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Spectators set for return to Australian cricket

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Crowds will return to international cricket for the first time since March later this month, with confirmation that a limited number of spectators will be able to attend the Australia-New Zealand women’s matches being staged at Allan Border Field in Brisbane, although those watching are encouraged to keep their cheering to a minimum.

The availability of tickets was announced by Cricket Australia on Monday for the T20I and ODI series which begins on September 26. Capacity at the venue will be capped at 50% under Queensland Government Covid-19 regulations, while there are various other protocols and restrictions in place.

One of the specific recommendations Cricket Australia has put out involves shouting and cheering to cut the risk of droplet spread. “Try to keep shouting, singing, cheering or celebrating to a minimum to avoid transmission,” the guidelines state.

All tickets will have to be bought online, then spectators will swipe in using a mobile device with details stored in case contact tracing is required. The ground will be split into six zones with people not allowed to move outside of their designated area.

The range of Covid-19 measures which have become common over the last six months will be in place including social distancing. There will be no interaction with the players during the matches for things like selfies or autographs.

Members of Australia’s squad from New South Wales, Victoria, and the ACT, along with the full New Zealand party, are currently in two weeks quarantine in Brisbane. They are able to train for three hours a day at Allan Border Field during this time with the rest of the Australia squad arriving next Monday. The two sides will play each other in a warm-up match before the internationals start.

Crowds of varying sizes have been able to return to watch the winter sports codes in Australia since July in all states and territories other than Victoria. One of the key elements of the men’s international season, whether the MCG can host the Boxing Day Test against India, hinges on if crowds are able to return at some level by then. A final decision is not expected on that until November as Melbourne works through easing its restrictions.

The last international match in Australia to have a crowd was the T20 World Cup final at the MCG on March, where more than 86,000 people watched the home side lift the trophy; globally, the last match with crowds was a T20I between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe on March 11. Two days later, the men’s ODI between Australia and New Zealand at the SCG was played behind closed doors amid rising cases of Covid-19. That was the last international match to be played until July with the series called off the next day.

The ECB is on the verge of completing a full men’s programme of international matches in a condensed season with all those games having taken place behind closed doors in biosecure bubbles at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford. The England women’s team will play West Indies in a five T20I series starting on September 21 in Derby without crowds. The recently completed CPL was also played behind closed doors in Trinidad.

There have been small-scale trials in the UK with fans briefly able to return to a handful of county cricket matches but plans for more have been shelved due to the rising Covid numbers.

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