Bushfire smoke causes BBL abandonment
Umpires deem conditions in Canberra too hazardous to continue, cancelling Strikers v Thunder clash during second innings
Louis Cameron at Manuka Oval
21 December 2019, 06:10 PM AEST
Australia's bushfires have had their first major impact on the professional cricket season, with the Sydney Thunder's KFC Big Bash game against the Adelaide Strikers at Manuka Oval abandoned due to heavy smoke on Saturday evening.
Canberra has been blanketed by smoke from fires raging on the New South Wales South Coast and while conditions were deemed safe to begin the match at 6.10pm local time, play was stopped about two hours later when visibility and air quality deteriorated rapidly.
The game was later called off with the Thunder, chasing 162 for victory, on 1-40 after 4.2 overs and just four balls away from the minimum five overs required to constitute a game.
With the ladder-leaders within touching distance of claiming their third-straight win to begin the BBL season, captain Callum Ferguson had been visibly aggrieved when umpires Sam Nogajski and Paul Wilson suspended play.
"He's just annoyed, as you could imagine," Thunder coach Shane Bond told Fox Cricket.
Unless they lost three wickets from the next four balls, the Thunder would have been deemed the winners under the Duckworth Lewis Stern method if play had been called off after Rashid Khan had finished his over.
Instead, the Strikers and the Thunder split the points.
"I understand that the Thunder have four balls to go. We can't take that into consideration," umpire Wilson said on Fox. "It's about air quality. We would not have started like this.
Added his counterpart Nogajski: "There was one (ball) that was hit to square leg then and Paul (Wilson) had a problem picking it up.
"Visibility is very difficult. We can smell the smoke and the air quality itself is something else."
The Air Quality Index in Canberra has hovered at a "hazardous" level this evening, according to ACT Health. Their website advised all Canberrans "to avoid physical activity outside".
Several spectators and event staff wore smoke masks as breathing became increasingly difficult as the sun went down, and post-match, a press release issued by Cricket Australia described the playing conditions as "dangerous and unreasonable".
"It's been a bit hard to breathe all game, really," Adelaide Strikers opener Jake Weatherald said on Fox. "You can see it coming though.
"Even the smell a little bit – we noticed it yesterday when we were training. We were training and there was this repugnant smell of fire … it was like you were standing next to a fire.
"Then we looked down the ground and you could barely see the other side of the ground."
Bushfire smoke shrouded the SCG earlier this month during the final day of NSW's Marsh Sheffield Shield match against Queensland, but play was never suspended and conditions were significantly worse on Saturday.
"It's as thick of a smoke that I've ever seen at a cricket ground," 128-Test former batsman Mark Waugh said on commentary.
Strikers batter Jono Wells had earlier struck an unbeaten 55 off just 32 balls to lift the Strikers to 6-161 after new leading wicket taker Daniel Sams and South African import Chris Morris took two wickets apiece.
While Billy Stanlake had Usman Khawaja caught at slip on the second ball of the Thunder innings, the Strikers' total look decidedly below par after Ferguson raced to 27 not out from 14 balls and had the run rate touching 10 an over.
Adelaide Strikers XI: Jake Weatherald, Phil Salt, Matt Short, Alex Carey (c), Jon Wells, Cameron White, Cameron Valente, Rashid Khan, Peter Siddle, Wes Agar, Billy Stanlake #BBL09— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) December 21, 2019