Frustration and farce at the SCG as Test cricket again gets in its own way

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The SCG Test, more than any other of the Australian summer, is built on traditions both young and old.

It’s a ground that sacrifices a seat for a paying customer in favour of a statue of a notorious heckler from generations past. It’s where the long early-morning queues of people aren’t for unobtainable COVID tests, but members ready to race for their spots for the day. 

And on Friday, the whole shebang will be decked out in pink in memory of Jane McGrath and to raise money for breast cancer support, in the Test’s newest and greatest ritual.


But just as surely as you can count on pink on day three or the Mexican wave dying at the Ladies’ Pavilion, so too can you count on rain in Sydney.

It’s not just interstate parochialism; there are numbers to bear out the fact — it rains more during the SCG Test than at any other ground in the country.


Wednesday will not go down as a day lost, but certainly an opportunity lost. A glance at the scorecard, specifically the part that reads 46.5 overs bowled in the day, suggests a day of heavy and near-constant rain.

That was not the case. It rained in spits and spurts, never anything worth pulling the car over for. It came and it went and then it came again, but for the majority of the day it was relatively dry.

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The problem was, whenever the rain was absent, so were the players.

Ben Stokes departs during another rain delay.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

It was a day where Test cricket became victim yet again of its own inflexibility, as the steadfast refusal to deviate from rules and schedules devised decades ago came at the expense of the game being played.

An early morning downpour pushed the toss and subsequently the start of play back half an hour. Throughout the hour pre- and post-toss there was no rain at all, yet within a few overs the players were forced off again.

The case was the same during both the lunch and tea breaks, taken earlier due to brief showers. Those showers cleared, but by the time the bell had rung to end recess the rain had returned.

The frustration is most keenly felt by those in the stands who have paid to watch a dry, empty cricket field for the day.

As one person submitted to the ABC Sport blog, “I’m in the Brewongle stand with my son at his first test. Out $400 bucks for 20 overs. I know they can’t help the rain, but this tea break is totally unwarranted”.

It may be fighting against the rising of the tide, because the only thing more wedded to tradition than the SCG Test is the game of Test cricket itself, but there must be a better way.

Australian batters Marcus Harris and Marnus Labuschagne talk in the middle of the SCG pitch during an Ashes Test at the SCG.
Marcus Harris and Marnus Labuschagne at the crease together.(Getty: Steven Markham/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire)

The whole scene made for a weary, sluggish opening to the day’s play, which truth be told didn’t need any greater excuse for a sleep in.

With the horse long bolted, England finally selected the best bowling attack available to it, ignoring whatever mad scientist suggested playing James Anderson and Stuart Broad as soon and as often as their bodies allowed was a bad idea.

But the juice was missing. Broad and Ben Stokes battled to tip 130kph on the speed gun. Marcus Harris, for whom only two Tests ago runs were as rare as RATs, batted for 100 balls entirely without alarm.

Even David Warner’s dismissal to Broad felt like another coded jab at England, rubbing the tourists’ noses into the fact that the man who has taken his wicket 13 times in Test cricket had only been considered worthy of selection in one of the first three matches.

It wasn’t until the late afternoon that the sun finally emerged, and with it England.

Mark Wood leans back and screams with his mouth open, fists clenched and eyes closed
Mark Wood claimed the valuable wicket of Marnus Labuschagne.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

Anderson removed Harris in the fashion Harris is always likely to be removed, edging an angled delivery to the cordon when a leave would have sufficed.

And Mark Wood, the rough and ready Geordie who will be one of the few to leave this tour with reputation somewhat enhanced, again proved that even Marnus Labuschagne is vulnerable to a good ball at express pace.

The field suddenly closed in around Steve Smith and the returning Usman Khawaja, and suddenly it felt like a Test match might break out.

Rain put an end to that notion swiftly enough. And though the covers were off the pitch as quickly as they were placed on, stumps were called abruptly and another 35 minutes of play was lost.

It was just that sort of day in the end. Let’s hope for a break in tradition on day two.

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