Legends come out of retirement for bushfire relief

Some of Australia's greatest players confirmed for charity match as part of triple-header of cricket to raise money for bushfire victims

UPDATE, February 5: The Bushfire Bash will no longer go ahead as scheduled on Saturday at the SCG. FULL STORY HERE

Cricket legends Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting will come out of retirement for a star-studded charity game early next month that will raise money for victims of Australia’s devastating bushfires.

Cricket Australia today announced a range of initiatives to help those impacted by the fires, with the headline act to be the Bushfire Cricket Bash on February 8, where Warne and Ponting will captain the two sides.

Donate to cricket's Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery fund

Retired stars Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Justin Langer, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson and Alex Blackwell will also take part, while former men’s Test and ODI skipper Steve Waugh and former Australian women’s player Mel Jones will also be involved in a non-playing capacity.

The Bushfire Cricket Bash will form part of a blockbuster Saturday triple-header of cricket on February 8 alongside a women’s T20 international between Australia and India at Junction Oval in Melbourne and the men’s KFC BBL Final.

Cricket's triple-header for Bushfire Relief

Saturday February 8

Match 1: Commonwealth Bank Women’s Tri-Series T20I, Australia v India, Junction Oval, Melbourne

Match 2: Bushfire Cricket Bash, Ponting XI v Warne XI (venue TBC)

Match 3: KFC Big Bash League Final, TBC v TBC (venue TBC)

There will be fundraising initiatives across all three matches and all money raised will be donated to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.

The Bushfire Cricket Bash will be played in the afternoon and act as a curtain raiser for the BBL Final. Consequently, the venue won’t be determined until January 31 when the host of the BBL final is decided.

All three games will be broadcast around Australia on both the Seven Network and Fox Cricket.

"The Bushfire Cricket Bash will be Cricket Australia’s major fundraising initiative to support Australians impacted by the recent unprecedented bushfire emergency," CA's CEO Kevin Roberts said in a statement.

SCG honours firefighters with a minute’s applause

"People the world over have seen the overwhelming images of hundreds of thousands of hectares burnt, precious lives lost, hundreds of properties destroyed and the devastating loss of wildlife as a result of the fires. These images have reinforced the need to get behind organisations like the Australian Red Cross which is responding to the immediate requirements of people who have lost loved ones, their homes, and their livelihoods."

The 10 former players already confirmed to take part in the Bushfire Cricket Bash – Ponting, Warne, Gilchrist, Lee, Watson, Langer, Clarke, Blackwell, Waugh and Jones – played more than more than 3000 international matches between them and more greats of the game are expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Warne has already made a significant contribution to help bushfire victims with his treasured Baggy Green cap fetching more than $1 million in an auction last week, with all money going to the Red Cross fund.

Australia’s international and BBL cricketers have also donated tens of thousands of dollars through a range of initiatives this summer, while Test skipper Tim Paine and spinner Nathan Lyon visited firefighters in the NSW Southern Highlands last week.

CA has also today injected $2 million into a fund to assist community cricket clubs impacted by the fires, and confirmed the Gillette ODI Series between Australia and New Zealand in March will be dedicated to volunteers and emergency services workers.

Under the new-look BBL finals system introduced for this season, the top two ranked teams will play off in The Qualifier on January 31, with the home ground of the team that wins that match to host the final – and the Bushfire Relief game – eight days later.

Paine and Lyon visit bushfire ravaged communities

Currently, the Melbourne Stars (MCG) and Sydney Sixers (SCG) hold the top two spots on the ladder with 24 regular season games to come.

The women's match, part of the Commonwealth Bank T20 tri-series that is a prelude to this year’s World Cup, was already scheduled to be played at Junction Oval on the afternoon of February 8. The staging of the charity match in afternoon means the women’s T20 has now been brought forward to earlier in the day to avoid a scheduling clash.

Cricket has a long history of organising charity games to raise money for victims of significant natural disasters, most recently with the World XI v Asia XI game at the MCG following the Asian tsunami in 2004. Almost 80,000 fans packed into the MCG on that occasion to watch the likes of Ponting, Warne, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Muttiah Muralidaran in a match that was granted official ODI status.

Image Id: 3A34FE632A6043DAB6D0C52873CF786A Image Caption: Warne and Tendulkar at a charity match after the 2004 tsunami // Getty

There were also charity matches played in Australia following the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires and the 1967 fires that devastated Tasmania.

CA today also announced funding for each of its staff to take three paid days of leave to volunteer and help those in affected communities, which represents more than 4000 days of assistance.

"While the financial support of rebuilding is without doubt one of the best ways to contribute, we know the recovery efforts will take months beyond the fires being managed and we want to do what we can to support these communities," Roberts said.

Cricket's triple-header for Bushfire Relief

Saturday February 8

Match 1: Commonwealth Bank Women’s Tri-Series T20I, Australia v India, Junction Oval, Melbourne

Match 2: Bushfire Cricket Bash, Ponting XI v Warne XI (venue TBC)

Match 3: KFC Big Bash League Final, TBC v TBC (venue TBC)