March 16, 2020 / 4:45 AM / 13 days ago

Cricket-NZ's Plunket Shield cancelled, Wellington crowned champions

WELLINGTON, March 16 (Reuters) - New Zealand Cricket (NZC) cancelled the last two rounds of the Plunket Shield due to the coronavirus pandemic and awarded the title to league leaders Wellington Firebirds on Monday.

Chief executive David White said NZC took the “difficult decision” after receiving expert medical advice and following the government’s move to tighten border controls.

“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 in a statement.

The Wellington Firebirds clinched the 2019-20 title thanks to their 26-point lead over Central Stags.

More than concerns around mass gathering, NZC said it wanted to curb heightened risk of transmission in airports, planes and hotels.

NZC has also cancelled its March 30 annual award ceremony scheduled in Auckland.

“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,” White added.

It follows Cricket Australia’s decision to cancel the final round of the Sheffield Shield season in an effort to reduce travel.

CA was yet to decide if the March 27 final will take place as scheduled.

Australia and New Zealand’s limited overs tours have been postponed in the wake of new travel restrictions announced by the New Zealand government.

Australian limited-overs specialist Chris Lynn will head home after guiding Lahore Qalandars to their maiden semi-finals in the Pakistan Super League on Sunday.

“Unfortunately in these circumstances I’ve chosen to head home. I’ve always said there is more to life than cricket and this is certainly one of these cases,” Lynn wrote on Instagram after smashing a 52-ball century in an empty Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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