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Rain-plagued SCG Test should be shifted from traditional New Year’s slot but it’ll never happen

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6th January, 2023
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Of course, the Sydney Cricket Ground Test should be moved from its traditional rain-swept New Year timeslot. And of course it will never happen. 

The 2023 Test is in danger of being ruined by rain in what is becoming an all-too familiar sight. 

Sydneysiders used to joke about Melbourne’s weather. Those gibes are being drowned out by the Harbour City’s propensity to get even wetter in the first week of January each year when the Test caravan comes to town. 

Of the 111 matches that the grand old ground at Moore Park has hosted since 1882, there have been 62 in January with this year’s one the 50th in the first week of the month.

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The annual tradition of playing Sydney’s Test in the opening week of the year began in 1971 and apart from a couple of anomalies, has been that way ever since.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 05: Steve Smith of Australia bats during day two of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and South Africa at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 05, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason McCawley – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

But just because it’s a tradition, doesn’t mean it’s right.


Sydney is Australia’s wettest capital city after Darwin in terms of annual rainfall and significantly, has less rain in November and December than January. 

Friday’s third day of the third Test is looking like being the 26th full day lost to rain in Sydney, the most of any venue on the driest populated continent on the planet. 

Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane would love to host a new year’s Test. They’ve been forced to stage their match earlier in the summer, before the school holidays kick in, and have never gone close to the crowd figures that Sydney has enjoyed.

Attendances for what turned out to be the only two days of the Gabba Test last month were up markedly as it was one of the rare occasions that the schedule-makers got it right.

The match got under way on a Saturday, during the school holidays, and lo and behold, 29,306 fans turned out in the Brisbane capital with another 18,206 creating a strong atmosphere again on day two. 

All Tests should start on a Saturday. Test cricket fans want to be there when the match is in the balance – the longer a match goes on the less likely that all four outcomes are in play so attendances naturally drop off.


Days three, four and five are for the diehards anyway, the kind of supporters who will take days off work and plan their schedule around getting to the Test.

Rain probably kept a few fans away on Friday but the SCG’s day two attendance was less than a couple of hundred more than the corresponding day in Adelaide for the second Test against the Windies last month. 

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley was unequivocal in his belief that the SCG Test will never be moved to a different spot on the summer program. 

“I think so,” he said on SEN Radio on Thursday when asked if the January 4-8 fixture was the correct time for Sydney’s Test. “It’s an iconic event on the sporting calendar, people plan their entire holidays around it. We saw over 30,000 people come out yesterday. 

“Particularly now with the pink Test in its 15th year and the positive impact.  There is so much going on around the ground but obviously we all want to see as much play as possible.”


The late, great spin king Shane Warne last summer aired his view on Fox Cricket that Sydney and Brisbane should switch spots on the summer schedule.

“The argument would be, that this time of the year in Sydney, it rains,” he said. “The proof is there in the last five or six Test matches, it’s rained. It’s such a beautiful venue, it’s such a beautiful city. Maybe it’s time for a change? Maybe it’s time for Sydney to get the first Test match rather than Brisbane.”

The five Tests this summer have been scheduled over six weeks from November 30 to January 8. The six-week stretch should start the week before Christmas when school holidays kick in, running until the end of January with BBL matches filling the night-time schedule.

Any white-ball internationals can be played in November or February as they are either entirely played after work/school hours (T20s) or start mid afternoon anyway (ODIs).

Concerningly but not surprisingly, Hockley did not seem to be urgently looking to solve the issues raised by several greats of the game, including Allan Border, Steve and Mark Waugh about the farcical scenes on day one when bad light stopped play for a large portion of the day despite the SCG’s floodlights being on. 

Steve Waugh typically didn’t hold back in his Instagram blast to more than 125,000 followers, using the commonsense and #movewiththetimes hashtags while tagging in Cricket Australia. 

Usman Khawaja. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


“Test cricket needs to realise there is a lot of competition out there and not using the lights when the players are off for bad light simply doesn’t add up. Lots of unhappy spectators who can’t understand the rationale and reason for no play.”

Hockley responded by saying “I think he was voicing the frustration of all of us. I think that clearly the rules are there with safety in mind and I think that has to be everyone’s priority.”

Waugh faced up to some of the most venomous pacemen in Test history, he even famously taunted Curtly Ambrose mid-pitch, so he probably has a fair grasp on what’s safe and what’s not on a cricket field. 

“I’m hopeful with lighting upgrades,” Hockley continued, “there’s a big move to LEDs from the traditional bulbs that we see fewer and fewer of these types of delays.”

When asked whether a switch to a pink ball in such circumstances was a viable solution, Hockley was adamant changing the ball during play was “really problematic”.

Nick Hockley at a press conference

Nick Hockley. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

“I think that introduces a little bit too much variability into the game. Clearly, when you take the new ball, the state of the ball is a key part of the nuance of Test cricket.


“So I think calls for the pink ball, I can’t see that getting too much traction.

“I think it was just extremely frustrating, particularly the combination of light and rain, and I just really feel for everyone, the fans here at the ground and watching all around the world. And the players, everyone wants to see cricket being played.”

Well, not everyone. South Africa skipper Dean Elgar had the option of continuing proceedings by bowling his spinners but despite using Keshav Marharaj and Simon Harmer in tandem earlier in the day, he chose to come off the field.

It was clearly a negative ploy from a negative captain who saw the opportunity to soak up a few hours of play to increase his team’s chances of eking out a draw and decrease Australia’s game time to set up a third straight emphatic victory.

With Friday likely to be washed out or not much game time at all, Australia will have two elongated days to bowl the Proteas out after posting 4-475 from the 131 overs that have been possible over the first two days. 

Pat Cummins surely won’t declare with Usman Khawaja just five runs away from his maiden Test double century but as more and more time gets lost to rain, that could become an unfortunate possibility.

If only this match was played at a more suitable time of year …