Cricket grounds in New Zealand

New Zealand’s cricket grounds may not be as steeped in tradition as their English counterparts, but there are still stories to tell.

New Zealand’s cricket grounds may not be as steeped in tradition as their English counterparts, but there are still many interesting stories to tell - the historic, the beautiful, the traditional.

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth

One such ground is Pukekura Park in New Plymouth - a lively city on the North Island’s western tip. Set amongst a 128-acre park featuring lakes, formal gardens and walking trails through native bush, the cricket ground has sweeping views of snowcapped Mt Taranaki.

Spectators can enjoy a bird's eye view of the action from grass terraces landscaped out of an embankment alongside the pitch - which has long been the setting for local, provincial and one day international matches including the 1991-1992 ICC Cricket World Cup.

But Pukekura Park is not only famed for its cricketing history - in its relatively short lifespan it has hosted a royal reception and starred in a Hollywood blockbuster.

During their 1954 visit to New Zealand, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were welcomed to New Plymouth with a reception at Pukekura Park. In 2003 the Park had another brush with fame when Tom Cruise chose it as a major backdrop for The Last Samurai movie.

From mid-December till mid-February the park hosts the Festival of Lights - a nationally known free event where lights are used to accentuate the park's natural features.

During summer weekends Pukekura Park still draws crowds to its trusty grass terraces for regular provincial games and the odd One Dayer.

Devonport, Auckland

Auckland's North Shore Cricket Club is one of the oldest cricket clubs in the country. The club was formed in Devonport, a short ferry ride across the Waitemata harbour from Auckland's central business district. Devonport was established as a naval base in Auckland in the early 1860s.

When the fleet was in, rival crews - many of whom had recently migrated from England - would come ashore and challenge each other to a game. After watching with curiosity, Devonport locals eventually dared the naval officers to a game and in 1864 the North Shore Cricket Club was born.

But it wasn’t to be an easy road for the club. Forced to move because the land was sold beneath them, the club had to close down for more than a decade

However, in 1890 the local council offered the club some reclaimed mangrove swamp land between three extinct volcanoes and the club managed to fit in two pitches. While it wasn’t seen as prime real estate then, today it's worth millions and is still enjoyed by cricketers and the public.

Devonport is now a bustling seaside town of chic cafés, restaurants, and art galleries, but the club is still popular - and despite its modest size enjoys the distinction of having produced more international cricketers than any other Auckland club, the latest of whom was '90s fast bowler Danny Morrison.

Queenstown Cricket Ground

Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu under the watchful eye of surrounding Southern Alps, it would be hard to beat the Queenstown Cricket Ground for a more picturesque location.

The ground is a regular fixture on the One Day International scene, where cameramen and commentators alike struggle to concentrate on the action going out in the middle. Right in the heart of the adventure capital of the world, fans are never short of any thrill-seeking adventures for pre or post match entertainment.

The Basin Reserve, Wellington

In central Wellington, The Basin Reserve, a cricket ground since 1866, is by far the elder of the city's two international cricket venues — the other is the modern Westpac Stadium. The historic Hawkins Basin Reserve - home of the New Zealand Cricket Museum - is also the only cricket venue in New Zealand to have an official protected heritage status.
 
Kiwi greats Andrew Jones and Martin Crowe shattered the test cricket record books at 'The Basin' against Sri Lanka in 1991 when they set a (then) world record batting partnership of 467. Crowe's 299 was his career-best score and while nowadays he reminisces about missing out on a rare triple century by the narrowest of margins with typically self-deprecating Kiwi humour, at the time he was inconsolable.

In 2014, Brendon McCullum batted his way into New Zealand cricket folklore with 302 runs in test cricket against India at The Basin Reserve – making him the highest ever individual New Zealand scorer in a test match.

Hagley Oval, Christchurch

And then, there's Hagley Oval in Christchurch which hosted the opening ceremony for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 and a series of tournament matches.

Back in 1867, on the wide-open park, townsfolk and players gathered there for the first match between the provinces of Canterbury and Otago. This is the birth of Hagley Oval. Ever since, it has been the spiritual heart of cricket in Christchurch — the ‘garden city’ where English settlers started playing the game locally almost as soon as they stepped off the boat in 1851.

Hagley Park’s biggest claim to fame is that it is regarded as the most impressive club cricket venue in New Zealand. In its heyday, no fewer than six club games would unfold at once on the main Oval, while dozens more would be taking place on the adjacent polo ground and Christ’s College fields: a melee of hundreds of cricketers, all playing at once.

But while many generations of club cricketers — more than 50,000 players — have spent their summer Saturdays here, the people’s park was not, until recently, a major international cricket venue. Since the 2012 earthquake, the game’s local guardians have built a modest, modern grandstand and, with great vision, raised a grass embankment that now rims and encircles the original playing field. Hagley’s historic little club pavilions are preserved on the outskirts of the new earthen saucer, while a white picket fence around the playing field itself makes it clear that this is a place where traditions will always be cherished.