Frustration at yet another delay to the re-start of the Sydney Test hit boiling point on Saturday morning as games of club cricket got underway just a few kilometres from the Sydney Cricket Ground. As South African and Australian players kicked footballs and signed autographs for fans, SCG ground staff used leaf blowers on the wicket square in an attempt to dry out muddy areas.
Two hours after the scheduled start of play on day four, the large covers remained on. ESPN Cricinfo's ball-by-ball match commentary stated: "Worrying signs. The ground staff have leaf blowers out trying to dry mud on the edge of the square.
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"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. South Africa warming up. A few Aussies playing some sort of game. Nothing official yet, but a suggestion we may get on around 11am although it could be longer."
That prediction proved spot on, with the commentary updated 15 minutes to read: "We're still nowhere near any play."
Cricket world left fuming over delays in SCG Test
The delay led to questions about the adequacy of the SCG covers, especially with several suburban grounds open and available for play not far from the city's premier cricket arena.
The Mosman and Manly clubs, both situated north of the harbour and within 10-15km of the SCG, managed to get first grade games underway at 10am, as did Hawkesbury and Campbelltown to the west. That's despite operating with skeleton staff after days of heavy rain on ovals with far inferior drainage to the SCG's.
International playing standards are obviously higher than at grade cricket level, but there have been times during this third Test both ex-players and fans have voiced frustration at the inability and delays in getting play re-started after rain breaks. The day three washout heightened calls to switch the date of the Sydney Test or take if off the Harbour City altogether.
"Sometimes conditions are not perfect. I think there's a clear difference between not perfect and dangerous," former Australia batsman and Fox Sports commentator Mark Waugh said. "I think it's just ingrained a little bit in cricket that as soon as it's not perfect, we look to stop play rather than play.
"I just think it's a slight change in mindset needed from administrators to players. Alyssa Healy added: "I think from a players' perspective if the conditions are safe and nobody's going to injure themselves, then why not (play)."
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