Is Manuka Oval ready to host the Sheffield Shield final? A lot will be riding on the state of the pitch. Photo: Melissa AdamsThe Manuka Oval pitch has to be ”good enough for a Test match” and able to last for five days to host the Sheffield Shield final, former Australian paceman and NSW bowling coach Geoff Lawson says.
Lawson inspected the ground during this week’s three-day game between the NSW second XI and the ACT and said its ability to produce a pitch for a five-day game was an unknown.
Manuka Oval groundsman Brad Van Dam dismissed any concerns and had no doubt the pitch would be fit for a Shield final.
It is in the running to host the Shield final from March 21-25 for the first time if NSW finishes on top of the table.
The Blues fight for hosting rights when they face Western Australia in Canberra in the final game of the regular season, starting on Monday.
NSW, Western Australia and South Australia are all level on 26 points, while the fourth-placed Queensland Bulls still have an outside shot on 22 points.
While he was glowing in terms of Manuka Oval’s facilities, Lawson said it was unclear whether the new centre squad block could host a five-day game.
”I thought the ground was really good quality, we’ve just got to make sure it is good enough for a Test match because the wicket is new and we want to see what the wicket is doing,” Lawson said.
”For a Shield final it’s got to be ready for five days, so there’s a little bit of an unknown.
”You don’t want it falling apart after three or four days because then anything can happen.”
There hasn’t been a four-day game at Manuka Oval since the playing surface was completely re-laid during the off-season.
Cricket NSW had to find an alternative venue after the SCG committed to the Major League Baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The choice was between Manuka and Blacktown.
Van Dam was focused on preparing a pitch for next week’s game and would only worry about the final once it was locked in.
He had no doubt Manuka Oval could host the final.
”The pitch we had for the three-day game this week could’ve handled five days easily,” he said. ”[When] we get the nod that it will be here then I will start the process.
”The whole square will be fully grassed so there’ll be no problem.”