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COVID-19 may be hovering like a dark cloud over the SCG New Year’s Test and Jane McGrath Day, but healthy crowds are still expected despite mounting concerns after more positive cases on Monday and forecast wet weather.
The annual Sydney Test begins on Wednesday as Australia look to inflict more misery against the touring England side, who have lost all three matches by heavy margins.
Australia pose for a photo before the fourth Ashes Test. Credit:Getty
Like last year’s Sydney Test between Australia and India, the upcoming fourth Ashes Test at the SCG will be markedly different to those in years gone by.
Friday, day three of the Test, marks Jane McGrath Day, where the McGrath Foundation will aim to sell 240,000 virtual pink seats to fund more breast care nurses.
Former Australian pace bowler Glenn McGrath was unable to attend the McGrath day launch on Monday at the famous ground because he has COVID-19.
Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley was due to front the cameras alongside McGrath, as well as the Foundation’s CEO Holly Masters.
However, CA announced that Hockley had also contracted the virus, leaving his attendance for the first Test of 2022 up in the air.
McGrath Foundation CEO Holly Masters addresses the media ahead of Jane McGrath Day on Friday. Credit:Getty
“He has had no direct contact with the Australian men’s Test squad, or other teams, in accordance with Cricket Australia’s biosecurity protocols,” a CA statement read.
Meanwhile, there are concerns former Australian captain Ricky Ponting and fellow Channel Seven commentator James Brayshaw have contracted COVID-19, while Mark Taylor and Merv Hughes are awaiting test results but fear the virus may have struck them too.
Players, fans, commentators and members of the media are walking a tightrope as a second summer of COVID-19 continues to make life difficult.
The Test will go ahead and there are protocols in place for spectators, but they are not arduous.
Masks are not mandatory for spectators sitting outdoors, but are encouraged indoors. Social distancing will occur, while limits on indoor areas will be enforced. With Sydney recording 20,794 new cases on Monday, it is inevitable that individuals with COVID will attend the match across a possible five days.
The crowd will not be capped – unlike last year when only 25 per cent capacity was allowed.
CA insists ticket sales remain promising, with roughly 35,000 fans expected for days one and two.
Mitch Swepson at the SCG on Monday. Credit:Getty
Masters says McGrath remains hopeful of being present on day three.
“Glenn is devastated. He would just love to have been here today,” Masters said. “I think COVID has helped the Australian public understand how difficult it would be to have a breast cancer diagnosis in a pandemic.”
Weather could play a role in the match too, with rain forecast for the first three days of play.
“It will be pretty persistent rain from Wednesday to Friday,” said Bureau of Meteorology forecaster David Wilke. “We’re reaching about 29 degrees most days. It’s also going to be reasonably humid and muggy. There will clouds around and passing showers. I think we can expect the match to be interrupted. It’s certainly not looking like ideal conditions.”
Given the Boxing Day Test finished before lunch on day three, thanks to Scott Boland’s stunning figures of 6-7 in the second innings, the McGrath Foundation will be hoping England’s batsmen can put up more of a fight to ensure the 14th ‘Pink Day’ gets all the love it deserves.
“We’re told they’re really playing with passion, they’re playing for their credibility … so we hope it will go a lot longer,” Masters said. “We suspect there might be a little bit of rain, which might help us a bit.”
There have been no further positive cases within the Australian camp since Travis Head was ruled out of the fourth Test last week.
“[It is about] trying to stay away from people as much as possible but still trying to have some normality to our lives outdoors,” vice-captain Steve Smith told reporters.
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