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Death, taxes and foul weather spoiling SCG Test: Umpires blasted over bad light call as Warner fails to fire for farewell

4th January, 2024
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4th January, 2024
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The umpires came under fire for ending play early on day two due to bad light but rain ultimately had the final say as David Warner nicked off in what may be his last Test innings. 

It was an all too familiar tale at the SCG as inclement weather struck yet again, continuing a trend which has become a glaring issue in recent years and prompting calls from other states to claim the new year’s slot on the calendar. 

The chances of Cricket Australia moving the match away from the nation’s most populous city are next to zero but that won’t stop other vote-hungry state premiers from sticking their heads up to get some east publicity. 

Australia’s chances of completing a series clean sweep and sending Warner into Test retirement on a winning note hinge on Sydney’s skies clearing up over the next three days although the forecast is for no more rain.

Wet weather denied Australia victory two years ago in what turned out to be the only drawn match of the Ashes series and the 2023 Test against South Africa was ruined due to rain.

Due to rain and the placid wicket, Sydney has become the toughest ground in the country for Australia to get a win – six of the past nine Tests have ended in a draw.

The Aussies will resume on day three at 2-116 with Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith needing to restart their budding innings as they look to overhaul Pakistan’s 313. 

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Only 46 overs were possible but more could have been played if not for the umpires, Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth, calling a halt to proceedings due to concerns about the light midway through the second session. 

With more than 25,000 fans growing impatient, 40 minutes ticked by and the tea break was taken early before rain started coming down. 

“It is so frustrating,” Justin Langer said on Seven commentary. “I have walked in all the shoes as a player and batsman. You want to be off and want perfect conditions, and then as coach you want what’s best for your team.

“But when you look at the big picture, it is crazy these guys aren’t playing Test cricket here. 

“You have a big crowd here, they have come here for David Warner’s last game. 

“It is the pink Test. It is a competitive and combative Test match, and yet we’re walking off the ground. 

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“It’s not great for the game of cricket this is happening right now.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan was also bemused by his countrymen in white coats deeming the light to be too bad for the batters.

“I can’t stand this happening,” Vaughan said. “Is it that dangerous?”

“We just seem to find a way of getting off the pitch, at any opportunity. T20 Cricket, 50-over cricket, you just stay out there!

“It’s an entertainment business, there’s no threat to the batters.”

Australian opener Usman Khawaja joked he would retire if cricket’s lawmakers switched permanently to a pink ball in a bid to solve the light problem.

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“That’s just cricket, it’s been going on for 100 years,” he said. “The laws haven’t changed. Light is light. It’s a red ball. It’s still very hard to see the red balls.

“Unless you can replicate the sun, I’m not really sure what (can be done).

“It sucks, but this is Test cricket unfortunately. And when it rains or when you have bad light, you just have to cop it.”

After his nervous six not out overnight, Warner and Khawaja settled into accumulation rather than attack in the morning session. 

Warner was lucky to survive on 20 when Pakistan’s ongoing first slip nightmare continued when debutant Saim Ayub grassed a straightforward offering. 

He was filling in after Babar Adam switched to second when Salman Ali Agha needed a brief spell in the dressing room and even with the butterfingered Abdullah Shafique this time a long way from the cordon, the catching catastrophes continued. 

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“I was off the field for a pee break,” Salman said. “Just for two overs. Probably seven or eight balls, actually. I was off for Sajid (Khan)’s over and when I came back one ball of the Jamal over had been bowled. 

“I was sitting next to the subs bench and I saw the video and I knew I was in trouble! I think there’s a curse on first slip.”

Luckily for Pakistan, Salman returned to the fray and managed to grip and rip an off break which steepled into the shoulder of Warner’s bat and Babar held on at slip although he too nearly let the chance slip through his fingers. 

Warner looked furious with himself after getting out to the spinner for 34 in his 112th and final Test and if rain or Australia racking up a huge total means he doesn’t bat again, he will finish his career with 8729 runs at 44.53.

His home crowd gave him a standing ovation as he trudged up the steps to the famous old pavilion

Khawaja was typically measured as he guided Australia to lunch without further loss but he struggled to convert his 143-ball stay at the crease into a big score. 

Just three shy of his half-century he was late on a hook shot off Aamer Jamal and after using a review, the tourists leapt for joy when HotSpot revealed the ball kissed Khawaja’s glove as it travelled to Mohammad Rizwan. 

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 04: David Warner of Australia walks off the field after being dismissed by Agha Salman of Pakistan during day two of the Men's Third Test Match in the series between Australia and Pakistan at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 04, 2024 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

David Warner walks off the field after being dismissed at the SCG. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The non-retiring 37-year-old left-hander has now been out in the 40s in each first innings in this series with a 90 in Perth and a duck in Melbourne from second digs.

Labuschagne also took a slow and steady approach with just one boundary in his 66-ball 23 before the early end of play while Smith will resume on six on Friday.

Australia could have pushed the pace much more on day two but cruised at 2.46 an over. 

If the rain stays away, they should still have plenty of time to build a sizeable first-innings lead to set up victory but even though play will start half an hour early on Friday and the umpires will try to regain lost ground each day, there is plenty of work to do for Australia. 

with AAP

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