By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia coach Justin Langer found himself in the unusual position of hoping for rain ahead of the third test against New Zealand this week as the bushfires continued to rage around the country.
Wet weather is no friend to test cricket, forcing the players off the field for what can be long periods and often disrupting matches to the extent that no result is possible.
The smoke from the bushfires that have destroyed more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres) was a more immediate threat on Wednesday with a thick haze shrouding the Sydney Cricket Ground and encouraging fears for the health of players.
Langer, however, suggested a little perspective would be required when the final test in a series Australia already lead 2-0 got underway at the ground on Friday.
"There's not much we can do," he told reporters. "There'll be a lot of people who will keep on top of it but the reality is this is a game of cricket.
"It's probably stupidly the first time I say this in my life (but) I hope it rains a bit in the test match because Sydney needs it.
"I hope it rains at night so we can keep playing cricket but Sydney, like other parts of Australia, needs the rain doesn't it?"
A Big Bash League (BBL) match between Sydney Thunder and Adelaide Strikers at Canberra's Manuka Oval was abandoned on Dec. 21 due to "dangerous conditions" caused by the bushfire smoke.
A number of spectators at the ground required medical attention and Cricket Australia (CA) later said that players would be more at risk because they were exercising.
The New South Wales government rated the air quality in the area around the SCG on Wednesday as hazardous.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) will be monitoring the air quality ahead of the test match and Langer said the team doctor had been given the responsibility of making calls over whether conditions were fit for play.
"We'll keep an eye on it, we'll do it as well as we can," Langer added.
"We're feeling for all the Australians who are suffering ... Hopefully, all we can do is put a smile on their face by playing some good cricket."
(Editing by Neil Fullick)