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Long road to Test cricket in Canberra

Long road to Test cricket in Canberra.jpg

A member of the ground staff drives a roller on the pitch as Sri Lanka cricket team players stretch during a team training session at Manuka Oval in Canberra, Wednesday, January 30, 2019. (AAP Image/David Gray)

You can go as far back as 90 years to see discussions around Canberra hosting a cricket Test match.

But it will only become a reality on Friday as Manuka Oval takes its place as Australia's 11th Test venue when Sri Lanka seeks to avoid a 2-0 series defeat.

After years of lobbying from Cricket ACT, Australia will get the opportunity to play a five-day contest on one of the most picturesque grounds in the country.

A key driver in the historic event is Mark Vergano, who was chief executive of Cricket ACT for 13 years.

The most recent push to put Canberra on the Test calendar came during the mid-2000s.

Manuka has undergone a number of improvements in the last decade to get to this point, including the installation of light towers and a new media centre.

While Vergano left his post in 2015, he has paid credit to his successors Cameron French, and now James Allsopp, for carrying on with the job and delivering the ultimate goal.

"Some of the original thinking back in the 1930s was putting Canberra on the map and trying to get an English team here then maybe a Test match," Vergano told AAP.

"In 2005 we started the thinking Canberra's centenary (in 2013) would be an appropriate time.

"It's taken longer to get here than most but it was the natural progression to get a Test match eventually."

Manuka first hosted an international match back in 1992 during the World Cup when South Africa smashed Zimbabwe by seven wickets.

For a long time, the ground was pigeonholed into hosting the annual Prime Minister's XI match and was devoid of much other top-class cricket.

But as the ground's profile has improved, some of Manuka's most famous moments have come in recent seasons.

Chris Gayle's record-breaking 215 against Zimbabwe in 2015 will go down in World Cup folklore, while Vergano says the West Indian power-hitter's 146 from 89 balls against the PM's XI in 2010 was just as impressive.

© AAP 2019