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Canberra deserves Test after Tasmania turns its back on series opener

Date

Lee Gaskin

Monday's Expert

Poor crowds have marred the Hobart Test.

Poor crowds have marred the Hobart Test. Photo: Getty Images

C'mon Tasmania, it's time to hand over what's rightfully ours - Test cricket.

This week's disgracefully low crowds for the series opener against Sri Lanka, coupled with the extensive makeover of Manuka Oval, should be a beacon to Cricket Australia that Canberra deserves Hobart's place on the calendar.

A mere 6221 people walked through the turnstiles at Blundstone Arena - formerly known as Bellerive Oval - for the first day of the Test on Friday.

Of course, there were several legitimate reasons why the turnout was so poor.

It was a weekday, the tourists don't exactly set the world on fire in the five-day format and admission prices were through the roof. At $43 for an adult ticket bought at the gate and $94.50 for families of two adults and two children, it's little wonder Tasmanians stayed away in their droves.

Not even the sight of seeing favourite son Ricky Ponting being farewelled at the lunch break could draw punters to the ground.

But with all that taken into account, you'd have thought Tasmanians would have embraced the match given they don't see a Test every year.

This match is the 11th played in Hobart since it became a Test-playing venue in 1989 - 23 years ago. Four visiting countries have made the trek to the Apple Isle in that time - New Zealand (four), Sri Lanka, Pakistan (both three) and the West Indies (one).

Not exactly Test heavyweights, but fully fledged international cricket nations nonetheless, something Canberra has been denied, despite having a 73 per cent higher population than Hobart (367,000 compared with 211,656).

That is, until next year.

Although the ACT has hosted two one-day internationals, the Australian team will make its inaugural appearance in a day-night 50-over match against the West Indies on February 6.

Support for the historic game has exceeded expectations.

The ticket allocation - prices range from $35 to $85 with family packages from $80 - has already been exhausted despite the match being played on a Wednesday.

It's an impressive effort considering that 50-over cricket is on the wane everywhere else around the country and the world. A big crowd is also tipped for the annual Prime Minister's XI encounter next month, especially as it's the final chance for fans to see Ponting face international opposition, as well as the novelty factor of it being the first match under lights in Canberra.

More than $5 million has been pumped into Manuka Oval for the six light towers, which began going up last week.

And the long-term plan is to increase ground capacity from 13,500 to 18,000.

Cricket ACT has made no secret of its bold ambitions.

It wants to be part of any expansion of the Twenty20 Big Bash League, and is eager to secure as many quality international fixtures as possible.

A Test match next summer is out of the question, with the five Ashes games spread among traditional venues Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

But come 2014-15, Canberra must surely be given the chance to host Test cricket.

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