Sydney Cricket Ground retains third Test in spite of Covid doubts
The decision followed the establishment of elaborate plans for CA and the broadcasters to create a vast "bubble" of players and staff
Sydney is set to retain the third Test between Australia and India as scheduled, after a hard line from Queensland health authorities over the Covid-19 outbreak on Sydney's northern beaches forced Cricket Australia to the brink of dispensing with the SCG Test match.
Melbourne came close to hosting the third Test of the series at the MCG before the final match at the Gabba in Brisbane, before biosecurity plans for the Australian and Indian teams, staff and broadcasters received Queensland's tick of approval.
After days of intensive three-way negotiations between CA and authorities in New South Wales and Queensland, the governing body ultimately gave a go-ahead for the match to take place at the SCG.
The decision followed the establishment of elaborate plans for CA and the broadcasters Foxtel and Seven to create a vast "bubble" of players and staff to travel to Sydney and play the Test at the SCG, while drastically lowering any risk of any contact with the small number of Covid-19 cases in NSW.
After confirming three new cases on Tuesday, the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian stated that her government had done all it could to ensure the preservation of the SCG Test.
"The advice we've been given is that 50% capacity is Covid-safe, so long as it's ticketed and seated and people have various other Covid-safe plans in place," she had said. "CA appreciates that, respects that and is comfortable with that."
Since the original schedule had the teams going from New South Wales' Sydney to Queensland's Brisbane, the Queensland government's nod was also necessary to keep the third Test at the SCG and the fourth at the Gabba.
While CA and NSW authorities including the state government, Cricket NSW and the SCG Trust, played out scenarios including the option of hosting both the third and fourth Tests in Sydney and thus avoiding Brisbane, CA's interim chief executive Nick Hockley and chairman Earl Eddings were unable to circumvent their scheduled commitment to play a Test at the Gabba, forcing lengthy talks late into Tuesday night before Sydney could be confirmed.
Hockley said CA were relieved to be able to maintain the original schedule. "Despite the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am delighted to say Cricket Australia remains on track to deliver the men's international series as scheduled," Hockley said. "We have met regularly over the past week to assess the unfolding public health situation in Sydney and gauge its impact on border restrictions around the country. To date, we have been able to deliver a safe and successful summer thanks to our detailed biosecurity protocols and the amazing work of so many great people behind the scenes.
"To that end, we have made the decision to keep the New Year's Test at the SCG, which has a wonderful recent history of hosting the Pink Test and Jane McGrath Day on the third day of play. We are confident that both this match, and the fourth Test in Brisbane, will play out in a safe and successful manner and thus round out what has been a magnificent men's international program this summer.
"We are very grateful to the New South Wales and Queensland Governments for their willingness to work with us to deliver the series as planned in a manner that places the safety and well-being of the players, officials, staff and the wider community as its top priority. In response to the public health situation in NSW and the requirements of the Queensland Government, CA will put in place appropriate biosecurity measures and we thank all players, staff and broadcasters for their cooperation to play the matches safely."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig