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Australia will host Sri Lanka in a Twenty20 international at Geelong's Kardinia Park in February, after the ground was confirmed as the 11th venue in Australia currently accredited to host international cricket.
Geelong, Melbourne and Adelaide have been named as the venues for three T20Is between Australia and Sri Lanka, to be held from February 17 to 22. The fixtures will all be played as double-headers, with the men's games preceded by women's T20Is between Australia and New Zealand.
The decision to take international cricket involving Australia beyond the state and territory capitals is almost unprecedented. Test matches against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Cairns during the southern winters of 2003 and 2004 are the only other occasions when Australia have played official international matches outside the capital cities.
Regional venues were used for some neutral games during the 1992 World Cup, while Launceston, Devonport and Townsville have also hosted official international matches that did not involve Australia. Kardinia Park - known as Simonds Stadium for sponsorship reasons - will be the 21st ground in Australia to host international men's cricket.
Kardinia Park had a taste of elite cricket last summer when the Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades played a warm-up match there ahead of the BBL campaign. That game was followed a week later by West Indies playing a two-day practice match there against a Victoria XI ahead of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
In order to meet ICC standards for the size of international venues, the pitch orientation at Kardinia Park has been altered to slightly off the square, for the traditional configuration at the ground meant some boundaries were too short. Cricket Australia's chief executive officer James Sutherland said given the ground met requirements, he was pleased to take international cricket to Geelong.
"We're committed to taking the game to as many parts of the country as possible and we continue to work with regional areas around Australia on how we can make this happen," Sutherland said. "Geelong proved its capability to host cricket last summer with a successful BBL exhibition match between the Melbourne Stars and Melbourne Renegades attracting more than 10,000 people.
"We're really looking forward to the people of the Geelong region and beyond packing out the stadium and supporting the women's and men's national sides."
Despite the off-field facilities at Kardinia Park being of high quality and the dimensions meeting international standards, the prospects of the venue being used as a second first-class ground for Victoria appear limited. Tony Dodemaide, the Cricket Victoria CEO, said the cost of installing drop-in pitches and preparing the multi-sport ground (home of AFL team the Geelong Cats) for cricket was more feasible for international games.
As preparation for the T20I series, Sri Lanka will play the annual Prime Minister's XI match as a T20 game on February 15 at Manuka Oval in Canberra.
Cricket Australia has also announced that an agreement has been reached for Adelaide Oval to host an international cricket fixture on Australia Day every summer for the next five years. For some years the tradition was to hold a match in Adelaide on January 26, but in recent summers such a fixture had not always eventuated.
"We've been working closely with the South Australian Government and SACA to secure marquee matches in the state long term and we'd like to thank both parties for their support," Sutherland said. "We're pleased to be able to announce today that Adelaide Oval will host an International Australia Day cricket fixture for the next five years."