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Teenager Matthew Gilkes enjoys night for the ages as PM’s XI 12th man

On Wednesday night former n Test captain Michael Clarke was chatting casually with Matt Gilkes before sending the 17-year-old on to Manuka Oval as a substitute fielder.

A few hours earlier Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had wished the teenager luck in the biggest game of his career and with his first touch of the ball Gilkes dismissed Sri Lankan Test batsman Asela Gunaratne.

It was some night of cricket for the PM’s XI 12th man.

In front of 7120 fans Gunaratne decided take on Gilkes’ arm at square leg and come back for a second, but the young gun proved equal to the task and sent the Sri Lankan packing with a lethal throw.

The Wests-UC wicket-keeper batsman also scored 19 runs and took a sharp catch playing for the ACT XI against PNG in Wednesday’s curtain-raiser.

“It was an awesome experience. I’ve never played in front of a crowd that big and it was really exciting to be able to get out there and have a feel for it,” Gilkes said.

“The very first ball I was on the field it got hit out to me and I thought there was a runout chance, so I sprinted in and threw it and got him, it was pretty exciting.”

Gilkes’ teammates flanked him after the runout and the ACT Comets squad member said he simply tried to soak in the the experience as much as possible.

“I was out there for about six overs and I was a little bit nervous. I didn’t want to stuff anything up but I was kind of hoping a catch was coming my way. I’ll take the runout though,” Gilkes said.

“Just being around those guys and seeing how they prepare themselves for these top-class games and listening to the debrief was a great learning curve.

“Hearing them talk about how the game panned out and the professionalism of it all was really good to see first-hand.”

Gilkes spoke at length with Clarke while the PM’s XI side were fielding and took some valuable insights from the former Test skipper.

“I sat in the dugout with him for most of the game we spoke about a fair few things, it was awesome having him there and sharing some of his knowledge, I thought he was a great bloke,” he said.

Gilkes now wants to make his mark with the Comets in the Futures League and press on to higher honours next season.

“There’s not long left in the season but hopefully I can score some runs in grade and some Futures games because I’d love to be in the starting XI for the PM’s one day,” he said.

“I just need to work hard and impress the right people but I’m really grateful for the opportunity I was given and to have that experience as 12th man is something I’ll definitely remember for the rest of my life.”

ACT Premier cricket resumes on Saturday with the penultimate round being played as one-dayers after all matches were abandoned last week due to extreme heat.

Wests-UC will try to secure its spot in the post season when it hosts Eastlake, while Weston Creek Molonglo and Ginninderra lock horns in a crucial top-four clash.

Queanbeyan must knock off table-toppers Tuggeranong Valley if it wants to break into the top four, while cellar-dwellers North Canberra-Gungahlin host ANU.

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