20 October 2022

The PM’s XI returns in November in a new format

| Tim Gavel
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Cricket at Manuka Oval

PM’s XI v Sri Lanka in 2019. Photo: Cricket ACT.

The PM’s XI has had numerous incarnations, including disappearing from the cricket calendar altogether between 1965 and 1984.

The future of the fixture has been tenuous at times as touring teams struggled to accommodate the game in Canberra in an increasingly crowded calendar.

Yet for Canberra, the PM’s XI, formerly known as the Australian Prime Minister’s Invitation XI, has a significant history.

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The game emanated from a chance encounter in 1951 between the then Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, and the President of ACT Cricket, Ian Emerton, who was also the Deputy Clerk of the Senate.

Prime Minister’s XI Cricket Match, 22 October 1951. PM’s XI Captain Jack Fingleton, Prime Minister Menzies and the West Indian captain, John D. Goddard in 1951. Photo: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. (Courtesy ACT Heritage Library, Ref. 001390).

Prime Minister’s XI Cricket Match, 22 October 1951. PM’s XI Captain Jack Fingleton, Prime Minister Menzies and the West Indian captain, John D Goddard in 1951. Photo: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. (Courtesy ACT Heritage Library, Ref. 001390).

The two had a conversation in the Parliament House Library. In that discussion, it was revealed that the West Indies tour of Australia didn’t include a game in the ACT. What was to eventuate was the first PM’s XI game held on 27 October 1951.

Over the years, the Prime Minister’s XI has generated many highlights as the only genuine village green-style match on the schedule of touring teams. Pictures of the crowd turning out to watch Sir Donald Bradman, coming out of retirement at the age of 54 years in the 1962/63 game against the MCC at Manuka, is one of the greatest moments.

Sir Robert Menzies with cricketers Ted Dexter and Don Bradman at Manuka Oval

Sir Robert Menzies with cricketers Ted Dexter and Don Bradman at Manuka Oval. Photo: Cricket ACT. Source: National Library of Australia.

The fixture also evolved into a nighttime event with the introduction of lights at Manuka. The PM’s XI game against the West Indies on 29 January 2013 was the first event held under the new lights.

But the future of the fixture remained clouded, not only for the reasons already mentioned but also because of the fluctuating interest by Prime Ministers over the years.

Thankfully, it was resurrected by Bob Hawke in 1984 and has been a permanent booking since.

Uncertainty again reared its head after the 2019 game against Sri Lanka on 29 October. This was due to the COVID pandemic, which led to a two-year hiatus.

Manuka Oval

Manuka Oval. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

This year the PM’s XI is returning. It has been reincarnated into a four-day game. From 23 to 26 November, the PM’s XI will play the West Indies.

The game will be played with a pink ball to help the Windies prepare for the day-night test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval from 8 December.

Whether or not the ‘festival feel’ can be maintained over four days remains to be seen, but it’s good to see the PM’s XI restored as a feature of the calendar of touring cricket teams.

The PM’s XI will take on the West Indies at Manuka Oval from 23 to 26 November. Tickets from Ticketek.

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