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Australia v South Africa: third Test, day four – live

1st over: South Africa 4-0 (Elgar 4, Erwee 0) Josh Hazlewood with the ball! Three slips and a gully! Point, mid off, mid on, midwicket, long leg. Runs before wickets on the scorecard, don’t freak out.

Elgar on strike. The first ball he hints at gloving it down the leg side again, but it’s a bit straight and goes into the body.

The second ball… edged for four! A proper nick, a proper delivery. It snorts off a length like Smaug emerging from his mountain, takes the shoulder of the bat and somehow goes through fourth slip instead of straight to hand.

There is life in Hazlewood, and life in this deck after its long sleep.

Two more balls square up Elgar and have him fending. The lift from a length is prodigious. Full goes Hazlewood and past the leg stump, Elgar judging his leave. A hint of swing in there? Then past the outside edge with jag.

What a first over.

Can’t believe I’m going to post about cricket rather than spin nonsense. Thanks for keeping me company with that. The reader numbers on this page yesterday and today have been massive, I’m told. Truthfully. People really like reading about whether or not it has stopped raining.

The last bit of Pink Test ceremony takes place, with the South African players coming down a pink carpet wearing the pink caps that they’ve signed. They’re met by the McGrath family and hand over the caps, with Dean Elgar taking a moment to chat with Glenn McGrath before leading his team back to the sideline. He grabs his batting helmet and blade, pairs up with Sarel Erwee, ready to think about cricket for the first time in days.

Normally that’s a Day 3 ceremony but it got put off for obvious reasons.

In theory with an early start tomorrow we should get 98 overs on Day 5. Meaning that all up Australia has 157 overs to bowl out South Africa twice. Quite possible on the evidence of this series. Or South Africa need to get past the follow-on of 275 to make it really hard for Australia to win.

We have revised match details. A minimum of 59 overs today.

First session: 13:45 to 15:55.
Second session: 16:15 to 18:00.

They can also add half an hour to the second session if short on overs.

There you have it! With only about five sessions to play to get rid of South Africa twice, Pat Cummins has called off the innings, leaving Khawaja on 195 not out. It would have been harsh this morning, but it’s probably hard to complain about that after all of the time lost. I’m sure they spoke about it beforehand and Khawaja would have endorsed the move in the end.

Regarding the light, because I’m sure there are plenty of people like me who were watching Pakistan and New Zealand play yesterday and were frustrated at seeing it called off with three overs to spare – it is more complicated than it looks at times. The key isn’t whether batters can see the ball, or want to face it. It’s whether fielders can see it.

In that game we had nine New Zealanders around the bat, and a couple of Pakistan tailenders with a target in sight who like giving the ball a whack. If one of them does so, and a fielder can’t pick up the ball, then they’re at risk of being hit and badly injured or worse. We get annoyed with umpires for taking players off, but if an umpire lets play carry on and then a fielder gets smashed in the face from a pull shot or something, people would be blaming the umpire for it. It’s a no-win situation, and not just for the teams playing.

So, see? Lunch didn’t affect anything. I don’t have word on the revised overs or session times yet. We can probably play until 6:30 tonight, maybe 7pm, depending on the light.

We have news! That is 31 minutes away. You ready?

Tell you what, it is not exactly sunny out there but there is a suggestion that the sun exists. Sun behind light cloud rather than blackout shade cloud. Sydney has been hiding in its room telling its parents to go away while it plays video games for the last two days. Now it might be venturing out.

We’ve got the rope going around! That’s when you know things are getting real. And they’re going to take lunch as planned.

Wait! Wait. Before you get mad. It will take at least that long to give the ground a chance to drain and dry off, and for the umpires to be happy. Probably longer. So they’ll do some pitch inspections during the break, and if they approve play it will probably sometime after the scheduled end of lunch.

I’m going to take that lunch break too, back with more updates in about half an hour. Get a sandwich. You’ve earned it.

The hessians are off. We can see the actual pitch again. Like catching a glimpse of a long-lost friend across a room. A friend who doesn’t have a lot of personality, to be honest, but it’s been so long that you feel unduly fond of them for the first five minutes. Lots of ground staff activity out there.

I think we’re clear on the radar from now on. But I’ve been burned before. The radar is saying all the right things, but… am I ready to love? Am I ready to take that chance again?

The big covers are still on, but there are now stirrings from the ground staff. Lunch is scheduled in about 40 minutes, and goes for 40 minutes, so I wonder if they can call it early and use that time for the clean-up. Given the amount of rain it’ll probably be at least an hour to get the ground ready, even if the umpires decide that it’s fit for play.

There’s a ceremonial moment in the middle, with the large pink silk flag featuring Jane McGrath’s face and the Foundation message being unfolded and held out by dozens of volunteers. A lot of them are nurses who work for the foundation in helping people with breast cancer. That’s the main thing the organisation does, it allocates specialist nurses to help people through their treatment and care after their diagnosis. Glenn McGrath is on the field to watch this, with his adult kids Holly and James and his little daughter Madison.

It’s still raining. I don’t know what that radar was thinking earlier.

Gosh, so many mopey teenage flashbacks flickered by in the course of that three minutes.

Ladka writes in, humming one of the original sadboy anthems.

“Manchester often gets stick, lovingly, I guess, for being a damp squib. But the reality of Sydney actually being one is fairly remarkable. Alas, an ode to the cultural hearts of blighty and the Land Down Under.”

