Pretoria: The illness epidemic that has beset the England team since arriving in South Africa a fortnight ago claimed more victims on Saturday when captain Joe Root and wicketkeeper Jos Buttler were declared unwell.
Root left the field not long after the start of the third day’s play at Centurion Park on Saturday with a fever and stomach problems, a team spokesman said.
He was immediately isolated from the rest of the team.
Before play, Buttler had been declared unwell with Jonny Bairstow taking over the gloves as South Africa resumed their second innings on 72-4.
Influenza has ravaged England with several players and staff taken ill since arriving on 14 December.
Bowlers Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Jack Leech missed out on the two warm-up games before the start of the first Test with spinner Leech still quarantined at the team’s hotel.
Ollie Pope was also struck down and missed out on a chance to play in the first Test, although Archer and Broad recovered in time to be selected.
Chris Woakes fell ill on the eve of the Test and Mark Wood reported sick on Thursday — although neither were expected to play in Pretoria.
England officials said the pair are also separated from their teammates at their hotel.
Ben Stokes battled with dehydration during the first day of the Test on Thursday but recovered to both bat and bowl on Friday.
England’s team had only one week back home in cold conditions after returning from two Tests in New Zealand before flying to the South African summer – with the change of climate initially blamed for causing the flu.
“There are a lot of theories going around but no one has nailed the cause. If it was that, it would surely be over it now but it keeps striking team members,” a team spokesman told Reuters on Saturday.
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Early season pitches in South Africa tend to give some help to both pace and spin, so it is possible that the matches could provide a reasonable contest between bat and ball instead of providing feasts of attacking batting.
Originally, the series was due to begin in Cape Town Friday, but the match was called off just one hour before the scheduled start after the revelation of the positive test.
Two members of the South African squad have tested positive for COVID since the squad assembled last week and two other players had to go into isolation because of their close contact with one of the infected players.