The Sydney Thunder have entrusted hitter Ben Cutting to get their weakened side off to a quick start against the Adelaide Strikers.
With Covid forcing the Thunder to make various changes for Friday night’s clash, Cutting, usually a lower-order hitter, was promoted to lead off batting.
Strikers rhythm pitcher Dan Worrall made it difficult early in innings, with just two runs from the first over before launching a gorilla that hit Cutting in the helmet.
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“It’s on tonight, the Strikers,” Fox Cricket’s Kerry O’Keeffe said.
But Cutting took the lead later in the finale, hitting various limits while helping the Thunder become a fast star.
The Strikers brought in veteran Fawad Ahmed, who hit right away when Matthew Gilkes was caught at the length of 13. Brad Haddin told Fox Cricket: “That was a shot with nothing.”
BEFORE THE GAME: COVID CHAOS
Sydney Thunder will weaken significantly for at least its next three games following confirmation that four players have tested positive for Covid-19.
Hitters Alex Hales and Alex Ross will need to isolate themselves, as will spinner Tanveer Sangha and goalie-hitter Sam Whiteman, after they all tested positive.
Confirmation of these four positive results forced the Thunder to name a new team for their New Years Eve game against Adelaide Strikers, with the visitors under strict protocols never seen before before the Big Bash.
Level 5 protocols will include Thunder players who need to keep clear of each other and their opponents. They will be divided between the changing rooms, and only one person will be allowed to enter at a time with a mask.
Even while batting, Thunder players will need to sit in groups of no more than three people to minimize the risk of spreading the virus that has already fallen to four of the club’s players.
There will also be no X factor to minimize players on the ground.
Although the protocols, as outlined in Cricket Australia’s submission for a South Australian government waiver, would be similar to the games played in Tasmania and Western Australia this summer and across states last summer, the fact that only 12 players, a coach and a physiotherapist will be allowed on the floor makes it unique.
Both clubs and Cricket Australia were confident on Friday that South Australian health authorities would grant the waiver, and the official go-ahead was given just hours before the first ball on Friday afternoon.
But there are implications for the Thunder beyond Friday night with the club as they will play another game on January 2 against the Strikers and then again on January 5 against the Scorchers.
It is unclear if the Thunder’s quartet of players will need to isolate themselves in South Australia for 10 days, per state regulations, or if they will be allowed to return to New South Wales and isolate themselves for seven days there.
If they must remain in South Africa, Hales, Tanveer, Ross and Whiteman will also not be available for the January 8 games against the Melbourne Renegades.
As a cover, Fox Cricket understands that the Thunder have called up spinner Arjun Nair and NSW left-handed hitter Lachlan Hearne, who has played two Shield games but has yet to make his BBL debut.
Nair has been a semi-regular for the Thunder for five years and last played for the club in January.
Considering the positive cases, the Thunder will have 16 players to choose from until they return.
The chaos comes after Thursday night’s BBL clash between Melbourne Stars and Perth Scorchers was postponed after a Stars staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
“First of all, our thoughts go out to all community members affected by the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks, including members of our Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder squads,” said BBL General Manager Alistair Dobson .
“We thank Strikers, Thunder and SA Health for their hard work today to ensure this match can continue.
“We will continue to work closely with our clubs, relevant governments, broadcasters, partners and venues to ensure that the season continues safely and successfully throughout the month of January.”
The Thunder confirmed to Fox Cricket that they could field at least 11 players after four tested positive in the past 24 hours.
Concern for state health authorities had revolved around close contacts within the Thunder team. Although all the other players and coaches have given negative results in PCR tests.
All the Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers players have been taking rapid antigen tests every day since the start of the BBL.
Strikers XI: Matt Short, Jake Weatherald, Matt Renshaw, Jon Wells, Thomas Kelly, George Garton, Harry Nielsen (week), Rashid Khan, Daniel Worrall, Peter Siddle (c), Fawad Ahmed. X Factor Substitutes: Henry Hunt, Daniel Drew, Henry Hunt (X factor), Daniel Drew (X factor)
Thunder XI: Matthew Gilkes, Ollie Davies, Jason Sangha, Sam Billings (week), Daniel Sams, Ben Cutting, Arjun Nair, Nathan McAndrew, Chris Green (c), Brendan Doggett, Saqib Mahmood, Lachie Hearne (X factor), Gurinder Sandhu (Factor X)
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