Visibility got poor during Sydney Thunder’s chase © Getty Images
Sydney Thunder 1 for 40 v Adelaide Strikers 5 for 161 (Wells 55, Carey 45, Weatherald 42) – Match abandoned
The BBL match in Canberra was abandoned – four balls short of being a game – after smoke from the devastating bushfires which are raging in New South Wales drifted back over Manuka Oval on Saturday evening leading the umpires to suspend play due to poor visibility and air quality.
The situation did not improve by the 9.14pm cut-off time to resume the game so each side took one point. The Thunder were ahead of both what the par score after five overs (34) and what an adjusted five-over target would have been had there been time to resume for five more deliveries (38). When play was initially suspended, Callum Ferguson showed his frustration although players and officials from both sides were quick to express their understanding of the situation.
“I understand that the Thunder have four balls to go. We can’t take that into consideration,” umpire Paul Wilson said on Fox Cricket. “It’s about air quality. We would not have started like this.”
A BBL statement said: “The KFC Big Bash League advises that tonight’s match between the Sydney Thunder and Adelaide Strikers at Manuka Oval has been abandoned due to dangerous and unreasonable playing conditions. The decision was taken by match officials after conducting a thorough assessment of conditions at the ground, with participant safety the number one priority. The League and all Clubs wish to reiterate that our thoughts and best wishes are with the people and communities affected by the current bushfire emergency.”
Conditions had been assessed before the game started – with hazardous levels of air quality reported in the region – following heavy smoke at the venue on Friday, but the air had cleared sufficiently for the match to begin on schedule. The first innings was completed without incident, but in a matter of minutes during the chase the smoke rolled in across the ground.
“It’s been a bit hard to breathe all game, really,” Jake Weatherald said to the host broadcaster shortly after play was suspended. “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 is the first professional match to have its result impacted by the fierce bushfire season which has struck across Australia. Earlier this month the Sheffield Shield game between New South Wales and Queensland at the SCG was completed in extremely hazy conditions which raised a health and safety debate. There are concerns about the situation that could arise during the New Year Test at the SCG early next month with Sydney having been blanketed in smoke regularly in recent weeks.
Though when this match was called off the Thunder were within touching distance of victory, if the game had run its distance the Strikers could have come back. Rashid Khan was just two balls into his first over although the in-form Ferguson was hitting the ball crisply after Usman Khawaja had been superbly held at slip by Cameron White as Alex Carey dived in front of him.
The Strikers’ innings had started poorly with Daniel Sams beginning with a wicket maiden, removing Phil Salt for a five-ball duck, before Matt Short was lbw sweeping at Jono Cook. However, Weatherald began the recovery with a well-paced 42 only to be undone by Sam’s perfect slower-ball.
When Chris Morris, making his first appearance for the Thunder, removed Alex Carey and Rashid in the space of three balls it appeared as though the innings would stutter to a finish, but Jono Wells struck a thumping 55 off 32 balls as 36 runs came from the last three overs.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.