SYDNEY: A star-studded charity game to aid Australian bushfire relief was on Thursday moved from the Sydney Cricket Ground to Melbourne due to forecast torrential rain, forcing some players to drop out.
Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting were to come out of retirement to skipper the teams on Saturday to raise money for victims of the blazes which began in September and have left at least 33 people dead and thousands of homes destroyed.
It was scheduled as a curtain raiser to the Twenty20 Big Bash League final, but with downpours expected, Cricket Australia (CA) said it would no longer be possible at the SCG.
Instead, it will be played on Sunday at the smaller Junction Oval in Melbourne following a T20 clash between the Australia and England women’s teams.
“We have moved the Bushfire Bash from the SCG because we want to provide every opportunity for the BBL final to be played on Saturday night,” said CA chief Kevin Roberts, amid concerns that the pitch could be damaged if there was a game beforehand.
Adam Gilchrist will now captain one of the teams in Warne’s absence with Australian Test skipper Tim Paine acting as coach. The Ponting team will be coached by Sachin Tendulkar.
Other international stars taking part include Wasim Akram, Brian Lara, Courtney Walsh, and Justin Langer.
Match profits will go to the Australian Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.
The Sydney Sixers will face either the Melbourne Stars or Sydney Thunder in the BBL final, weather permitting.
Meanwhile, many Australians were experiencing a bittersweet break from the threat of bushfires on Thursday, with flooding rains deluging some parts of the eastern states and miners preparing for a tropical cyclone to hit the country’s iron ore heartland over the weekend.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) issued severe thunderstorm warnings for the southeast of Queensland state and a flood alert for more than 20 areas in New South Wales (NSW) after the start of heavy rainfall that is expected to continue for several days.
“Warm, moist air feeding in from the east was bringing the rain,” BOM forecaster Mike Funnell told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “We are expecting those larger totals and heavier rainfall to come into the northeast coast of NSW and then sort of track slowly southwards.”
Miners Rio Tinto and BHP Group said they were monitoring the situation and making preparations ahead of Saturday, when a tropical low off the coast of Western Australia is forecast to develop into a category three cyclone that was set to make landfall in the Pilbara area.
“With strong winds and heavy seas predicted, both Port Walcott [Cape Lambert] and Dampier ports are being cleared, as this impacts the ability to safely moor vessels,” Rio said. “We have also started the process of demobilising non-essential people from our sites which may be affected by the weather system.”
The wet weather has helped douse or slow some of the country’s most damaging and long-running wildfires, which have burned through more than 11.7 million hectares (2.8 million acres) of land since September. The prolonged bushfire season has killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals. More than 2,500 homes have been destroyed.
Officials, however, have warned the threat was not yet over and that there will likely be weeks more of firefighting ahead.
Around 60 fires were still burning across NSW and Victoria, the country’s most populous states, with around half of those classified as uncontained.