Kerry O'Keeffe. Photo: Fiona-Lee Quimby
Australian captain Michael Clarke has praised Manuka Oval's facilities as world class, as Australian cricket greats have thrown their support behind Canberra becoming a regular fixture on the international calendar.
A capacity crowd at Manuka Oval witnessed the inaugural visit of the national team on Wednesday with the match, which was played under newly-installed lights, getting the tick of approval from spectators, players and experts alike.
The million-dollar question is whether the game is a one-off or the start of a steady stream of international matches.
At the post-match press conference, Clarke hailed the work of Manuka's groundskeepers in putting on "a fantastic batting wicket", and praised the level of support from the Canberra crowd.
“I think conditions were fantastic for one day cricket. I think the people of Canberra have come out to support us, which is really positive. We always love the more support we can get as an Australian cricket team," Clarke said.
“The facilities are as good an anywhere else that we play around Australia or around the world ... I think all the boys have enjoyed playing here."
He was joined by opening batsmen Shane Watson, who posted 122 runs from just 111 balls, who said the big crowd helped lift the team.
"Being able to get out there in front of a crowd that’s sold out, it really does make it that little more enjoyable when you’re able to go out in front of a crowd like that," Watson said.
"I think it’s very exciting for Canberra to show the support they did today. A little nice touch with the fireworks as well in the drinks break as well just to top things off.
“I think it’s a really exciting thing for Canberra if they continue to do what they did tonight."
Former Test off-spinner Kerry O'Keeffe, who commentated on the game for ABC Radio, said the immense level of support shown by the Canberra public showed a genuine demand for more games.
''Just talking to Canberra people, they're really enthusiastic about international cricket in the capital,'' O'Keeffe said.
''They've waited for it for a long time and they want it again. The fact they've sold it out means there's a lot of interest.
''This is match three [against the West Indies] and Australia is leading 2-0 and it's the end of a long summer, yet they're still going to fill the house.
''Cricket Australia will be encouraged by that, you'd like to think there's more matches ahead.''
Another 50-over match is the most likely scenario, but former Australian pace bowler Geoff Lawson believes Canberra could host a Test match.
''Ground looks superb. A Test match wouldn't be out of place here,'' Lawson tweeted.
The newest venue to entertain the Australian team after a 100-year absence also got praise from Michael Slater, the former opening batsman and Channel Nine commentator tweeting: ''Manuka Oval looks a treat!''
The installation of floodlights significantly improves Canberra's chances of becoming a more regular player on the international scene.
The state-of-the-art lights made a spectacular debut at last week's Prime Minister's XI game, and came at a cost of $5.347 million, with the federal government contributing $2.5 million and the rest coming from the ACT government.
The inaugural visit of the Australian team was made possible as part of Canberra's centenary celebrations. The ACT government outlaid $591,000 to secure the fixture, with about $300,000 going towards compensating the South Australian Cricket Association for taking the game away from Adelaide Oval.
It was just the third one-day international in the national capital, as its bid to host games in the 2015 World Cup heats up, along with the hope of gaining a team in the Big Bash League when expansion is put on the table.
O'Keeffe believes having a Canberra team in the Twenty20 domestic tournament is a must after the short-lived existence of the Canberra Comets in the national one-day competition.
''There's been a lot of hard work done in the meantime to mount another challenge to be included, and you'd like to think they will be at some stage,'' O'Keeffe said.
''They want to be part of that, and they should be. You produce cricketers as well, so it's not a matter that you don't produce anybody.
''It's just that they go and play for somebody else for more opportunities.''
with Hamish Boland-Rudder