A snap lockdown of the city of Perth due to a Covid-19 case in Western Australia's hotel-quarantine programme forced Cricket Australia into a last-minute shift of the Perth Scorchers' Big Bash League Challenger on Thursday to Canberra's Manuka Oval.
The Scorchers squad, having lost to the Sydney Sixers at Manuka on Saturday night in the Qualifier between first and second, were fortunate their scheduled flight home to Perth was not due to depart until late afternoon Canberra time, meaning the news of WA's five-day lockdown until Friday arrived in time to keep them in the eastern states.
BBL officials were called into urgent meetings on Sunday afternoon to finalise a contingency for the match between the Scorchers and the winners of Sunday's Knockout between the Brisbane Heat and Sydney Thunder in Canberra. The final has already been awarded to the SCG and the Sixers.
Tickets for the original Thursday-night fixture at Perth Stadium had not yet gone on sale, to an extent reducing complications for tournament organisers. Nevertheless, the change to plans for the Scorchers and their opponents plus match and CA officials remain significant. CA was also in talks with WA health authorities about the status of the Perth Scorchers players due to return home following the conclusion of the tournament.
Should they qualify for the final in Sydney, the homeward bound Scorchers players may be required to sit out two weeks of quarantine upon entering the state, since its borders are still closed to recent visitors to Sydney following the Northern Beaches outbreak over December and early January.
Speaking of the late change in plans, the head of the BBL, Alistair Dobson, said, "The League would like to extend its best wishes to all BBL fans in Perth, particularly those Scorchers fans who were hoping to see their team in action this Thursday, following the announcement of a hard lockdown by the WA Government. We support all governments across Australia in their efforts to manage the ongoing public health situation and wish Western Australia all the best in managing these latest developments.
"Likewise, we'd also like to thank the Perth Scorchers for their understanding regarding the decision to move the Challenger to Manuka Oval. This has been an unprecedented BBL season and the ongoing flexibility and cooperation has been vital in getting us to this point of the Finals series.
"Finally, we'd like to recognise the incredible work of the ACT Government, Venues Canberra, Cricket ACT and Cricket NSW who have again come to the fore to ensure we deliver a safe, successful and complete BBL season. The League, our clubs and all BBL fans are grateful for the enormous contribution everyone in Canberra has made to this season and we look forward to seeing their cricket-loving community out in force again this Thursday night."