Sport

Canberra cricket fans show appetite for international games, packing Manuka Oval for Australia v South Africa

Canberra cricket fans voted with their feet that they deserve international games on a regular basis, earning a glowing review from Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland.

Less than a week after the two one-day internationals in Perth struggled to put bums on seats, 10,583 people created a lively atmosphere at Manuka Oval to see Australia beat South Africa by 73 runs on Wednesday night.

More than 10,000 people packed out Manuka Oval on Wednesday night.
More than 10,000 people packed out Manuka Oval on Wednesday night. Photo: Melissa Adams

While it wasn't the sellout crowd that showed up for last year's Australia v West Indies game - the first visit of the Australian team to Canberra in the city's 100-year history - officials were overjoyed with the support for a midweek encounter.

The Australia v South Africa game was the start of a bumper summer of cricket in the national capital, with the annual PM's XI game in January to be followed by the Big Bash League final and three World Cup games.

Sutherland said the Canberra public had shown an appetite for international cricket over the past two years and that improvements to Manuka Oval had helped substantially.

"Every city around the country that has the privilege of hosting international cricket has to show it's worthy of it," Sutherland said.

"It's up to the public to get behind it.

"There's great evidence of that today and hopefully we'll see that at the World Cup as well."

However, Sutherland admitted the diminishing amount of limited-over games on the schedule in future years would make it difficult for the Australian team to visit Canberra on an annual basis.

"I wouldn't want any ACT cricket fans to think that this summer is going to be the ordinary summer in future years," Sutherland said.

"It's obviously a unique summer with the World Cup.

"On one hand, we're absolutely delighted to be fixturing these matches here and it's an endorsement of the support that we've had of the Canberra public and the ACT government in continue to develop the ground and those sorts of things.

"At the same time, going forward, the challenges continue to be there.

"It's not just here in Canberra, it's all over the country where we don't neccesarily have more content coming up, particularly around one-day cricket and the shorter forms of the game."

Former Australian captain Ian Chappell said the decision on whether Canberra would get more games would come down to dollars and cents.

"It's economics," Chappell said. "If you keep getting big crowds and you rake in more dough than other venues then you've got a pretty good argument, that's what it will boil down to.

"Every decision that's made in cricket these days is purely bottom line.

"Any cricket adminstrator who doesn't understand that isn't following the game very closely.

"It's not what you do over one year or two years, it's what you do over time.

"You've got to build up a bit of a history, that's the hard part."

ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he had made it clear in discussions with Sutherland and Cricket Australia that it was important to maintain the momemtum built over the past two years.

"What's clear is that Canberra has an appetite for cricket that involves the Australian team, because we've been starved off it for so long," Barr said.

"Where there are some parts of Australia that have a certain level of saturation of games, we haven't, so there is strong appetite.

"It's a really good opportunity for the sport to cement a very strong base in Canberra."

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