ACT News


Manuka lights fantastic, and so was the atmosphere

Manuka Oval burst into life as the newest additions to Canberra's sporting landscape lit up the night sky.

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Not even Chris Gayle's absence and the short-lived innings of Ricky Ponting could dampen the enthusiasm of the 9583-strong crowd on hand to see the inaugural day/night cricket match in the national capital on Tuesday night.

The six, 47m high, light towers were switched on for the first time in match conditions as the Prime Minister's XI held off the West Indies in an entertaining contest.

Chasing 334 for victory, the West Indies were well in control at 1-179 before a middle order collapse allowed Julia Gillard's outfit to secure victory by 23 runs. The West Indies finished at 9-310.


But all focus was on the new lights and the appearance of Ponting, the former Australian skipper, who was given a rousing reception from the Canberra public.

Ponting was given a standing ovation as he strode to the wicket, but the leading run scorer in Australian Test history was back in the pavilion soon after when he was bowled by Sunil Narine for 15.

Meanwhile, Gayle was rested from the West Indies line-up, but the master blaster is expected to feature at Manuka Oval for next Wednesday's sold out historic one-day international with Australia.

Having the lights will create greater opportunities for Canberra to become a regular fixture on the international cricket calendar, while also championing for games in the Big Bash League.

While the ultimate dream is for the ACT to have its own team in the Twenty20 competition, the successful installation of the lights opens the door for either the Sydney Sixers or Sydney Thunder to bring games to the ground, as early as next season.

The lights will also assist in the ACT's bid to be involved in the 2015 World Cup, while the GWS Giants will play a night-time AFL game for the first time this year.

With Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland among the dignitaries in attendance, Cricket ACT chief executive Mark Vergano said Canberra had put its best foot forward to be considered for more quality games in the future.

"The dual nature of these games is really important to us,'' Vergano said.

"In effect, the cricket economy has been doubled with the ODI being sold out next week.

"With the right quality product, people of Canberra will turn out twice in a week, so that leads to the pushing our case for the Cricket World Cup and the Big Bash League.''

But before the lights were unveiled, the immediate concern was ensuring the PM's XI match wasn't rained out for a second straight year.

Ground staff worked feverishly from 5am Tuesday morning to get all the surface water off Manuka Oval after a constant downpour on Monday night, with play starting on time at 2.20pm.

"We've had our challenges, I think the preparation of the ground was superb,'' Vergano said.

"There was just a bit of concern with the consistency of the rain given what happened last year.

"Thankfully it's all turned out for us.''


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