March 13, 2020 / 3:56 AM / 24 days ago

Australia beat New Zealand to snap ODI losing streak at empty ground

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia beat New Zealand by 71 runs in the first one-day international in front of 48,000 empty seats at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday as precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus hit home Down Under.

Cricket Australia (CA) said on Friday morning that no fans would be allowed into any of the three matches in the series, which continues at the SCG on Sunday before moving on to Hobart next Friday.

In an atmosphere reminiscent of a junior club match, Australia scored 258 for seven before dismissing New Zealand for 197 in 41 overs to snap a five-match losing streak.

The home side enjoyed an opening stand of 124 between skipper Aaron Finch (60) and David Warner (67) before the Black Caps stalled their charge in the middle overs.

Marnus Labuschagne chipped in with 56 from 52 balls to get them moving again with Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc smashing a couple of boundaries in the tail.

Martin Guptill hit 40 at the top of the New Zealand order but the visitors took their time to get going, finally getting into their stride when Colin de Grandhomme and Tom Latham put on 51 for the sixth wicket.

Josh Hazlewood broke that partnership by having Latham caught in the deep for 38 and when de Grandhomme departed for 25 in similar fashion off spinner Adam Zampa, the New Zealanders were in a deep hole at 160-7.

With no fans, players had to jump into the stands to retrieve the ball after sixes and there were no handshakes at the end of the match under new health protocols.

The Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne was scrapped because of the coronavirus on Friday and Prime Minister Scott Morrison later urged people to avoid gathering in groups of more than 500 — a move which has obvious implications for spectator sport.

There was one bit of good news, however, with Australia paceman Kane Richardson, who was quarantined after reporting a mild sore throat on Thursday, returning to the SCG to rejoin his team mates after being cleared of carrying the coronavirus.

CA also suspended a tour of South Africa by Australia’s women’s team “until further notice” and said they would be reviewing the three-match Twenty20 tour of New Zealand by their men’s team scheduled for later this month.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris, Himani Sarkar and Toby Davis

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