Cricket Australia (CA) is preparing for the possibility that smoke from the latest bushfire crisis in the country and extreme heat may see play suspended or abandoned in some of the biggest games of the Australian home summer. One of the matches that is of immediate concern is the traditional New Year’s Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), which will involve Australia and New Zealand starting January 3, 2020. A Big Bash League (BBL) game between Sydney Thunder and Adelaide Strikers was called off on Saturday night after umpires deemed the smoke which had enveloped Manuka Oval in Canberra made conditions as 'too dangerous to continue'. The Strikers needed to only bowl four more balls for the game against the Sydney Thunder to be completed, but the umpires changed their mind after a wind change covered the ground in smoke.
At least two players sought medical treatment after the game as a result of the smoke, including Australia's veteran Test bowler Peter Siddle. Siddle has been named in Australia's squad for the upcoming Boxing Day Test. Players on both sides were wearing black armbands for two volunteer firemen killed last week.
Elsewhere, play was almost suspended in a Sheffield Shield match at the SCG between Queensland and NSW earlier this month even though it was completed in the end. Some of the players such as Usman Khawaja and Steve O'Keefe, both of whom have played for Australia's national team in the past, described the conditions as “shocking” and “worse than India”. New Zealand cancelled the first day of a tour match in Melbourne on Friday because of “extremely high temperatures” and numerous games were suspended or abandoned across Sydney on Saturday. At least three first grade matches were delayed because of smoke from nearby fires. The local T20 competition was cancelled in Adelaide on Friday night when the temperature hit 46 degrees celsius. Sydney has been shrouded in smoke for much of the past few weeks, prompting fears it may impact the New Year's Test starting Friday week.
Cricket Australia's Cricket Operations Manager Peter Roach said that the rules were in place, like rain, to add time or suspend play. He added that the smoke came in quickly but disappeared soon as well. Roach said that it was unlikely that the smoke would have a full day's presence. He added that they might see some challenges across the day but they would play it like rain or adverse weather and time can be added on any given day. He was hopeful that Australia and New Zealand will be able to play a proper, full and a good quality Test match in Sydney.