The West Indies have shown some seriously flaky cricket form in the lead-up to Thursday’s first Test against Australia in Hobart. They lost their practice match against a rookie Aussie XI by 10 wickets, and frankly, look second rate.
But if you want to see something really flaky over the next few days, it might pay to look at the sky. Flakes of the snowy variety are forecast to fall on Hobart’s Mount Wellington on the second and third days of the Test, and may even dip down into the city’s suburbs.
Don't forget a jumper or ten if you're off to Bellerive Oval
Don't be fooled by today's sunshine and benign conditions at Bellerive Oval. The current forecast for Mt Wellington -- which rises sharply above Hobart to an altitude of 1269 metres -- predicts snow showers all the way down to 600 metres on Friday and Saturday. If that holds true, the snow will fall perilously close to the cricket.
This would all be very normal in winter. As you probably know, Hobart experiences frequent winter snowfalls on “the mountain”, as locals call Mt Wellington, which rises sharply above the city. Occasionally the flurries extend all the way down to sea level, as happened on August 3 this year when locals snapped some memorable pics of snow-covered beaches.
Anyone for beach cricket?
But snow in summer? Well, Hobart was never going to rival the tropical breezes and swaying palms of Sabina Park Jamaica this week, but even by local standards, this cold outbreak looks like a strong one.
So what’s going on? Well, if you’re interested in why the spring and early summer weather fluctuates so dramatically between hot and cold in south-east Australia, this piece we wrote two weeks ago explains much. Long story short, it’s unusual but it happens. Brrr.
The big question is what the bitter cold will do to crowds. Cricket Australia is worried about a poor spectator turnout against the weak Windies, who are the world’s eighth-ranked Test team. It has put the people of Hobart on notice that they’d better turn up, or else.
What does “or else” mean? It means that Canberra or even the NSW coastal centre of Coffs Harbour could steal future Test matches in seasons where there are six Tests. Canberra has never staged a Test, but the facilities and pitch at Manuka Oval are up to scratch, with the ground having successfully staged seven One-Day Internationals now.
Cricket Australia is hoping to attract between six and eight thousand people per day in Hobart this week. The last Test in Hobart, against Sri Lanka in 2012, attracted less than 20,000 patrons over five days. Today's crowd looks pretty patchy, give or take a bunch of school kids on freebies. Frigid weather may yet have the last say on whether that paltry figure is exceeded.