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Crowds gather for The Ashes at Moore Park amid surging COVID-19 cases

Crowds have gathered for The Ashes Test at the SCG. Photo: Twitter/SCG.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

Daily crowds surpassing 25,000 have gathered at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) this week for the fourth match of The Ashes test cricket series between England and Australia, after many Sydneysiders opted to avoid large events in the new year amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases across the state.

Events in the past week have been shunned by many concerned about exposure to the virus, with New Year’s Eve celebrations being received to a limited reception throughout Sydney Harbour, while the Elevate Sydney festival, which NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said would get businesses “back on their feet”, struggled to lure capacity crowds in the first week of 2022. Despite the downturn in gatherings in the past week, it was expected that strong crowds would continue to flock to Moore Park for the Test.

Mr Perrottet confirmed late last month that the match would take place in Sydney following calls for the final two Tests to be played in Melbourne, saying that it is “a highlight of our state’s calendar” and that it would go ahead.

While COVID-19 concerns continue to cloud the series, the weather has proved equally troubling over the first two days of the Test. Sporadic rain over Moore Park interrupted play throughout the contest and has grown the likelihood for a draw come the end of the fifth day.

COVID Affected

Both the Australian and English sides have been stricken by COVID-19 throughout the five-test Ashes series, which the hosts have already won following a third consecutive victory in the Melbourne Boxing Day Test.

Australian captain Pat Cummins was unable to lead his side for the second Test at Adelaide Oval last month, having been ruled a close contact of a positive case under the South Australian rules, while middle-order batsman Travis Head was ruled out of the Sydney Test after testing positive to COVID-19. Under the new close contact definitions, Cummins would have been free to play.

England has been without four members of their coaching staff in Sydney, including head coach Chris Silverwood after the virus was detected in the visitors’ touring group while in Melbourne.

Australia elected to bat to begin the Sydney Test and declared at 8/416 with 20 minutes left to play on the second day, with England continuing to chase the hosts’ score today.

Following the first two days of action, NSW has recorded over 70,000 new cases of COVID-19, with hospitalisations surpassing 1600.

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