T20 blockbuster moved as Auckland enters lockdown

The fourth T20 in the series between New Zealand and Australia will be relocated from Eden Park to Wellington

Australia's fourth T20 International against New Zealand this Friday has been relocated from Auckland to Wellington due to new lockdown restrictions imposed by NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday evening.

Auckland, the scene of a new COVID-19 cluster in the past few days, has gone into Alert Level 3 restrictions amid a week-long lockdown, with the rest of the country on Level 2.

Wellington Regional Stadium, which was already scheduled to host the third T20I on Wednesday, will now be the scene for games three and four, with game five to remain at Tauranga's Mt Maunganui.

The three remaining matches will be played as T20I double-headers alongside the women's series involving the White Ferns and England.

Despite neither Wellington nor Tauranga having reported cases in months, these are likely to be played without crowds - although a final decision on attendance at the series finale will be made in coming days.

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“NZC has confidence in, and continues to operate within the New Zealand government’s alert level protocols,” a New Zealand Cricket spokesperson said on Saturday night.

“This means at level one it’s pretty much business as usual; at level two games are played behind closed doors, and at level three, games are abandoned.”

Most Australian states have already reacted to the Auckland cluster by tightening their borders for those travelling from across the Tasman – a situation that appears likely to impact Australia's 18-player squad and its support staff.

The Australian touring party is currently scheduled to return home on March 8 and anyone travelling from anywhere in New Zealand to Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland is required to undertake two weeks of hotel quarantine, while this is currently only required in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania for those who have spent time in Auckland.

It remains to be seen how Australian state governments react to the latest restrictions in New Zealand and what it means for the Australian squad returning home.

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The news is a major blow to New Zealand Cricket, given tens of thousands of tickets had been sold and matches involving Australia at Auckland's Eden Park are considered a blockbuster event for the governing body.

The Valentine's Day COVID-19 cluster, originally three cases, has spread to 13 people in the past 15 days.

New Zealand currently lead the five-match series two-nil, while the Australian Women's Cricket Team is scheduled to travel across the Tasman in the middle of March.

Qantas T20I tour of New Zealand 2021

Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.

New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Hamish Bennett, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, *Martin Guptill (pending fitness test), Kyle Jamieson, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee. *Finn Allen (on stand-by for Guptill)

1st T20: New Zealand won by 53 runs

2nd T20: New Zealand won by four runs

3rd T20: March 3, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 5pm AEDT

4th T20: March 5, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 5pm AEDT

5th T20: March 7, Bay Oval, Tauranga, 12noon AEDT

All matches will be shown live in Australia on Fox Cricket and Kayo