Wellington champion after Shield called off

David White
David White
The New Zealand domestic schedule has come to a sudden end and Wellington has been awarded the Plunket Shield.

New Zealand Cricket announced yesterday it had cancelled the last two rounds of the domestic competition as a precaution against the spread or transmission of Covid-19.

NZC chief executive David White said the difficult decision was taken after expert medical advice received yesterday and following the New Zealand Government’s decision on Saturday to tighten border controls.

The Wellington Firebirds, 26 points ahead of nearest challenger, the Central Stags, will be awarded the 2019-20 title.

"The strong consensus within NZC is that extra measures need to be taken to safeguard both the health and wellbeing of the New Zealand cricket family and the wider public interest," White said.

"The medical advice we’re receiving is that we need to take a lead on this matter.

"We’re informed the risk is very real. The pace of change is great and we have a duty of care to not only our staff and players but our communities as well."

White said the decision had not been taken under "mass gathering" concerns but, rather, under concerns over the heightened risk of transmission in areas such as airports, planes and hotels.

In contrast, advice from both NZC’s chief medical officer and the Ministry of Health emphasising the absence of person-to-person transmission in localised environments meant club and amateur cricket could continue to be played.

"The current advice is that there is no reason why community cricket should not continue unless, or until, there is new information to hand."

The measures were unanimously supported by major association chief executives and the New Zealand Cricket Players Association during a conference call yesterday afternoon.

NZC has also postponed the NZC awards, scheduled for March 30, for similar reasons.

"Hopefully, this is something we can stage at a later, and more appropriate date, but at the moment it would be far too much of a risk to hold the event in a fortnight, as scheduled."

"Our absolute priority right now is to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our staff, our players, our wider cricket family — and everyone else connected to the game in New Zealand."

After winning its past two games, Otago had moved up to third on the Plunket Shield ladder, just two points behind the Central Stags.

The side beat Canterbury in Invercargill and then defeated Central at the University of Otago Oval last Friday.

Otago was set to play Canterbury at Hagley Oval, starting tomorrow while its final game of the season was to be against the Stags in Napier, starting on March 26.

The side trained yesterday morning at the University of Otago Oval and was set to travel to Christchurch today.

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