Aurora proves its worth for Tests

THE outstanding success of the inaugural Aussie 15s tournament at Aurora Stadium and the  Tasmanian record cricket crowd of 17,771 for Thursday's star-studded Ricky Ponting tribute match have made a compelling argument for the versatile venue to host top-flight cricket.

Neither Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten nor Premier Lara Giddings was afraid to put the cat among the outfield pigeons at the pre-match function, while the headline act admitted the drop-in wicket had impressed him and many others.

``I can already hear murmurs that are becoming louder and louder that we want Test cricket in Launceston, and I'm sure there will be a lot of lobbying going on around that,'' Ms Giddings said.

Alderman van Zetten went a step further.

``We know this is the home of football but it's also going to become the home of cricket in Tasmania, and that's something that we'll continue to work on,'' he said, guaranteeing some raised eyebrows on the Cricket Tasmania table right in front of him.

Ponting was more diplomatic, but equally pleased. ``We never dreamed of playing cricket at this oval but it came up unbelievably well,'' he said.

Having also top-scored when the 20,000-capacity venue first staged cricket on the opening night of the Aussie 15s tournament in November, Ponting said there was nothing wrong with the ground from a cricketing perspective.

``It's fantastic,'' he said. ``The whole stadium and facilities here are as good as anywhere we play cricket. 

``We've just got to keep promoting it and get the wicket and playing surface at its absolute best, and there's no reason why big games can't come here.''

It may not be a universally popular concept throughout Tasmania, but the bottom line comes in the comparison of 17,771 with the 16,719 who  attended the Australia versus England one-day international in 2003 and established the record attendance at Bellerive Oval.

What message does it send that 1000 more spectators went to watch Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Brett Lee in retirement in Launceston than saw them in their international prime a decade earlier in Hobart?

Having been present at both fixtures, I believe it sends several. 

Firstly, that many more would have attended the Bellerive one-dayer if it could have accommodated them, and, secondly, that Tasmania has as strong a case as any state to host Australian matches. But above all, this was Launceston saying: ``OK Hobart, you wanted AFL footy and you eventually got it, now give us some top-flight cricket.''

A significant hurdle is availability. 

Inveresk Precinct Authority manager Robert Groenewegen has said the ground would be ideal to host Tasmanian domestic one-day or Twenty20 fixtures, raising the amusing proposition of a Launceston crowd barracking for the Hobart Hurricanes.

However, all the time Tasmania is restricted to just four rostered home games in the Big Bash League, Cricket Tasmania would be reluctant to lose any from Bellerive, while the new one-day cup format played entirely around Sydney appears to disadvantage every competing team except NSW.

At the risk of mixing metaphors, the geographical staging of Australia's preferred summer and winter sports has been a political football in this state for as long as most Tasmanians can remember.

The Jim Bacon-inspired status quo of cricket in the South, footy in the North served the state well.

But after the Southern push for a slice of  AFL  was finally rewarded with North Melbourne's deal to play at Bellerive, it can be of little surprise that the North would present a counter case. What is surprising is how strong that case looked on Thursday night.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop