Adelaide’s chances of hosting the first Test against India have received a massive boost with South Australia’s lockdown set to be lifted. Next month’s day-night Test had looked in some jeopardy amid the SA’s growing Covid-19 cluster, with the state’s chief medico admitting this week there was no guarantee they could host.
That prompted some belief that either Sydney or Melbourne could step up if required, in what would likely still be a pink-ball fixture. But Friday’s news that restrictions will be eased from Saturday will go a long way to allaying those concerns over the 17 December fixture.
Cricket Australia has remained committed to the opening Test of the summer at Adelaide Oval and has not not deviated from those plans. The opening of Victoria’s border, which was shut for just two days initially on Thursday, will also be crucial to that.
Adelaide is widely considered the best cricket wicket in the country, while its surface is also considered the best for the pink ball.
Meanwhile South Australia’s only Test player insists his dash out of Adelaide will not hurt his preparations, with adaptability to be as important as cover drives this summer.
Travis Head made the move to New South Wales’ north coast on Tuesday, along with the entire Adelaide strikers squad and other Adelaide-based Big Bash League players. He will continue his preparations in Coffs Harbour before heading to Sydney for a series of Australia A matches before the first Test.
“You have to be adaptable, that’s the main focus of the summer,” Head said. “We were on a golf course three days ago and now we’re in Coffs. We have already come out of one bubble so we have experienced that already.”
The Adelaide contingent are not the only group ton the move this summer. NSW were forced to head into a Sheffield Shield bubble in Adelaide early last month amid fears of an outbreak in south-west Sydney.
Victoria’s Shield schedule also changed over time, after they were forced to spend two weeks in lockdown when entering South Australia last month. ODI and Twenty20 players and staff from Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland who were in Adelaide for the Shield bubble have also had to fly to Sydney early this week to avoid a quarantine period.
But Head can at least see merit in the move, given would have been in SA’s hard six-day lockdown if he was still home.
“Leaving was mixed emotions, we didn’t realise it was a lockdown,” Head said. “We’re very fortunate to be outside … They got on the front foot and got us out pretty quickly. We’re very fortunate to be out here training, it’s something we wouldn’t be able to do in lockdown.”
Head hit two centuries in the first two rounds of the Shield, and is the competition’s third-leading run-scorer with 455 at an average of 65.
CA also has received a dose of good news on the spectator front, with five of the upcoming six white-ball matches against India set to be sellouts. The three-match ODI series between Australia and India will be followed by three T20s, and CA has been told all but the ODI series opener against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground next Friday will be sold out.
Stadiums are currently running at half capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions, but CA will be relieved nonetheless that cricket-starved fans are flocking back to the sport after months of uncertainty.
The first two ODIs will be held at the 46,000-capacity SCG and the third at the 13,500-capacity Manuka Oval in Canberra. The first T20 will be staged at Manuka Oval on 4 December, with the last two matches of the series scheduled for the SCG. It means crowds of around 23,000 at the SCG and 6500 at Manuka Oval are set to attend matches.
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