More than two months after a coronavirus-forced shutdown, Australia will witness resumption of competitive cricket along with fans in the stands when a T20 tournament starts this weekend at Darwin.
The CDU Top End T20, a round-robin T20 carnival featuring 15 games across the Queen's Birthday long-weekend on June 6-8, will also see up to 500 spectators allowed at the grounds since Northern Territory has not registered any active COVID-19 case since May 21.
The tournament, featuring seven Darwin Premier Grade clubs and an Invitational XI comprising best players from the Northern Territory's 'Asia Cup' competition, will be a testing ground for cricket in a COVID-19 environment.
On March 13, Australia and New Zealand had played the last international cricket match possible before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a cricket shutdown across the globe.
"We have a unique opportunity to showcase Darwin's wonderful dry season to a global audience, as well as celebrate the return of cricket after a period of unprecedented disruption to the game," Northern Territory Cricket chief executive Joel Morrison was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
"It's been a pretty tough couple of months for everyone around the world and we are hoping to bring some joy to the cricket community. We are open-minded and are quite happy to be a test case for world cricket."
The matches, which are being conducted in collaboration between NT Cricket and Charles Darwin University, will be held at Marrara Cricket Ground, Gardens Oval and Cazaly's Oval.
Select games will also be streamed live on the MyCricket Facebook page to a global audience, including one of the semi-finals and the grand final on Monday, June 8.
After the T20 carnival, a 14-round Darwin & District one-day season will follow which will culminate with a final on September 19.
The tournament is happening at a time when the ICC Cricket Committee has recommended a ban on the use of saliva on the ball as an interim measure to counter the coronavirus threat but did not allow use of artificial substances.
Darwin Cricket Management chairman Lachlan Baird said it will not be an issue in the T20s but needs to be discussed before the 50-over event.
"Cricket Australia is still very strong at the moment that they will not necessarily follow the ICC direction that sweat can be used and any wax applicator will not be banned," Baird told the NT News this week.
"They are still exploring that. Fortunately, it should not be too much of an issue with our T20 competition this weekend.
"But the week after when 50-over cricket begins we will need a formal decision on what we are going to do — either through wax applicators with Kookaburra or hopefully following the ICC and the United Kingdom, who say using sweat and not saliva to shine the ball is an acceptable risk."
Top Australian cricketers, including David Warner, Steve Smith, have resumed training this week with Cricket Australia announcing an international schedule that includes a three-game ODI series against Zimbabwe.