Cricketers faced terrifying scenes on Tuesday night, when a pair of angry birds spooked players, who were left ducking for cover at a WBBL game. Two plover parents, a notoriously cranky species of bird also known as Masked Lapwings, set up camp on the in-field at the Hobart Hurricanes 49-run win over the Sydney Thunder at Blacktown Sportspark in Sydney’s west.

Powerfully-built allrounder Sammy-Jo Johnson was reduced to a laughing mess lying horizontal on the ground to escape the swooping birds, much to the delight of commentators.  Sam Bates and Lauren Smith could also be seen clutching on to each other and cowering together on the ground as they jumped away from one of the angry parents – though fortunately they both saw the funny side in the situation.

The fiercely-protective mum and dad clearly thought the Thunder players were some kind of lime-green monster predators; with star batter Phoebe Litchfield in particular bearing the brunt of the parental angst. ‘I can see that a few players are actually hitting the deck at the moment,’ former Australian and Thunder legend Alex Blackwell laughed on the Fox Sports broadcast of the game.

 According to Australia’s largest wildlife rescue, Plovers inhabit all of Australia, and lay their eggs on a nest on the ground in open areas like, as it turns out, in the middle of elite sporting fields. 

‘A mum and dad plover, it looks like they’re protecting the chicks. The plovers are quite territorial and they lay their nest randomly out on the outfield. ‘You’d expect a nest to be somewhere more protected but looks like the nest has been placed at short cover,’ said Blackwell, who grew up used to territorial birds playing in regional NSW.

‘Plovers are very protective of their nests and chicks. This is particularly the case after the chicks have hatched. Adults may dive on intruders, use loud noises and swooping or act as though they have a broken wing in an attempt to lure the intruder away from the nest,’ the organisation’s website says. 

‘I actually remember a day-night Test match where Elysse Perry got a 200. What kept us entertained was there was a plover at North Sydney Oval, so it’s not just at Blacktown, they can occur anywhere around Sydney,’ she said.

Blackwell also regaled viewers with another sporting plover story, admitting that while Aussie star Ellyse Perry scored a historic 213* on North Sydney Oval, her teammates were paying more attention to a plover on the hill.   

The plovers did eventually leave, but it wasn’t enough to get rattled Thunder players over the line.  A bowling masterclass from the Hurricanes restricted a star-studded Thunder batting line-up to just 95; with Maisy Gibson, Heather Graham and Hayley Jensen all nabbing two wickets.

It came after South African smasher Lizelle Lee lead the women in purple to 7-144 off their 20 overs with a dynamic 41 off 29 balls. The Hurricanes, who sit third on the ladder after winning two of their opening three, travel to Western Australia to face the Perth Scorchers on Sunday. The Thunder, who are currently wooden spooners, will look  to rebound when they also travel to Perth to take on the Scorchers this Saturday. 

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