Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Outgrounds Part 2

Judging from the response the other day on my feature on outgrounds, the English cricket public loves them. Sadly, some are no longer used. The cost of running a headquarters for the counties means they can no longer be fitted in to the busy schedule, others deemed not fit for purpose and some sadly have gone for good. The corporate world dictates that where once stood athletes in flannels that we all checked out, now the only thing we check out there is our weekly groceries. Here we have a look at some of the venues sadly no longer used for first class cricket.

I mentioned that I saw my first game of professional cricket at Hastings. A gorgeous venue with Bed and Breakfast establishments peering over the tops of the enclosures, the closure of this ground was one in the eye for county cricket ground aficionados as the retail industry conquered. Packed stands, perched on the hill overlooking the ground, this was a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon. Along the coast at Worthing, was another venue where runs flowed freely. I have personal memories of sleeping off a tour induced hangover here in 1998, on the roof of the pavilion.

In Kent, the Crabble at Dover was loved by those in the garden county, as was The Mote, Maidstone. Hampshire had the United Services Ground at Portsmouth, and the fantastically named May's Bounty at Basingstoke.

My own ground at Southgate is no longer used by Middlesex, much to the chagrin of a huge catchment area who would travel up the Piccadilly Line. With the imposing Christ Church steepling over the ground, cricket has been played here since 1854. Virender Sehweg once hit the spire of the church when playing for Leicestershire,a hit of over a hundred metres before keeping the local glaziers in business by putting one through the bar window just for good measure.

The Walker Ground, Southgate...scene of Virender's vandalism

Further west, the city centre ground of Bath adjacent to the River Avon is no longer used by Somerset. Mike Gatting feasted on the Somerset bowling here in 1984 as he amassed 258, and Weston Super Mare always got a decent crowd at Clarence Park. Moreton in Marsh in Gloucestershire is a stunning ground by all accounts and has hosted first class cricket, as has Stroud in this pretty part of the world.

Glamorgan have played at a number of grounds in their lifetime, and in Abergavenny, they have a venue which is much missed on the circuit. Nestled under Sugar Loaf mountain, the teas here were the stuff of legend by all accounts. One venue sadly no more for cricketers is Rodney Parade, Newport. A ruckus with the rugby club meant the cricketers had to find a new venue, and the local cricket fan now has to make the journey to Cardiff for their fix of first class cricket.

Another venue in a similar position was Bramall Lane, Sheffield. The cricketers were booted out by Sheffield United in 1971 at this historic inner city ground in a move likened to a son kicking his mother out of the house. Surrounded by factories, the brewery fumes were off putting for many a batsman and rumour has it they would wait until the opposition batsmen were at the crease. United only had a three sided ground much like Northampton, another to share football and cricket, and wanted to put a fourth stand in place. This they did, turfed out the cricketers and then promptly dropped down into the basement of the football league. Bramall Lane was neither ideal for watching football or cricket, but it remains along with the Oval as one of two venues to have hosted internationals for the two sports. Abbeydale, home of Joe Root and Michael Vaughan has also been used in the steel city.

A rather dapper looking Bumble inspects the snow at Buxton in 1975

The Racecourse Ground at Durham, now home to the University side was shunned for Chester le Street, and further south in the Peaks at Buxton, was a game famously held by snow once in June. A look at the scorecard here tells when it snowed! It was here that Derbyshire all rounder, Ashley Harvey-Walker famously gave Dickie Bird his false teeth before taking guard on an uncovered pitch drying out from snow. Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Blackpool and the wonderful Bradford Park Avenue are all other famous grounds in the north that are no longer used.

Northamptonshire would regularly play at Kettering and at Wardown Park, Luton, the home of Monty Panesar's club Luton Town and Indians. It was here on a rather lively wicket that Mark Ilott recorded figures of 9-19 one year. Southend was another wicket that was deemed too lively by the pitch inspectors in 1989, meaning Essex were docked points and handed the title to Middlesex. Further back in time, Leyton was used as Essex were a wandering side for many a year. Valentines Park in Ilford with a grass bank was a great place to watch and Harlow is now a ski centre. I am sure even the most accommodating of quick bowlers wouldn't do a job for his skipper by going uphill into the wind these days.

Beautiful Abergavenny...a great tea awaits

The Midlands grounds have also gone. Courtaulds at Coventry being one of them. Hinckley down the road in neighbouring Leicestershire, another.

There is something sad about cricket no longer being played at these venues. They were part of my childhood, and whilst all that are left maybe memories, they will never be forgotten.

Long may the outground continue.

1 comment:

  1. It's good news that Warwickshire have taken over the old M&B ground and restored it. They may eventually play first class matches there once more.