The emergence of Canberra's Manuka Oval as an increasingly significant cricket venue in Australia will continue this summer after Cricket Australia announced the ground would host the BBL final. In an unexpected move, Cricket Australia decided that the neutral venue would be appropriate for the decider on January 28, after giving hosting rights in previous years to the highest-placed finalist.
Although it will be a busy summer for cricket in Australia, the final will be played more than two weeks before the first World Cup match in Australia. Two matches, including the final, in the ODI tri-series will be played at the WACA on January 30 and February 1. The BBL final will follow semi-finals that will be played in other cities around the country.
"We have looked at a number of options for hosting the final of the Big Bash League, given the unique summer of international cricket that lies ahead and the significant demands that will place on venues around the country," Mike McKenna, CA's executive general manager of operations, said. "That consideration, combined with our efforts to further establish the BBL as a truly national competition, was part of our decision making.
"We think the concept of staging the final in the neutral territory of the nation's capital has merit. Manuka Oval has undergone significant work in recent times to upgrade facilities for fans. We think it can provide a great backdrop to the biggest match of the tournament while exposing a new market to the excitement of the league."
Manuka Oval has become a popular venue with Cricket Australia in recent years: in February 2013, it hosted Australia for a one-day international for the first time, and another between Australia and South Africa is scheduled there for November 19 this year. The ground will also host three World Cup matches in February and March.
The required handover of World Cup venues to the ICC on January 31 was also a factor in the choice of a neutral venue in advance, rather than having numerous potential grounds preparing for a match not guaranteed. "With some grounds around the country unavailable at the time of the final, combined with the busy international summer which includes ICC Cricket World Cup preparations, the neutral venue of Canberra was identified as the most suitable location to host the BBL final," a CA spokesperson said.
For the past three seasons, the BBL finals have been held at the WACA after the Perth Scorchers earned hosting rights. Christina Matthews, the chief executive officer of the WACA, said she was disappointed that there would be no possibility of the Scorchers hosting the final again this summer.
"Whilst we are disappointed to have not been given the rights to host the final, we are comfortable that, given CA's desire to hold the final in a neutral venue, they have chosen a truly neutral venue and not another team's ground," Matthews said.
"With 'The Furnace' having hosted the last three finals, it was maybe the only way for CA to have the match played on the other side of the country and it is a credit to WA cricket that they weren't willing to take the risk for the fourth year in a row."
Manuka Oval has undergone significant work in recent years, including the installation of light towers and funding to resurface the playing area and add new seating. It hosted the Sheffield Shield final earlier this year after New South Wales won hosting rights but were unable to play at the SCG due to a Major League Baseball game being played there.