations could make the new variant more resistant to vaccines, making it more transmissible and cause an increase in the severity of COVID-19 symptoms.