Bushfire smoke is now starting to have an impact on national sporting contests, with the Big Bash in Canberra called off on Saturday night when conditions became too toxic to continue.
Heavy smoke denied Sydney Thunder a win over Adelaide Strikers, with the chase halted in Canberra after 4.2 overs because of concerns about air quality and visibility.
The ladder-leading Thunder, set a target of 162, reached 1-40 when umpires stopped play at Manuka Oval on Saturday night. The points were split.
The Thunder already had enough runs on the board to be declared winners after five overs but BBL rules dictate a minimum of five overs is required in the second innings to constitute a game.
Air Quality Index (AQI) data and players’ visibility was discussed at a pre-match medical briefing but officials decided conditions were good enough to play.
That proved the case as Adelaide compiled a total of 5-161, thanks largely to Jon Wells (55 not out), Alex Carey (45) and Jake Weatherald (42). But winds changed at the innings break and thick smoke soon covered the venue.
“It came in quite quick … we’ve got player safety we have to take into account. It’s pretty unprecedented,” Strikers coach Jason Gillespie said on Fox.
“It’s not just players, umpires and the like. We’ve got a lot of spectators here. These are the playing conditions in place, the umpires are just applying that.
“Being able to see the ball is pretty fundamental in our sport, but also the respiratory situation is something that needs to be considered.”
Summer sport in bushfire affected communities was the first thing to suffer as the crisis situation escalated, but now the smoke and dust is starting to impact larger events.
With preparations for the Sydney to Hobart yacht well underway, skippers of the Supermaxis have indicated that the weather conditions will need to be factored in, with dust from the fires getting into winches and requiring more regular maintenance.
Scallywag’s skipper David Witt told the Sydney Morning Herald that sea breezes are being altered by the smoke haze.
The fourth day of a recent Sheffield Shield match between NSW and Queensland was played at a smoke-blanketed SCG, with Steve O’Keefe describing the conditions as “toxic” and “shocking”.
In Canberra on Saturday night, Thunder captain Callum Ferguson, who finished 27 not out, fumed when umpires Paul Wilson and Sam Nogajski told him they were halting play during Rashid Khan’s opening over.
“He’s just annoyed, as you could imagine,” Thunder coach Shane Bond told Fox Cricket. “It’s obvious. We’ve got four balls to finish the game and were hoping to get the game done.
I absolutely understand the air quality is poor … we just have to suck it up.”
It is the second season in a row the Thunder have been denied a victory because of events outside their control, coming after the power went out at the Gabba when they were poised to defeat Brisbane Heat.
Daniel Sams had built a perfect platform for the Thunder to push for their third win of the season.
Sams started the night by delivering the first maiden of the tournament and dismissing English opener Phil Salt with a bouncer.
The paceman returned to the attack and snapped a 60-run stand between Carey and Weatherald, deceiving the latter with a slower ball that skittled the stumps.
Sams, who boasted the remarkable figures of 2-9 from three overs, copped some late treatment from Wells to finish with a haul of 2-21 and a yellow cap as the leading wicket-taker of the competition.
Over in Perth, Mitch Marsh won the battle of the brothers after his explosive batting helped lead the Perth Scorchers to a 11-run win over the Melbourne Renegades at Optus Stadium.
Marsh, playing just his second match since recovering from a self-inflicted broken hand, smashed an unbeaten 56 off 22 balls to lift the Scorchers to 7-196 on Saturday night.
That knock heaped the pressure on his older brother Shaun Marsh.
The 36-year-old produced the goods under pressure to score 55 off 38 balls, including four sixes.
Beau Webster was also in hot form with 67no off 37.
But it wasn’t enough, with the Renegades finishing at 6-185, leaving them winless after two games.
“I’m just rapt to get the win on the board,” Mitch Marsh said.
“To be honest I didn’t want Shaun to get runs tonight. I can say that now.
“He’s such a dangerous player, so we knew he was a huge wicket for them.”