Smoke from bushfires enveloped Canberra’s Manuka Oval resulting in the BBL game between Sydney Thunder and Adelaide Strikers to be abandoned.
The game had been in some doubt throughout the day, with officials monitoring air quality in the Canberra area, before the decision was made to go ahead. The match started in good conditions with Adelaide batting through their allotted overs without issue. With Sydney Thunder starting their run chase, the wind changed direction, bringing hazy smoke across the ground. After 4.2 overs of Thunder’s replay, umpires Paul Wilson and Sam Nogajski took the players off the ground. At 9:14pm local time, the match was finally abandoned.
Thunder captain Callum Ferguson was frustrated by the decision to leave the field. Knowing that less than five overs meant the match would be abandoned, and his team ahead of the DLS target, let his frustration be known to umpires Wilson and Nogarski. Their reasoning was one of air quality and playability as the visibility across the ground was vastly reduced. Fans initially waited around for the possibility of a resumption which always looked unlikely with the thickness of smoke settling inside Manuka Oval. The umpires gave the game full opportunity to resume before finally calling the game off with Thunder four balls short of a victory. Each team shared one point.
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Before the game was affected by smoke, Adelaide Strikers posted a total of 6/161. Englishman Phil Salt made a five-ball duck on his debut then Matthew Short fell to leave the Strikers struggling on 2/8 after 1.4 overs. Jake Weathereld and captain Alex Carey recovered the position somewhat. Weathereld dominated the strike and scoring, adding 42 before Daniel Sams got one through. Jono Wells joined Carey and the Strikers’ batters continued to keep the score moving. Carey scored 45 from 40 balls with Wells’ added a valuable unbeaten half-century.
In the 4.2 overs that Thunder did get to bat out, Khawaja edged the second ball towards Carey who could only divert the ball to Cameron White who took a catch that he knew very little about. Alex Hales and Ferguson realised the urgency of their position, with smoke covering Mount Lindsay and heading towards Manuka Oval at a rate of knots and played some aggressive shots. Eight boundaries meant that Thunder was ahead of the DLS target but needed five overs to constitute a match. Rashid Khan bowled just two balls of the fifth over before play was suspended due to the air quality.
The situation was particularly frustrating as Sydney had missed out on a win last year in Brisbane when a power failure led to abandonment in similar circumstances.
The abandonment was not the first time that Australia’s bushfires had disrupted cricket this summer. In a Sheffield Shield game earlier this month, New South Wales beat Queensland at the SCG despite smoke covering the ground making the conditions difficult. With bushfires worsening as hot, dry and windy weather are making conditions increasingly dangerous for firefighters, it seems that this abandonment may not be the last time that cricket is affected.