Manuka Oval will come under plenty of scrutiny in the lead up to the Sheffield Shield final. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Manuka Oval curator Brad Van Dam is happy to talk with Australian captain Michael Clarke about what the pitch will be like for the Sheffield Shield final.
Hosting domestic cricket's marquee match goes an enormous way to inscribing your name on the trophy, with the past eight teams finishing on top of the table going on to lift the silverware.
The last team to go against the tide was NSW in 2004-05, winning a one-wicket thriller over Queensland at the Gabba.
Manuka curator Brad Van Dam says the pitch will offer a bit of everything for the Sheffield Shield final. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Since then, six of the past eight finals have had results, with only two finishing in a draw at the end of the five days.
Having the final in Canberra instead of the SCG adds another layer of intrigue to the encounter between NSW and Western Australia, starting Friday.
Van Dam said the teams could expect the pitch to be almost identical to the one used in last week's gripping final-round match, ending in a three-wicket win to NSW.
Michael Clarke is set to play in the Sheffield Shield final at Manuka Oval this week.
Manuka Oval used to be known as a batsman's paradise but a complete redevelopment of the ground's surface four months ago has given bowlers a reason to smile.
Clarke is a chance to return to the NSW side and could contact the curator to give his advice on how he believes the pitch should be prepared.
''He can have a chat to me. I can't really take many influences from people because it's the way the game's going. You don't want to get in trouble for anyone,'' Van Dam said.
''I will always prepare the best pitch I can.
''I can't change my ways too much because I could stuff it up and it could go all pear-shaped for everyone involved.''
What started last week as a one-sided contest when WA was bowled out for just 82 on the first day turned into a thrilling game decided in the second session of the final day.
The highest scores in the match were produced in the last two innings.
WA got itself back in the contest with 316, anchored by a magnificent century from rejuvenated batsman Shaun Marsh.
Test star Steve Smith then replied with a well-made 89 as NSW reached 7-213 to secure hosting rights for the decider.
''Three hundred in an innings is the absolute most just with the age of the decks,'' Van Dam said.
''The guys have really got to stick in.
''The deck had no demons in it. Everyone was saying it was tricky, but it wasn't.''
Another reason for the slow scoring rate was the outfield.
The grass was cut at the highest allowed measurement, 13 millimetres, because of the AFL game between the GWS Giants and the Sydney Swans played on February 20.
The ground was also a bit soft as a result of the new surface being only four months old.
Shots that would have normally found the rope pulled up quickly and only produced two or three runs.
''I didn't want to go too hard otherwise the presentation wouldn't be that great,'' Van Dam said.
"What it is now will be what it is next week.
''They'll have no surprises anywhere, so let's see who the best team wins.''