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BBL to shift into Melbourne hub in bid to keep competition running

Stars and Heat have been severely impacted by Covid-19

The Sydney Thunder dugout resorted to masks after a Covid outbreak  •  Cricket Australia via Getty Images

The Sydney Thunder dugout resorted to masks after a Covid outbreak  •  Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Big Bash League teams will move into a Melbourne hub while still playing home games interstate as part of a plan to combat the Covid-19 outbreaks that have hampered the competition's schedule.
Under Cricket Australia's soon-to-be-announced model, all eight BBL teams will begin to take residence in a Melbourne hub over the final stage of the season.
Some matches will be relocated to Victoria, while some teams will be able to host home games in a fly-in, fly-out plan to still play around the country.
It's understood chartered flights could be used for those matches outside Victoria in a bid to minimise contact with the public and the risk of further infection.
It comes as CA on Thursday postponed a third match this season, with Friday night's clash between the Melbourne Stars and Adelaide Strikers the affected fixture.
Stars were hopeful of having several of their 13 infected players return for the game, however, forcing them to travel to Adelaide and play immediately upon exiting quarantine was not deemed fair amid concerns over the mental and physical readiness after isolation. Stars' players will need to be cleared by the club doctor before returning to action.
It is the second Stars game to be postponed, as well as one Brisbane Heat match after there were 12 positive cases in their camp this week.
Having all teams based in one city will allow organisers to swap the order of games if required, as was done on the Gold Coast this week after positive virus cases at the Brisbane Heat.
"It's very complex. We are gradually moving the teams into Melbourne," CA CEO Nick Hockley told SEN. "We saw the other night we had a critical mass of teams in south-east Queensland, and we were able to rejig fixtures to keep going.
"The last 10 days of the group stage of the competition, we will be gradually moving teams into Melbourne. They will still fly in and fly out for games in home markets. But if a team is impacted it gives us much more opportunity to swap teams in."
Hockley said his belief the competition could continue was based on outbreaks being "predominantly" in only two teams.
While Brisbane's game against the Sydney Sixers was postponed twice this week, the Heat set to take on Melbourne Renegades on Thursday night despite 12 players being unavailable.
Stars have also had to use local replacement players with up to 12 of their own players out in the past week, in between the two postponements.
Sixers and Strikers remain the only teams unaffected, with the Sydney Thunder, Hobart Hurricanes, Renegades and Perth Scorchers having players unavailable at times this season.
However, Hockley insisted the integrity of the competition had not been damaged, with 22 regular season matches to be played plus finals.
"While it's not ideal, it's great the level of commitment everyone is showing to the competition continuing," Hockley said. "In every step we have prioritised the health and wellbeing of those involved. We have a clear plan now for the final run in. We are very confident we will be able to complete the competition fully."
Speaking after last night's game against Adelaide Strikers, Matthew Wade revealed off-field restrictions have further tightened on BBL players this week.
"Restrictions are certainly tightening up within Cricket Australia," he said. "They've hammered down on restrictions again over the last 24 hours.
"There's not going to be much to do outside the hotel again. The bigger issue at the moment is that we've got Covid within the teams and we've been playing each other.
"It's starting to get tricky, this tournament.. we'll try to keep the train on the tracks, but if it can't be done, it can't be done."