Government in talks to bring Thunder back to Canberra

Canberra's biggest summer of cricket could get even bigger, with the ACT government in talks with the Sydney Thunder to bring the Big Bash League back to Manuka Oval.

Manuka's already set to host an historic first Test match, between Australia and Sri Lanka from February 1-5, as well as a women's Twenty20 international between Australia and New Zealand and the annual Prime Minister's XI game.

The Thunder played the Melbourne Renegades in front of a sold-out Canberra crowd last summer, while the 2015 Big Bash final was played at Manuka.

Cricket ACT boss Cameron French, left, and ACT venues director Liz Clarke, right, gave Canberra family Owen, Jenny, Chris and Clare Levings a family pass for the historic Test.

Cricket ACT boss Cameron French, left, and ACT venues director Liz Clarke, right, gave Canberra family Owen, Jenny, Chris and Clare Levings a family pass for the historic Test.

That Thunder-Renegades game helped fill the void after Cricket Australia reneged on their four-year deal to play a men's international fixture at Manuka every season.

Because of the big crowds The Ashes drew, they wanted to cash in by using the bigger venues around Australia.

Cricket ACT chief executive Cameron French said talks had begun to bring the Thunder back for the 2018-19 summer, with a final decision expected in the coming months.

"It’s comfortably our biggest summer of cricket and we’re hopeful of having the Big Bash back," French said on Friday.

"I know the government are having discussions with the Thunder at the moment about having them back.

"We’re really hopeful, we think last year was a brilliant showcase of what the Big Bash is and hopefully we’ll know more in the next couple of months about having the Thunder back here."

Tickets for the historic Test went on sale on Friday and French expected it to sellout – 3000 tickets have already been sold through presales.

He encouraged Canberrans to buy early with a strong Sri Lankan contingent expected to travel from Melbourne and Western Sydney for the Test.

That's what happened during the Cricket World Cup in 2015 when Australia's Bangladesh community descended on the ACT for their game against Afghanistan.

"It will be a fantastic atmosphere, we know the sort of atmosphere that the Sri Lankan community bring to a game," French said.

"With the Test matches in Canberra and Brisbane this is going to be the place where they come to see their team play.

"We encourage the local people that want to come along to get in and grab their tickets because we expect them to go really quickly."

He said the Test was four or five years in the making, dating back to the decision to bring the Big Bash final to Canberra.

That thriller between the Perth Scorchers and Sydney Sixers got the ball rolling and French said a Test was the natural extension of that combined with the other T20 and one-day internationals played at Manuka in front of strong crowds.

"We've been building to this for some time," he said.

"Absolute credit to the Canberra community who have made each of those previous occasions really special events.

"It wouldn't have happened without terrific attendances at all those games."

French said another summer of big crowds would send a message to Cricket Australia as the current four-year deal comes to an end after the Test.

Both the government and Cricket ACT are keen to establish a long-term deal with the governing body to make international cricket a mainstay at Manuka.

A mixture of  a Test, T20 or a one-dayer played every summer would provide the perfect mixture of cricket for the nation's capital.

"There's a process in place that we’ll see play out over the next four or five months to see what that future content looks likes," French said.

"We can do nothing more than having a sell-out crowd."

CANBERRA'S SUMMER OF CRICKET

Test: Australia v Sri Lanka, February 1-5.

Women’s Twenty20 International: Australia v New Zealand, October 5.

Prime Ministers XI: Australia v South Africa, October 31.

BBL: Sydney Thunder v TBA.

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