In years gone by, this match has been the National Capital’s one big day on the cricket calendar, when the touring side take on the notional selection of the Prime Minister.
Join me on The Roar for live updates and scintillating discussion from around 2:00pm AEDT today.
However, with Australia taking on the West Indies in a one day international in Canberra next Wednesday, the first time the Australian team has ever played at Manuka Oval, the annual PM’s clash has taken something of a backseat this summer.
The PM’s game still takes on an extra significance of its own, though. It’s not just today’s match, for starters. The erection of six 47m state-of-the-art HD-broadcast quality light towers at a cost of more than $5 million means that, for the first time at Manuka, it’s tonight’s match.
Venue history aside, the match also has several little sub-plots within, all of them worthy of closer attention.
For the West Indies, this match represents the first outing in Australia since they took out the ICC World Twenty20 in Colombo last October. But this limited overs tour of Australia will also be about redemption, as the Windies look to bounce back from the series loss to Bangladesh in December.
The Windies squad arrived in Canberra over the weekend to prepare for this match and the tour, and is largely as expected, personnel-wise.
Darren Sammy will lead a team that is reasonably well-known locally, with Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Kemar Roach, and Sunil Narine returning after playing in the Big Bash League, while Dwayne and Darren Bravo also return.
The facial injury to Marlon Samuels has allowed the return to international cricket of Ramnaresh Sarwan, who hasn’t played for the West Indies in more than 18 months.
In Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s side, the focus will largely fall on two batsmen at the opposite ends of their international careers.
For Ricky Ponting, who will captain the PM’s XI, this match represents his final outing on the international stage. After 17 years of first class cricket and more than 560 appearances for his country, Ponting will lead a national selection one last time, and will play in only his second PM’s team, albeit 20 years after his first.
Naturally, all eyes will also be on Usman Khawaja, as he further presses his claims for inclusion in the Test team for the tour to India.
With so much commentary being made about Khawaja at the moment, I feel like I really don’t need to say much. Suffice to say, this match represents another opportunity for him on the national stage.
Young Tasmanians Alex Doolan and James Faulkner will be looking to leave an impression at this level, with both of them being mentioned as possible bolters for the Indian tour. The retirement of Mike Hussey and the obsession with finding an all-rounder is opening doors all over the country.
The PM’s side has had one forced change, with South Australian quick Kane Richardson replaced by Queensland’s Alistair McDermott. Richardson is still undergoing remedial action on his run-up after being removed from the attack during his ODI debut in Adelaide a fortnight ago.
Local eyes will look towards former Queanbeyan, Australia National University and Test wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, who, in his fourth PM’s XI appearance, will also be keen to keep his name in front of national selectors for the tours to India and England.
ACT Comets Captain Jono Dean was on the Melbourne Renegades’ supplementary list for the BBL, and the opening bat will also be using this match to put his name in front of state decision-makers that count.
Young quick Nick Winter is the PM’s 12th man, a nice reward for a successful ACT grade season with local club Eastlake. Winter was also one of the leading wicket-takers at the recent national under 19s championships.