Cricket Australia’s COVID protocols saved Boxing Day Test but New Year’s Test in Sydney remains in doubt
Cricket Australia’s COVID protocols saved Boxing Day Test but New Year’s Test in Sydney remains in doubt

Radical option that could salvage SCG Test

The Boxing Day Test has been officially saved by the fine print of cricket's bio-bubble, but the prospects of Sydney hosting a Test match remain in grave doubt.

Sources believe the most likely alternative is for Melbourne to host back-to-back Boxing Day and New Year's Tests, in lieu of Sydney, before the teams head to Brisbane for the series finale.

There was a glimmer of hope for the SCG on Monday night after Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk nominated January 8 as the earliest she would consider reopening her border to Greater Sydney.

If that eventuated, the current sequence of third Test in Sydney and fourth Test in Brisbane could technically still proceed as scheduled.

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But it would require an enormous leap of faith to be taken by Cricket Australia, given the teams would have to travel to Sydney in early January, before Palaszczuk had even made her decision.

Any explosion in community transmissions and Queensland say it will push its timeline back 28 days.

Sydney might remain a massive headache for CA, but there was one major win on Monday night, with the diligent protocols put in place by head office continuing to save the summer.

Had the Indian cricket team been normal citizens they would not be able to gain entry to Victoria when they fly on Tuesday without serving two weeks of quarantine, because the team had been in Greater Sydney up until Monday December 14.

However, CA has secured the Indian squad - and several of its own stars an exemption from the Victorian Government - which means the Boxing Day Test avoids being hit by a series-altering disaster.

Pat Cummins celebrating a wicket during last year’s Boxing Day Test with Tim Paine, Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc. Picture: Michael Klein
Pat Cummins celebrating a wicket during last year’s Boxing Day Test with Tim Paine, Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc. Picture: Michael Klein

Cricket Australia officials will make a final call on the fate of the SCG's New Year's Test later this week, but they are desperate to give Sydney as long as possible after the number of live cases dropped to 15 on Monday, despite a record amount of testing.

Fox Sports will have star Kerry O'Keeffe calling the Boxing Day action from a Sydney studio, while the ABC - who are still trying to get Ian Chappell out of quarantine in South Australia - will have Jim Maxwell also commentating remotely.

The risk of the Queensland border to NSW not reopening in time for the Gabba's Test on January 15 could have major ramifications for broadcast partners, who have been scrambling to get staff out of Sydney to Melbourne as it is.

"On January 8, we will review," said Queensland Health Minister, Yvette D'Ath.

"January 8 is 28 days from an unlinked case, being back to December 11."

Cricket Australia's big-hitters were due to meet on Monday night for further discussions, and another option flagged is to reverse the order of the Brisbane and Sydney Tests, so the Gabba would start on January 7 and the SCG on January 15.

However, there is a feeling that choice would offer up its own challenges, and although it might not be an insurmountable obstacle - the SCG is currently due to host a BBL match on January 16.

 

 

Cricket Australia's biosecurity bubble has proven a masterstroke this summer, and could still play a key role in convincing Queensland to grant exemptions to cricket's travelling roadshow.

James Pattinson was on standby to be subbed into the first Test on day two, before CA managed to get northern beaches resident Mitchell Starc an exemption from South Australia based on the strength of their bubble protocols.

Without the watertight bubble, the entire Indian squad might have been marooned in South Australia and the entire series would have been flipped on its head.

Some had questioned why CA even needed a bubble as the rate of cases dropped to insignificance around the country, but the reason they maintained it was to ensure teams could cross borders even if outbreaks occurred - and it's a piece of wisdom which has saved the summer.

 

Originally published as Radical option that could salvage SCG Test


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