Blackcaps v Australia: Black armbands to be worn during Sydney test

Australian and New Zealand cricketers will wear black armbands to pay their respects to the victims of the devastating bushfires during the third test in Sydney, starting on Friday. 

Nine people have been killed by the bushfires across New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria since Christmas, and at least four more are unaccounted for.

The Bureau of Meteorology are expecting smoke from the bushfires is likely to affect play during the test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). 

The smoke is expected to be at its worst on Saturday and play could well be delayed, as was the case during a recent abandoned Big Bash League match in Canberra last month.  

Any decision on whether to suspend play or abandon the match would rest with match referee Richie Richardson and the umpires, who will closely monitor air quality and visibility.

Along with wearing armbands, there will also be a minute's silence before the start of play. 

Both Australia and New Zealand wore black armbands during the Perth test last month to pay their respects to victims of the White Island disaster. 

Australia coach Justin Langer finds himself in the unusual position of hoping for rain during the upcoming Sydney test. The Bureau of Meteorology predicts a 70 percent chance of much-needed rain, but the weather can change very quickly. 

"There's not much we can do," he told reporters. "There'll be a lot of people who will keep on top of it but the reality is this is a game of cricket.

"It's probably stupidly the first time I say this in my life [but] I hope it rains a bit in the test match because Sydney needs it.

"I hope it rains at night so we can keep playing cricket but Sydney, like other parts of Australia, needs the rain doesn't it?"

Blackcaps spin bowler Will Somerville, who has previously lived in Sydney, said any concern over smoke issues were inconsequential to those suffering from the fires.

"It's bloody horrible, shocking, and it's been going on for so long," Somerville said.

"I don't know what more to say. There's talk about smoke delaying this game but who cares, it doesn't mean anything compared with what people are going through."

Cricket Australia (CA) told the Sydney Morning Herald that it's refrained from running a fundraiser for the firefighters during the Sydney test because of the long-standing association with the McGrath Foundation. Its major fundraiser for breast care nurses occurs during the match, which, as a result, has been dubbed the 'Pink Test' in recent years. The Blackcaps will wear special playing shirts with pink trim on day three.

However CA is planning to use two one-day internationals at the SCG in March, also played between Australia and New Zealand, for a significant disaster relief fundraising effort. CA executive Anthony Everard said he hopes  firefighters, including volunteers from the NSW Rural Fire Service, will be able to attend. 

"It's important that we recognise the efforts of the fire and emergency services. There will be activity on day one of the test to do that, at the same time ensuring we give the McGrath Foundation the focus it deserves."

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