‘Growing issue’: Smoke could halt Sydney Test
Cricket Australia is bracing for bushfire smoke to interrupt Sydney's showpiece New Year's Test match after a Big Bash match in Canberra was abandoned due to poor air quality.
ICC regulations have helped officials navigate a problem that has never been encountered in the history of cricket played in Australia.
Research has uncovered that one day in every 10 is "proving a challenge" in Sydney - leaving a 41 per cent mathematical chance that smoke could hit during the January 3-7 SCG Test against New Zealand.
While a cloud of smoke could engulf an SCG filled with 40,000 spectators, it is the 13 players on the field faced with the biggest health risks.
That is because they are exercising and, along with the umpires, are also most likely to get hit by a cricket ball due to poor visibility.
But asthmatic fans would be at a heightened risk.
"It's a growing issue that we're seeing around the country, certainly Sydney and Canberra mainly," CA head of operations Peter Roach said on Monday.
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"Like rain, the rules are in place to add time, to suspend play. But what we're finding is it comes in quick but also goes quick.
"It's unlikely we believe it'll be there for a full day. We might see some challenges across that day, but we'll play it like rain or adverse weather. Time can be added on."
Roach said match officials got it right by calling off the Sydney Thunder-Adelaide Strikers clash just four balls before enough cricket had been played to lodge a result on Saturday.
That match will be used as "a good marker" for future games.
"Our approach is two-fold. One; we've got a lot of data from the weather bureaus to say when things get dangerous, but what we're seeing is the visibility seems to be the most obvious thing," Roach said.
"I think we have concern when the smokes around, definitely, because it is a challenge on those two metrics.
"What we're finding, and all the science will back this, is the participants are more prone to that because they're exercising at the time.
"We hope (we don't lose play), but potentially. What we've seen in Sydney and Canberra, as we saw the other night was that it does get to a point where it becomes a challenge.
"One day in 10 on average is proving a challenge, we hope that doesn't come in the Test match. But we also understand it might.
"This hasn't been a challenge for Australian cricket in the past. They've (the ICC) got some regulations we've based our thinking on."