Cricket commentator Isa Guha has blasted the state of the covers at the SCG after concerns about the pitch and centre square caused more delays on Saturday. Despite not much rain falling on Saturday morning, the entire first session was washed out during the third Test between Australia and South Africa.
It added to frustrations for fans and commentators after day three was completely washed out due to relentless rain. Bad light saw 47 overs lost on the opening day, before another 14 were lost due to rain on day two.
'WHAT ON EARTH': Cricket fans left raging over 'terrible' BBL controversy
And while the rain largely stayed away on Saturday morning, it emerged that umpires were unwilling to re-start play due to muddy and wet patches on the centre square near the pitch.
English commentator and former player Guha hit out at the quality of ground coverage in Australia compared to England. “Australia against England (in the T20 World Cup)... it was so sodden in the outfield at the MCG. The covers were pathetic really.
“For a ground of the magnitude of the MCG and as iconic as the SCG ... you think of all the history and tradition, I’m staggered really by the level of coverage on the grounds. You would think they could invest in some better covers.
“You have the hover covers at Lord’s that come off really quickly and then at the Oval it literally covers the whole of the ground across the square for moments like this where bowlers are looking around at the pitch ends where it can be a bit dangerous. I’m pretty staggered that it’s not better equipped."
ESPN Cricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary stated: "Water has clearly pooled at the edge of the large covers and turned the edges of the square into soft mud. That will be a worry for the umpires. Mark Howard of Fox is saying the run ups would be fine but the edge of the square for fielders at mid-wicket and cover is pure mud."
Adding to the farce was the fact that suburban games got underway around Sydney on Saturday morning - including some only 10-15 kilometres from the SCG. Jane McGrath Day festivities were also able to go ahead after being postponed from Friday, with pop star Samantha Jade performing during a ceremony.
Play finally got underway at 1.45pm on Saturday afternoon, with Pat Cummins declaring Australia's innings at 4-475 and sending South Africa in to bat. The Aussies are facing long odds to win the SCG Test and complete a 3-0 series whitewash, which would seal their spot in the World Test Championship final.
Australia's only chance of victory would be to bowl South Africa out twice for less than 475, meaning they wouldn't have to bat again. The declaration from Cummins came as a brutal call for Usman Khawaja, who was 195 not out when play was stopped.
Fresh calls to move New Year's Test away from Sydney
The constant delays have sparked fresh calls for Cricket Australia to move the New Year's Test away from Sydney due to the poor track record of the weather in January. The SCG Test has seen 26 days washed out as a result of rain in 110 matches, while Perth has never had an entire day washed out in 47 Tests. Hobart has had one (14 Tests) and Adelaide two (81 Tests).
But Venues NSW Chairman Tony Shepherd says there's 'no way' the Sydney Test would be moved to earlier in the summer. “It’s a long tradition. It’s a fantastic tradition. Yesterday we had 22,500 people waiting for the game to start. That’s how dedicated we are,” Shepherd said.
“Half of the Australian team comes from NSW, including the skipper, but it’s far more important than that. Having cricket played at this elite Test level in a city as important as Sydney and a state as important as New South Wales is vitally important for encouraging the young people.
“If I move around the stands here, even in the rain, there’s so many kids here, and this is how we inspire the future.” Rain is so frequent during Sydney Test matches that advertising space is sold on the ground covers.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.