There will be no Ashes Test in Perth after Cricket Australia finally bowed to the inevitable and accepted that border controls in the region meant a new venue would be needed for the series finale.
The local government in Western Australia has pursued a restrictive approach to incoming travel throughout the coronavirus pandemic and, while negotiations have been ongoing for several weeks around staging the fifth England Test, no settlement has been possible.
The fifth Test will now be relocated, with Melbourne standing by to host its second game of the series as a day/nighter and officials in Tasmania lobby to bring Ashes cricket to Hobart for the first time.
Melbourne is comfortably the more lucrative option for CA, but taking the prestigious contest beyond its usual roadmap to the Bellerive Oval also has its proponents.
WA Cricket will be desperately disappointed at a second successive season without a Test match, but it is understood that players from both teams would have been resistant to re-entering a hard bubble environment, while the large number of people involved in staging a high-profile international – from broadcaster employees, to match officials and support staff – proved problematic in the current climate.
A late proposal for Perth to stage the second Test in place of Adelaide always looked a logistical dead end and was duly rejected.
Nick Hockley, CA’s chief executive, said: “We are very disappointed that we are unable to stage the fifth Vodafone men’s Ashes Test at Perth Stadium. We did everything we could in partnership with the WA Government and WA Cricket to make it work under the current border and health arrangements, but unfortunately this was not possible.
1st Test: Brisbane (Dec 8-12)
2nd Test: Adelaide (Dec 16-20)
3rd Test: Melbourne (Dec 26-30)
4th Test: Sydney (Jan 5-9)
5th Test: TBC (Jan 14-18)
“We are particularly disappointed for Western Australian cricket fans who were so looking forward to seeing the first ever Ashes Test at the new stadium.”
For now, the main focus is on the first Test in Brisbane – a game that will reunite Travis Head and Ollie Robinson after the pair shared a dressing room for Sussex over the summer.
Head has beaten out Usman Khawaja to claim the number five slot in Australia’s side and knows just what to expect from his recent county colleague when they meet in the middle.
“I’ve played a little bit of cricket with Ollie and he’s a great competitor. He plays aggressive, bowls aggressive, and that’s what our expectation is,” he said.
“He does that day in, day out at Hove and we’ve seen it in Test cricket too. He is someone who has burst on to the scene for them and I think he’ll suit the conditions really well in Australia, so we’ve got to make sure we’re 100 per cent on our game to combat that.
“All of our guys have done their research on him but I have some experience with him so if they guys need it we can chat about that.”