Australia’s highest vaccination rates and last summer’s record number of Big Bash League games will form part of Canberra’s push for a maiden Ashes Test in the capital.
Cricket Australia (CA) will spend this week poring over expressions of interest to replace Perth as hosts of the fifth Test, with every state and Cricket ACT willing.
The MCG is likely to represent the most lucrative option for CA, although finding accommodation and other logistical issues will be tricky given there will be some overlap with the Australian Open tennis grand slam.
Cricket Tasmania is also making a strong case to the national governing body for its first Test since 2016, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison among advocates for that on Wednesday.
But Canberra shapes as a legitimate dark horse for a likely day-night Test.
Its proximity to the fourth Test in Sydney makes for a far easier logistical option for broadcast trucks and technicians.
The borders with NSW also appear safe, as the only state or territory in the country with a vaccination rate beyond 95 per cent.
“We’re over 98 per cent double-vaxxed for 12 and up,” Cricket ACT CEO Olivia Thornton told AAP.
“That in a COVID environment is a really important piece to acknowledge.
“The close proximity is one of the other things too between Sydney and Canberra, the fact you can move between those regions with ease.
“All those things are on the table.”
ACT officials had remained quiet until Perth’s Test was officially called off, with Thornton holding a bond with WACA CEO and former ACT player Christina Matthews.
But now it is up for grabs, Cricket ACT wants it known it will put up a strong case.
Manuka Oval hosted a record 13 BBL games last summer, something Cricket ACT believes proves it can host teams in a COVID-safe way.
Unlike the other capital cities, no BBL games are scheduled for Canberra this January, meaning there would be no other changes to the calendar.
There is also every chance the flatter Manuka wicket would pose a more enticing option for Australia than a seaming Hobart wicket.
However, Manuka’s capacity of 13,500 is smaller than Bellerive and around only one-third the size of other mainland cities.
“Last year was a phenomenal year. It did to some extent put Canberra and Manuka on the map again,” Thornton said.
“There would be record numbers, people would flock to see two of the best teams on one of the best boutique grounds in the world.”
Thornton confirmed there would be no issue turning the ground around for the women’s Ashes Test, nine days after the scheduled January 18 end of the men’s series.
Her comments came as Morrison argued for Bellerive on the belief it was fair after the proposed Afghanistan Test was postponed earlier this summer.
“I’m in the Tassie camp. I think it will be great to see Tasmania share in this Ashes series,” Morrison told reporters.
Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein has also argued Hobart hosting is right by the game and best for the country.