Manuka to host Ponting's last game
Ricky Ponting will play his last international match at Manuka Oval. Photo: Cameron Spencer
Ricky Ponting's retirement from international cricket has ensured next year's Prime Minister's XI match will be the most emotional since Steve Waugh's send-off in 2004.
Canberra cricket fans will be the last stop on Ponting's farewell tour after the Australian great announced on Thursday he would close his wonderful innings.
Ponting will play his last Test for Australia against South Africa in Perth from Friday.
But it's his date at Manuka Oval on January 29 which will give the capital's cricket community an opportunity to say goodbye to a modern-day great in what looms as his last big outing.
Ponting will captain the Prime Minister's XI against the West Indies in the first cricket match under lights at Manuka Oval.
He is widely regarded as the second-greatest batsman in Australian history, behind the iconic Sir Don Bradman, despite his recent struggles at the crease.
Ponting will continue to play for Tasmania in the domestic competition for the rest of the summer and for the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League.
But the PM's XI match will be an official tribute to the master, who will equal Waugh's record of most Test caps for Australia with 168, along with 375 one-day international matches.
Waugh retired from the international arena in spectacular fashion, making a brilliant hundred at the SCG in the Ashes Test in January, 2004.
He then saluted Canberra fans one final time when he led the Prime Minister's XI against India later that month.
Cricket ACT chairman Ian McNamee said Ponting deserves the same rousing reception afforded to Waugh when he strides out to the crease in January.
''This is akin to Steve Waugh in 2004,'' he said. ''The Canberra fans turned out big-time for that.
''This is Canberra's chance to say to Ricky farewell and acknowledge the greatest batsman we've had since Bradman.
''It's set up for us to make a great event out of it.''
Ticket sales for the annual Prime Minister's XI match have been slow due to the inaugural appearance of the Australian team in a one-day international against the Windies on February 6.
But the chance to see Ponting in action for the final time, along with it being the first game in Canberra under lights, is set to ensure a bumper crowd.
A Cricket Australia spokesman told The Canberra Times that despite his retirement, Ponting would honour his commitment to captain the Prime Minister's XI.
''When it comes to the Prime Minister's XI, it's an unequivocal yes,'' the spokesman said.
''Ricky is quite clearly a drawcard and there are a lot of plusses for the match.
''You've got Ricky's farewell, the first game at Manuka under lights and the West Indies are the current Twenty20 world champions, so we're expecting a strong crowd.''
The rest of the Prime Minister's XI team will be selected by national chairman of selectors John Inverarity with input from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and will be announced in January.