Tasmania mount campaign to snatch Perth Ashes Test

The Tasmania government has written to Cricket Australia formally requesting the fifth Test be relocated to Hobart, in a move that will ramp up pressure on Western Australia to keep its Ashes fixture.

The Herald and The Age can reveal there have been talks to push back the start of the fifth Test, slated for January 14, by a day or two to facilitate the arrival of the Ashes show into COVID-zero Perth from Sydney.

Tasmania’s bid to snatch Perth’s Ashes Test centres on WA’s closed border, the product of the state’s hard-line stance, which has enabled life in the west to remain normal during the pandemic but has isolated the state from the rest of the country as Australia adjusts to living with the virus.

It is also making life difficult for the game’s administrators, who must juggle the reluctance of England’s players to accept another period of quarantine with the politics of COVID in WA.

The Tasmania government has seized on the opening to mount a campaign to secure what it says would be the state’s biggest sporting event.

There is also the potential for a fairytale home farewell for Test captain Tim Paine, though the wicketkeeper’s level-headed leadership may be needed for the mooted tour of Pakistan next year.

The Tasmania government has formally requested Cricket Australia move the Perth Test to Hobart.Credit:Getty

“It would be just fantastic to see Tim play at Bellerive as captain of Australia,” Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein told parliament on Wednesday. “We’ve been having ongoing discussions with Cricket Tasmania and the CEO of Cricket Australia.

“Today I’ll be writing to Cricket Australia to formally put our case for the relocation of the Test match scheduled to commence on the 14th of January in WA.

“Their borders will not be open by then. Tasmania is ready to host that important match … [which] would, without doubt, be the state’s biggest sporting event that we’ve hosted to date.

“Tasmania has a great history and a proud tradition of representation in the Australian cricket team.”

The easiest option logistically for CA, and for broadcasters, would be to move the Test from Perth but cricket officials remain adamant the game will not be relocated. Others in the industry, however, believe the situation is precarious.

There are issues for the TV networks, who face hurdles moving highly skilled essential crew from Sydney to Perth for the game. They overcame similar obstacles last year in getting crew to Brisbane after a COVID outbreak in Sydney, but there are not as many staff based in Perth. There are also concerns about how camera operators could perform their jobs in the stands without mixing with fans in the crowd.

If CA was to push the start of the Perth Test back to satisfy WA health officials, it could cause problems with its Big Bash League schedule, with three matches to be played on January 19 and finals to start on January 21.

Meanwhile, Usman Khawaja enhanced his Test claims with a priceless 70 on a Gabba green top against Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield. The next highest score was 13 in Queensland’s first innings of 129 on a rain-interrupted first day.

In another game affected by weather, South Australia reached 2-27 at stumps on the first day against Tasmania in Hobart.

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