Verdict looms on Watson warm-up at Manuka Oval before Test
NSW will announce on Friday whether Australian all-rounder Shane Watson will make his comeback from injury in next week's Sheffield Shield match in Canberra.
NSW selectors consulted Cricket Australia high performance manager Pat Howard on Thursday to gauge Watson's availability for the match with the Queensland Bulls, starting on Tuesday at Manuka Oval.
Watson has missed the first two Tests of the summer with a calf injury and has been left out until he can resume bowling.
Watson could play the first two days of the shield match before being subbed out to allow him to rejoin the Australian team for the Perth Test, which starts on the final day of the shield game.
The shield match is the unofficial start of Canberra's unprecedented summer of cricket, culminating in the inaugural visit of the Australian team in February.
Groundstaff will have their work cut out as Manuka Oval - renowned as one of the flattest and batsmen-friendly pitches in the country - hosts a torrid schedule of 14 days of cricket in three weeks.
On Friday, Manuka Oval hosts the final of the International Defence Cricket Challenge in a 50-over match, followed on Saturday by a Twenty20 match between the Australian Cricket Association Masters and a World Defence XI team.
That's followed by first-class cricket's annual pilgrimage to the national capital from November 27-30, before the Blues and the Bulls resume hostilities in the one-day Ryobi Cup on December 2.
International cricket then takes centre stage when Sri Lanka takes on a Chairman's XI in a three-day match from December 6-8.
Manuka Oval only gets a rest after the conclusion of the ACT Comets' Futures League match with South Australia from December 10-13.
The abundance of games is a delight for fans, but a nightmare for groundstaff as they endeavour to prepare pitches that give everyone a chance.
Manuka Oval curator Brad Van Dam is confident of producing a pitch for the Sheffield Shield match that can lead to a result on the final day, but admitted Canberra's unique conditions meant taking wickets early with the new ball were crucial.
''The soil type in Canberra is different to everywhere else in Australia, so it really flattens out quite quickly,'' he said.
''So hopefully there's enough in the first session and a bit then it will flatten out.
''Hopefully it can start varying its bounce and taking a bit of spin later on so we can get that result.''
A string of low batting totals in Sheffield Shield games this summer has led to Cricket Australia warning states they may be docked points for forcing visitors to play on substandard pitches.
That shouldn't be a concern at Manuka Oval where batsmen have dominated in the past.
Last year's match between NSW and Tasmania ended in a draw, although an aggressive declaration from the Tigers almost led to a result.
MATCHES IN THE NEXT MONTH
Twenty20: Australian Cricket Association Masters v World Defence XI team
Sheffield Shield: NSW v Queensland
Ryobi Cup: NSW v Queensland
International match: Chairman’s XI v Sri Lanka
Futures League: ACT Comets v South Australia