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, with Bangladesh, Pakistan and the West Indies joining the hosts, Australia, England, South Africa and India by virtue of their place in the ODI rankings.
Ireland will be handed one of two remaining places in the next cycle of the ICC Women’s Championship along with Sri Lanka.
Both South Africa and Zimbabwe have been added to the UK Government’s red travel list, meaning anyone arriving from South Africa after 4am on Sunday will likely have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, with many other countries imposing their own restrictions.
ICC head of events Chris Tetley said: “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.”
Cricket Ireland high performance director Richard Holdsworth said: “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. 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 Women’s Championship. It’s not an understatement to say it should see a fundamental change in women’s cricket in Ireland.”
In the men’s game, the final two matches of South Africa’s three-match ODI series against Holland has also been cancelled after game one at Centurion was washed out on Friday.
Cricket South Africa said the decision was made “as a result of mounting anxiety and concern” from the tourists about the travelling situation.
In rugby union, Cardiff, Scarlets and Munster were all attempting to get back to the UK and Ireland after their games against South African opposition in the United Rugby Championship were postponed.
Munster released a statement on Saturday morning saying the club “continue to work tirelessly on travel plans for getting the touring party back to Ireland as soon as possible”.
On Friday night, Cardiff and the Scarlets said they were struggling to fly their teams back from South Africa despite securing a charter plane.
Speaking to S4C’s Y Clwb Rygbi (The Rugby Club) programme on Friday night, Scarlets executive chairman Simon Muderack admitted it would be “pretty tight” for the region to beat the arrival deadline.
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.
The event was reduced to 54 holes to “help non-South African resident players, caddies and tournament support staff return to their home countries”, with 2010 Ryder Cup star Ross Fisher joining 18 other players from the UK and Ireland in choosing not to complete the event. Fifty-four later became 36 when bad weather meant finishing the tournament on time became impossible.
Next week’s South African Open in Sun City will take place solely as a Sunshine Tour event with a reduced prize fund, while the following week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship has been cancelled.