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Curator pitching for high scores on revamped Manuka oval

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Curator Brad van Dam plans to provide a near-sellout crowd with ''big scores, big sixes'' at next week's Prime Minister's XI match against England after Manuka Oval's $9 million facelift.

The brand-new pitch will take until next summer to reach its full potential but van Dam was confident the historic fixture would continue to provide an entertaining run fest for the Canberra crowd.

And the ACT government says the revamped venue is ready for its first test since the playing surface was lowered, drainage put in and the capacity increased.

Still, van Dam jokes that patrons might ask: ''What's changed, all I see is a brand-new, white picket fence?''

Last year's renovations meant the Manuka curator had to start his pitches and playing surface from scratch.

He rolled the PM's XI pitch for the first time on Monday and said the pristine playing surface looked exactly how it always did.


Van Dam had to use different clay to the traditional Canberra soil, which would result in a slightly different Manuka pitch in years to come.

It meant there should be a bit more bounce and less wear and tear on the ball.

But he promised he would still make batsman-friendly decks for the PM's game, which has resulted in a high-scoring contest over the years, including last year's 643-run affair.

''This first pitch will be a different beast because it's brand new and hasn't got the density it had before,'' van Dam said.

''Next year … it'll hopefully get back to where it was before but the soil type's different so there's going to be a bit more pace in it and less wear and tear on the ball.

''I always try and steer towards the batsman-friendly, one-day pitch. Everyone loves seeing big scores, big sixes, that's what it's always been about here.''

Despite an increased capacity of about 13,000 (15,500 for AFL), the PM's XI is already close to a sellout, with just a few reserved seats, to be released next week, remaining.

It would be the first sellout since 2006, when England also played in the nation's capital.

ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr said the next major stage of the ground's transformation, which has also seen the addition of lights, would be to improve the corporate facilities along with increasing the capacity even further.

He said the present corporate capabilities dramatically limited the oval's profitability to the hirer, whether that was AFL or cricket.

Far greater returns can be achieved at Canberra Stadium because of its ability to host more corporate functions.

Barr will meet Cricket Australia during the game to discuss bringing the Aussie cricket team back to Manuka.

''That atmosphere [of a sellout crowd] under lights is all aiding our case for more cricket because we as a city have not had the sort of cricket that we would hope for because our venue was not up to it,'' he said.

''But as the venue continues to improve, we're in the mix.''

Territory Venues general manager Neale Guthrie said there was still some minor amenities work yet to be done as part of the $9 million upgrade, which would be completed before the AFL pre-season game there between Greater Western Sydney and the Sydney Swans on February 20.

He said the ground was starting to take shape for next summer's Cricket World Cup, after which work was planned on the grand stands.

''Our priority would be the redevelopment of the Hawke stand and that would be integrated with the Bradman stand,'' Guthrie said.

''We're still trying to get the final plans for that in tow before we seek the funding for it.''