Lee Gaskin June 09, 2012
ACT Minister for Sport Andrew Barr with Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland, in the stands at Manuka Oval yesterday. rt120608Cricket-3886.jpg Photo: Rohan Thomson
Day-night international cricket will be played at Manuka Oval next year irrespective of the results of ongoing community consultations.
It has taken 100 years, but the Australian cricket team will finally arrive in Canberra as part of next year's centenary celebrations, playing a one-day international against either Sri Lanka or the West Indies in late January or early February.
Centenary celebrations will already feature a match involving the British and Irish Lions rugby team, while there are talks to potentially bring the Socceroos and Australian netball team to the ACT.
The cricket match was only possible after the ACT government and the Federal government committed more than $5 million towards the erection of permanent lights at Manuka Oval, satisfying the requirements of television broadcasters who want the Australian team to play at night to maximise ratings.
The federal government has contributed $2.5 million, with the ACT government chipping in the remaining $2.847 million in its budget handed down last Tuesday.
The ACT government funds won't be available until the appropriation bill is passed in August.
There is also the matter of the National Capital Authority's consultation process, with submissions being accepted until July 14.
However, ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr was adamant the six, 47-metre light towers would be operational to meet their timeframe of early 2013.
''We are committed to this project, it will happen,'' Barr said.
''It's not a negotiation whether there's lights at Manuka.
''We can certainly negotiate around elements of the design, but it's not a negotiation about whether there will be lights or not.
''The Commonwealth has announced funding, we've announced funding, it's happening.''
Manuka Oval has never hosted the Australian team in an international match.
The home of the Prime Minister's XI game, Manuka Oval last hosted a one-day international in February 2008, between India and Sri Lanka.
There will be no neutral matches in next summer's international cricket schedule, with Australia playing Sri Lanka and the West Indies in separate five-match series.
The Prime Minister's match against a touring international team could also be played under lights, as could the Ryobi Cup one-day domestic game involving the NSW Blues.
It was initially negotiated for Australia to play two limited-over games against New Zealand in a stand-alone series at Manuka Oval in the first week of April.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said there were no plans for Canberra to regularly host games but pointed to the 2015 World Cup, jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, as a tournament where the ACT could be involved. ''At this stage it's a one-off,'' he said. ''We've been in discussions for a long time about the centenary and the opportunity to bring the Australian team here.
''It's one step at a time - let's get the lights up, let's get the Australian team here. There are plenty of opportunities down the track.''
Cricket Australia will hold a board meeting next week to finalise next summer's schedule and work out which state association will give up a game to allow Canberra to host a match. Asked if there would be resentment from any of the states, Sutherland said, ''Australian cricket team matches are very attractive to everyone''.
''There's lots of cities that are clamouring about getting one-day international or Twenty20 matches.''
It is hoped the installation of lights will kick start Canberra's bid for a team in the highly successful Twenty20 Big Bash League, which has been earmarked for expansion from eight to 10 teams. ''The fact we'll see lights here at Manuka Oval … Twenty20 is obviously a night phenomenon. To that end there's no reason why it can't happen in the future.''