Howzat? Rain and musical chairs at the COVID Test
Welcome to, as the T-shirt ($20) in the SCG Team Store describes it, the "Aus v India Summer of Cricket".
There was a lot happening on day one of the third Test, what with COVID regulations, an early dismissal and the rain off and on, mostly on until the afternoon.
Margaret and Joe Mistry, from Blakehurst, defy the elements at the SCG.Credit:James Brickwood
It seems people will pay good money to sit in a (free) diaphanous poncho, in the rain, under an umbrella and wearing a COVID mask.
Excuse the analogy but organisers had seemingly done a good job of moving the goalposts to get the third Test under way. Only 10,000 to attend, 25 per cent of capacity, stay two cricket bats' lengths away from strangers and only remove the mask to imbibe liquid (non-alcoholic or otherwise) or to eat. Most importantly, stay in your allocated seat.
No queues at the turnstiles as the chosen few quickly filed inside past an army of "customer service" officials, COVID stewards, police and security staff. You are safer here than the supermarket or light rail.
The problem is what happens to all those rules and restrictions when the rain sets in? That happened after only about half an hour's play, long enough for David Warner to be dismissed for five in the fourth over. What happened was a gentle but polite exodus by many from the allocated seats to anywhere undercover.
John Derathy and wife Hilde seeking shelter from rain at the SCG.Credit:Nine
Seventy-five-year old John Derathy has been an SCG member since the age of 10 and has only missed about six Tests. His ballot ticket meant he and wife Hilde weren't in the members' stand and weren't under cover.
"Today we are on the Concourse where we are supposed to be until it rained," he said. "People did move back with the rain but everyone spread out, there was no congestion."
Hilde said she thought the COVID measures were working. "I think they have done a lot to safeguard the whole place. I don't feel insecure at all."
Some stuck it out. Margaret Mistry with a pink mask and floppy hat and husband Joe, from Blakehurst, are in ponchos under a large umbrella. They have a picnic (chicken salad) and a thermos of coffee.
Rain affected play on the first day of the third Test at the SCG.Credit:James Brickwood
"I am quite happy here with the umbrella just doing as I am told," she says. "We'll sit here until we get the next announcement about whether play will continue at some stage."
Kavetha Naarayanan, from Carlingford, got out of the rain to grab a coffee and check her messages before returning to her seat. "We don't have an umbrella but we've got the ponchos but we are going to stick by the rules," she said. Of the early wicket she added: "We started off well but I was sad when Warner left."
A team leader for customer service, who declined to give his name, said: "We are just asking people to stay safely distanced and to get back to their seats as soon as possible, that's all we can do."
Former prime minister John Howard, wearing a trim black or maybe navy mask, arrived a few minutes after the start of play to watch from a private suite although many of the hospitality suites were deserted.
Fans arrive to the SCG for the Third Test.Credit:James Brickwood
Play finally resumed at 3pm and the ground was suddenly bathed in sunshine. Everyone was back in their correct places and customer service officials relaxed.
Predicting the weather at the cricket is about as easy as predicting where the next COVID cluster will be.
But it has always been thus. India's inaugural tour of Australia in 1947-48 two months after the country gained independence, was also a damp squib.
Australia won the series 4-0, but the surface for the second Test at the SCG was described as a "sticky dog" of a pitch, medium pace bowler Vijay Hazare "scalped" Donald Bradman and Australia's innings wrapped up at 107.
Then just when the players broke for tea, the showers returned and the covers went back on … that's cricket for you.
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