@GeoffLemonSport has @patcummins30 declared yet? Will he waste more time for a personal milestone to allow Khawaja to get his 200 or get straight into taking wickets? #AUSvRSA #Cricket

— Donald ⚡️ (@devine1901) January 7, 2023

@GeoffLemonSport g’day geoff surely not much time to get a result now?

— Stuie Neale (@MrNeale92) January 6, 2023

As of right now, I’d probably still want to slog a few more runs to increase the chance of bowling out South Africa short of the follow-on. If that mark is 275 and they get two sessions today then maybe they pass it by lunch tomorrow. On the other hand, if time gets so short that a result is improbable, then spending a couple of overs to let one of your players achieve something coveted doesn’t have much downside.

Maybe we just need to re-envisage the rain as Test cricket. As a quiet drifting session of Test cricket. They’re both interminable contests against an implacable opponent. We sit and watch very little happen until we slip into a trance, a meditation. We’re soothed by the gentleness of repeating sounds, with occasional patters of increased activity. Then once in a while, something big happens – the tractor comes out, a cover goes off and then on again. We get excited, rouse ourselves, watch intently, then we go back into our lull. After a couple of hours of that, it’s time for lunch.

I’m just a boy, standing in a front of a ground, asking it to please stop being festively damp.

Strangely there are only a few wisps on the radar. We must be wearing one of them, but it has to disappear soon. Doesn’t it?

It’s properly raining again at the ground. The full covers are back on.

“Is there a stat about which Test grounds have suffered the most rain delays over the past 10 years and if so where does Sydney show?” asks Julian.

Not a stat about delays, but Ric Finlay’s tally of full days lost has been getting a workout. You can add a 26th day to this list for yesterday.

By popular demand, complete days washed out in Test matches in Australia:
0 Perth (47 Tests)
1 Hobart (14)
2 Adelaide (81)
8 Brisbane (67)
9 MCG (115)
25 Sydney (110)

24 Manchester (+ 2 abandoned Tests)

— Ric Finlay (@RicFinlay) January 5, 2023

Sydney washouts:
1887-88 (2)
1894-95
1903-04
1907-08
1910-11
1911-12 (2)
1930-31 (2)
1946-47
1947-48 (3)
1954-55 (3)
1973-74 (2)
1989-90 (3)
2015-16 (2)
2018-19

— Ric Finlay (@RicFinlay) January 5, 2023

The SCG Trust boss Tony Shepherd was speaking on SEN this morning, and Gerard Whateley asked some questions about the problems in Sydney.

On moving the Test from early January: “I don’t think so. This is the tradition, and we just have to live with the climate.”

But more flexible on tweaking the format.

“We can make it a pink-ball Test. One of our directors, Jane, said why don’t we do that and sell the balls afterwards for the McGrath Foundation. The alternative is if you had that bad light issue at the end of the day, have a bag of pink balls there, worn ones, and finish the game that way. The show must go on, and we should do everything in our power to make sure [the first day light problem] doesn’t happen again. We could do a day-nighter or we can just use the pink ball the whole game.”

It’s drizzling again. Boo. Booooooo. I am not saying Joe Boo-urns. I don’t think that he would help at this stage.

Still no official start time, by the way. We’ll have a pitch inspection by the umpires in 25 minutes from now, which is 10:45am local time. Then they’ll announce a start time or a time for another inspection.

My favourite thing about yesterday was that I had a chat to Glenn McGrath and some of his foundation workers and family members late in the day, and they were all so upbeat despite the rain. Their fundraising went really well regardless, where a few years ago the structure of the fundraising style would have meant the effort was badly hit. More power to them all, they’re doing a great thing.

The pitch cover is coming off! Like a saucily unrolled stocking in a 1960s movie. Stop it, you nitrate diva.

Angus wants to know what it means for South Africa if this match is a draw. “Could they still qualify for the World Test Championship final if they beat the Windies at home and the Aussies muster a series win in India? Would the Saffas even want to qualify for another drubbing on neutral turf?”

To answer the last first, of course – you can’t win the games behind you but you can still turn things around in the game ahead. And yes – I’m not a natural arithmetician but I think they could qualify by winning their next couple, except they would also need Australia to take a lot of paint off India over there. Which is unlikely but possible.

Here are the current standings if you want to figure it out for me.

We had some bids for replacement venues for the Sydney Test yesterday. Tommy from Terrigal thinks that his town is the spot, even if it’s only up near Gosford. Does the rain not get that far north?

“Mat wicket so always plays consistent,” he says. “Six and ocean is out. Cooling off water for fast bowlers and David Warner on hot hot days. Perfect venue.”

A lot of people out in the middle at the moment, players warming up, running around, looking at the wicket square, chatting idly. After such a quiet day yesterday its a hive of activity. We won’t start on time at 10am but it’s in the works.

The better news is that they’re running the sopper machine around and trying to soak up the water, and the rain at the Moore Park precinct specifically has stopped. The process begins to get ready.

Hey there, you crazy kids. What’s that? You loved reading about the rain for hours yesterday and you want to do it again today? Well then. Do I have the live blog for you. (It’s this one.)

You know the sound that car tyres make on the roads when everything is wet, compared to dry? That kind of hissing whoosh sound. That was the first sound I heard waking up this morning. You know even from bed if it’s still raining out there. The puddles are twitching, the city is soaked.

But – I know I said this yesterday at times – the radar looks promising and hopefully it’s just morning rain that goes off to do something else.

This post was originally published on this site

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