ENGLAND’S one-day international (ODI) series against South Africa has been cancelled, after two ‘unconfirmed positive tests’ for Covid-19 in the tourists’ ranks.

Somerset’s Tom Banton and Lewis Gregory are both part of the England camp, as is ex-Somerset star Jos Buttler, who helped secure a 3-0 IT20 series win last week.

The first ODI was due to be played last Friday (December 4), but was postponed after Cricket South Africa said that one of its players had tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday.

That match was moved to Sunday (December 6), but then two members of staff at the Vineyard Hotel in Cape Town tested positive on Saturday.

After Sunday’s game was called off just 30 minutes before it was scheduled to start, England announced that two unnamed members of their party had tested positive, and all players and staff went into self-isolation.

Further games, which were to be played today (December 7) and on Wednesday (December 9), have now been cancelled.

Somerset T20 captain Gregory is set to travel on to Australia from South Africa, having agreed to play for Brisbane Heat in this year’s Big Bash League, which runs from December 10 to February 6.

Gregory’s Somerset team-mate Banton was also due to return to Brisbane - where he played in last season’s Big Bash - but the 22-year-old has now withdrawn from their squad.

Banton spent much of the summer in bio-secure bubbles - at Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl for England’s summer limited-overs series, then in the United Arab Emirates for the Indian Premier League - and now feels it “best to return home to some normality”.

"This decision hasn't been taken lightly, however I've been away from home since July in various 'bio secure bubbles', and with another potential tough 14-day isolation period on arrival in Australia, I felt it was best to return home to some normality," he tweeted.

"I would like to wish the Heat, management, players and supporters all the very best for the season.

"Everyone stay safe, and I look forward to returning next year when hopefully things return to normal."

Banton expanded on his reasoning in talking to the Heat website, saying: "It has been harder than I thought spending so much time in the hubs and bubbles and I came to the realization that it wasn’t doing me much good.

“I know the Heat looked after me really well during the BBL last year and I was confident that they would understand when I spoke to them about going home to regroup.

“I’d like to thank the fans and members who are getting ready to support the Heat during the tournament, and pass on my regrets to them that I won’t be there.

“I will miss playing in front of the crowds at the Gabba and the Gold Coast who were so passionate about the Heat, and hope that I can repeat that experience again in the future.”

“I will be following the lads during the season and hope the fans get behind and support my Somerset captain Lewis Gregory and Dan Lawrence who will be in their first BBL seasons."

Heat head coach Darren Lehmann - who confirmed that Gregory would be available for the club after Christmas, after needing to isolate upon his arrival in Australia - commented: "After speaking with Tom at length, the best option for him is to head home to his family and loved ones and give himself every chance to recover.

"We’ve always been strong as a club that your family comes first and so we back his decision 100 per cent, and hope he is feeling restored and mended very soon.

“It is a very challenging time for many people and cricket is no exception.

"There is no normality or work-life balance which is so important, especially in elite sport.

“The well-being of the players is paramount and I am sure everyone - fans, coaches, administrators, sponsors - recognises that.

"We shouldn’t be critical of individuals making tough decisions, so the best thing to do is to support them and back them.

“It’s a setback for us, but we know there are people in our group, or those coming into our squad, who can rise to the occasion."