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It'll be right on cricket's big night

Saturday Serve

Manuka Oval is lit up for a sporting contest for the first time for the Prime Minister's XI.

Manuka Oval is lit up for a sporting contest for the first time for the Prime Minister's XI. Photo: Melissa Adams

I was standing in the beer queue behind the temporary stands at Manuka Oval when Ricky Ponting hit a massive six on Tuesday.

About 100 queuing with me let out a collective sigh while the rest of the crowd roared - we knew we'd just missed something.

Before I could get to the front of the line, Punter was back in the pavilion. Talk about bad timing.

But here's some good news for those who were standing with me and the many more who were lining up around the ground to quench their thirst - the Prime Minister's XI was the dress rehearsal.

When the real deal comes to town on Wednesday, things will be better. The lines will be shorter, the beer will be colder, there will be more food and more entertainment.

That's the message from Cricket ACT, Manuka Oval and the ACT government.

A new era of night entertainment in Canberra began with more than 600 runs, some massive sixes and the spectacular sight of the sun setting behind the Bradman Stand and the new lights coming on.

It wasn't all rosy though. Plenty of people left with their noses out of joint at the food and beverage service and some ''teething issues'' for day-night cricket.

Now we're going to pack in an extra 2000 fans, host the Australian team for the first time in Canberra's 100 years and, despite their disgraceful batting in Perth on Friday, hope the West Indies can fire as well.

Actually, after watching the West Indies in the first one-dayer and Australia earlier against Sri Lanka, we might not have to worry about making the queues shorter or ordering more food.

Chances are we could be home before the new lights at Manuka come on. But just in case you're worried you'll be stuck in line while Chris Gayle is sending balls into the Manuka shops, officials are confident they've rectified the problems from the PM's XI.

This is what they've got planned:

■ A 25 per cent increase in food and beverage facilities. That equates to about 30 metres of extra front-of-store space;

■ An extra bar at the main concession area behind the Bradman Stand;

■ More staff to help lines move quickly, more beer and more food, and;

■ Automatic beer pourers, capable of pouring four beers at a time. On Tuesday, there was a malfunction and staff could pour only one at a time.

There will also be a DJ near the scoreboard, a dance zone and the series is part of the ''summer's biggest dress-up party'' with fans encouraged to wear costumes. The beauty of having two important cricket matches just eight days apart is that all the mistakes of game one can be rectified for the main event.

There's little doubt the Australian-West Indies clash is the main event.

Apparently tickets were selling faster than those available for the Boxing Day Test when they were first released.

The capacity attendance for the one-day international has been increased from 10,500 to 11,500 with all tickets snapped up.

Now it's up to Cricket Australia to ensure they don't dud us.

The sport's governing body will take over the running of the game-day events with support from the ACT government and Cricket ACT.

Manuka Oval is a boutique venue and they have to make sure they cater for Canberrans - not for their television audience. That goes for the selectors as well.

If Australia wins the second match on Sunday, I wonder if they'll employ the rotation policy and start resting the big names.

The day after the game at Manuka Oval a group of Australian Test players could be sent to India to prepare for the upcoming tour.

That could rule out Matthew Wade and Phillip Hughes. With David Warner already in the stands and Michael Clarke being rotated in and out of the team, it could be a depleted line-up.

For the future of cricket in Canberra and for the fans who were standing with me getting beer when Punter got bowled, I hope we don't get dudded this time.

I guess the last thing left to do is convince the boss to give me another day off (or maybe he won't recognise me if I go in costume).

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