COVID-safe national capital is pitch perfect for Ashes Test

Ian Bushnell 9 December 2021 21
Manuka Oval

Picturesque Manuka Oval is a marvellous boutique ground that Canberrans would fill. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The ACT Government spent more than $11 million on the Manuka Oval media centre to make the venue viable for international cricket. That investment should again reap dividends this summer after Perth’s hit-wicket dismissal from its Ashes Test date in January.

It was good to see the government officially putting in its pitch for the Fifth Test against England from 14 to 18 January, and it should be able to mount a powerful case for the match to be relocated here instead of the other candidate, Hobart, or God-forbid, giving Sydney or Melbourne another crack.

As a venue, Manuka lives up to the reputation of being a boutique and picturesque ground. It even has a cathedral end.

The oval dimensions make for good cricket, with the expansive space testing batsmen who want to take a maximum toll on bowlers and giving bowlers a chance against such risk-takers.

The pitch is no longer a road, and preparation in recent times has offered something for both the bat and ball.

READ MORE: ACT puts its hand up for Fifth Ashes Test after Perth stripped of hosting rights

From a spectator’s point of view, it is an intimate experience with terrific vantage points around the ground.

It has already proved itself as a big cricket venue, having hosted a Test match, one-day internationals and Big Bash matches. And at the end of January, the Australian and England women’s teams will play a Test match there.

Hobart’s Bellerive also offers a scenic location, but its pitch is traditionally lifeless, and the fact is the ground rarely attracts the kind of crowd across the five days that justify an Ashes Test, no matter how much Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein talks up how it would augment the island’s unique tourism offering.

The national capital offers a city of informed and cashed-up sports lovers who, together with cricket tourists from Sydney and other centres, would fill Manuka for most of the match.

By mid-January, the unseasonal wet weather should have calmed down to a drier and warmer pattern that would deliver enough playing time for a result.

The same could not be said for Hobart, which is more likely to be a riskier proposition with the odd cold front still blowing through.

The clincher would have to be the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 environment which, especially with the emergence of the Omicron variant, casts a shadow over travel arrangements and people’s perceived safety.

Canberra is central, easily accessible, with excellent hotels and is probably the safest city in the world with a 98 per cent vaccination rate.

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Chief Minister Andrew Barr has been a cautious guardian of the capital, but Canberra will stay an open city with that kind of protection.

There is no guarantee that Mr Gutwein would do the same.

Cricket Australia should reward Canberra for its investment in Manuka, play safe with both the Australian and English players, and secure a venue that will be a safe bet and deliver a reasonable return.

If it does, an Ashes Test could be a breakthrough experience for Manuka and prompt even more investment in the ground and more top sport.

The big spend on the media centre copped plenty of criticism when it was proposed, but whichever way Cricket Australia swings, it’s looking like a good investment.

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21 Responses to COVID-safe national capital is pitch perfect for Ashes Test
Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:42 pm 10 Dec 21

Phew, Hobart has “won” it thus saving ACT ratepayers millions of dollars.

Looks like Barr’s $11 million media centre should have been a “pop-up” venture.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 1:26 pm 10 Dec 21

Isn’t it wonderful to see trees still surrounding the Manuka Oval, despite the efforts of developers to circle it with apartments. Unfortunately the Ainslie Oval is about to lose its trees to build more apartments with zero canopy cover.

Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 10:31 am 10 Dec 21

Except we may need a result in the 5th test and the Canberra pitch offers nothing.

    Julie Donda Julie Donda 10:33 am 10 Dec 21

    Daniel Oyston I like you’re thinking. But no chance if England keep performing like this 😂

    Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 11:05 am 10 Dec 21

    Julie Donda correct, but the weather will have an impact this summer so it may be their get out of jail free card

    Julie Donda Julie Donda 11:13 am 10 Dec 21

    Daniel Oyston I’m doing a rain dance right now 😂

Mitchell Stevens Mitchell Stevens 8:46 am 10 Dec 21

Hobart deserves it … but I’d love to go

    Emma Wright Emma Wright 9:32 am 10 Dec 21

    Mitchell Stevens why does Hobart deserve it over Canberra?

    Mitchell Stevens Mitchell Stevens 10:00 am 10 Dec 21

    Emma Wright because it is a Shield state

    Tom Hubbard Tom Hubbard 3:39 pm 10 Dec 21

    Mitchell Stevens that’s a terrible reason.

    All states are on the shield and the territories aren’t, if you’re going to suggest Hobart provide an actual point.

    Mitchell Stevens Mitchell Stevens 4:14 pm 10 Dec 21

    Tom Hubbard you can drive to Sydney if you live in Canberra …’done!

    Tom Hubbard Tom Hubbard 4:22 pm 10 Dec 21

    Mitchell Stevens this is perfectly reasonable,

    or better yet catch the train. Choo-choo 🚂

John Elliott John Elliott 8:23 am 10 Dec 21

Let's do it then 🤣

Eric Anthony Lucas Eric Anthony Lucas 8:07 am 10 Dec 21

The wicket is too flat.

Shane Jasprizza Shane Jasprizza 7:38 am 10 Dec 21

It will go where the money is.

Ben Jones Ben Jones 7:35 am 10 Dec 21

I’d be happy to pay less for the tram to make this historic event happen

    Martin Budden Martin Budden 7:37 am 10 Dec 21

    I'd be happy to pay less for the tram.

    Justin Watson Justin Watson 8:35 am 10 Dec 21

    The tram in the ACT budget is not huge cost in the budget compared to Health and education. Not paying for the tram is like me giving up buying coffee for 2 days a week.

    Scott Abela Scott Abela 9:22 am 10 Dec 21

    The tram is an " off budget expense" that means the actual costs is NOT in the budget and is considered a capital investment. What you've seen listed in the budget is the project and associated costs, that's to fool people into thinking it's smaller than it it. Phase one was donethesame way and it copped criticism at the time for not listing the debt expense openly.

Alex Kerr Alex Kerr 7:21 am 10 Dec 21

Jack because there's so many parking options or optimised public transport on match day...

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