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HisCanberra: 60 years of watching the PM’s XI

Pat Murray

60 years of watching the PMs XI by someone who was there.

This article is a special piece by guest writer ‘HerDad’ Pat Murray, father of Alison Senti, HerCanberra contributor. 

As a lifelong Canberra resident (that’s right, I was born here, just after the last World War) there’s many things I love about this town – and the Prime Minister’s XI cricket match is one of them.

As a lifelong cricket ‘tragic’, it’s the one time of the year that a top-class cricket side comes to my town to play a team handpicked by the current Prime Minister. Sometimes the captain of the team has been in charge longer than the PM…but I digress.

For the uninitiated, the Prime Minister’s XI game is held at the Manuka Oval in Canberra, with the Australian team picked by our PM playing against an overseas team. The Australian team usually includes up and coming players.

Dad_Ponting

Christmases and birthdays are a no brainer for me: get me a cricket book.

This year, the annual PM’s XI match against New Zealand’s ‘Black Caps’ has been brought forward to 23 October from its’ traditional January place in the cricketing calendar.

The first match was held in 1954. That year, I was a young tacker of seven, living not half a dozen streets to the south of Manuka Oval, near St. Edmund’s College where I was a student. My mates and I would walk over to the match, and between overs, scramble beneath the stands for empty Fanta bottles – we could get a few pence for each bottle. We’d spend our haul over at the Manuka Milk Bar on bags of lollies after the match.

Dad_Manuka_kid

Me (Pat) around this time, with my faithful dog Blue, in the backyard of my house in Manuka, circa late 1950s.

Famously in the summer of 1962-63, the great man himself, Sir Donald Bradman (reluctantly) came out of retirement to play against England at the request of then-Prime Minister Robert Menzies. It was to be the last time he ever played cricket and he was freakishly bowled for 4 – not a happy ending for a living legend of the game. I was at that game and will never forget 14,000 Canberrans rising to their feet to farewell ‘The Don’.

Fast forward to last summer – what an absolute cracker cricket season for Canberra!

We scored a One Day International, three Cricket World Cup matches, the Big Bash Final and hosted the old enemy England for the PM’s XI. My ‘home ground’ Manuka really came into its own as a premier international cricket venue.

This month’s day-night match against New Zealand – finalists in the last World Cup – looks to continue the momentum into the 2015-16 summer.

I’ve played cricket as a schoolboy, watched cricket for over 60 years, played again in the late 70’s with friends as a weekend lark (sporting a handlebar moustache even Dennis Lillee would envy) and now at the fine age of 68, I’ve made a comeback to cricket with the ACT Masters over 60’s team.

You can bet I’ll be at Manuka Oval on 23 October to cheer on the PM’s hand-picked best as they take on the Kiwis – regardless of who is actually Prime Minister on the day.

 

the essentials

What: Australian Prime Minister’s XI team vs New Zealand
When: Friday, October 23rd 2015 at 2.20pm
Where: Manuka Oval, Manuka ACT.
Tickets: Starting from $16 + booking fee, available from Ticketek
Website: cricketact.com.au/events/international-cricket/prime-ministers-xi/

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