15 November 2023

Cricket ACT is learning to be flexible in a bid to ensure the PM’s XI has a future in Canberra

| Tim Gavel
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coin toss at the cricket in 1951

PM’s XI captain Jack Fingleton, Prime Minister Menzies and West Indian captain John D Goddard toss the coin at the 1951 Prime Minister’s XI Cricket Match. Photo: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. (Courtesy ACT Heritage Library).

The PM’s XI should have a permanent place on the Australian cricket calendar and always be played at Manuka.

It is the only village green fixture remaining on the Australian summer of cricket schedule involving an international touring team.

For this reason alone, it must be preserved even if the format is chopped and changed depending on the needs of the touring team.

Manuka Oval

Manuka Oval recalls the days of village green cricket. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

For many years, since 1951, it was a one-day game before the establishment of lights allowed for more flexibility with day-nighters, T20 games and pink ball games more recently.

It returned last year as a three-day game under lights with a pink ball in the lead-up to the day-night test in Adelaide.

There’s no doubt the chopping and changing of the format created uncertainty about its future as some struggled to understand the purpose of the game.

It would appear it is back as a genuine warm-up for the test series.

This year, the touring side is Pakistan, who play Australia in three tests, starting with the first on 14 December in Perth.

pm's xi vs sri lanka cricket act

PM’s XI vs Sri Lanka at Manuka Oval. Photo: Cricket ACT.

Naturally enough, a T20, one-day game or a pink ball day-nighter is not ideal preparation for a test.

This is why Pakistan has opted for a four-day game with a red ball at Manuka against the PM’s XI from 6 to 9 December ahead of the Perth test.

Undoubtedly, Australian selectors will keep their powder dry when it comes to players in the line-up for the first test.

However, it would be the ideal fixture to audition young players against a touring international team. I hope the selectors consider picking West Australian quick Lance Morris to test him against an international team or destroy the confidence of the Pakistan batters, such is his speed.

And with David Warner nearing the end of his test career, what better place to audition a potential replacement than against Pakistani at Manuka?

Last year, five players who played for the PM’s XI against the West Indies have played tests in the past 12 months.

Renshaw, Handscomb, Agar, Murphy and Neser played tests last year after playing for the PM’s XI, while last year’s PM’s XI captain, Josh Inglis, currently plays in the Australian one-day World Cup team.

On the other hand, Pakistan will look to the PM’s game as a genuine warm-up ahead of the first test.

The format, on this occasion, is perfect.

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