Hawke's Bay has had a sporting prayer answered with Napier's McLean Park pencilled in for one of New Zealand's biggest cricket games of next summer.
The Chappell-Hadlee series one-day match between New Zealand and world champions Australia on February 2 will start an extraordinary six weeks in which total crowds at five events in Hawke's Bay could top 100,000.
The naming of Napier as host of the second of the three Chappell-Hadlee ODIs - as well as two other internationals next summer - allays fears for McLean Park's big-match future sparked by the nightmare of January 28, when rain washed out a match against Pakistan without a ball being bowled.
McLean Park, which in 1996 was the scene of the Black Caps' first day-night match in New Zealand, has been allocated its first international Twenty20 game, between the Black Caps and Bangladesh on January 3 and ODI blockbusters with Australia and then South Africa on March 1.
Also confirmed for McLean Park are New Zealand matches against Pakistan and England the following season.
It is the transtasman match that is the jewel in the crown, expected to pack McLean Park to its cricket capacity of 11,000.
Of the 41 ODIs in Napier since the first in 1983, four have been between New Zealand and Australia, in 1998, 2000, 2005 and 2010. Of the 10 tests in Napier, since the first in 1979, none have been against Australia.
In addition to the Australia and South Africa games, both capable of filling the park, the 2017 summer fare in Hawke's Bay also includes Art Deco Weekend in Napier (February 17-21), national kapa haka festival Te Matatini in Hastings (February 22-26) and the Horse of the Year Show in Hastings (March 6-12), each expected to attract well over 20,000 people.
Napier City Council events manager Kevin Murphy is ecstatic.
It steps up the council's interest in major events as a driver of Napier's tourism economy and promotional plan, which includes the All Blacks' rugby test against Argentina in 2014, and last year's NRL rugby league match between Melbourne Storm and Sydney side St George Dragons, both also at McLean Park.
-How the games were secured, Page 7
-The Bay's share, Page 24.