Cruising past the Bay Oval at Blake Park recently, brought home to this writer the realisation that top-level cricket under lights is just a matter of weeks away. 

The grass bank nearest the port has been super-sized to increase the spectator capacity to near the twelve thousand mark, which is more than Northern Districts Cricket headquarters at Seddon Park in Hamilton. 

The biggest change taking place, is the construction of the four huge banks of floodlights that will turn night into day at the Bay Oval.

Preparatory work is underway, drilling down 17 metres to give the towers a solid base. 

A world first is to take place at the Bay Oval with the installation of LED lights being used to light up the day/night games, which should give Bay Oval cricket fans a better than daylight view of the action. 

There is little time for error in the construction of the lights, with a NZ Cricket Super Smash T20 scheduled for a 7pm start on Saturday December 16.

The first international appearance under lights is scheduled three days later, when a ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup warm-up game between New Zealand and India is played. 

Negative comment about the value and worth of cricket under lights at the Bay Oval, will be batted away when the full house sign is put out, before the International contests against West Indies, Pakistan and England this summer. 

The Black Caps v England ODI (One-Day International) in February is a treat not to be missed.

For the first time the Balmy Army will invade the Bay of Plenty, with their entrance at the Bay Oval likely to turn the day/nighter into a festival of singing and (some) dancing from the visitors. 

Cricket in the Western Bay of Plenty has come a long way since major association games were taken away from Blake Park, because of alleged poor quality pitches nearly two decades ago.

In life you can either roll with the punches and live to fight another day or wither and die. 

Bay of Plenty Cricket administrators took up the huge challenge of turning Blake Park into a international cricket venue.

The most remarkable part of transformation to cricket under lights, is that it has taken just over a decade, since the first sod was turned on March 1 2005. 

Even the most ardent local cricket fans would have been hard-pressed to imagine that the Bay Oval would become a NZ Cricket flagship venue in such a short time. 

A testament to the quality of the countries latest international cricket ground and facilities is awarding of the 2018 Under 19 Cricket World Cup Final to the Bay Oval.

Mount Maunganui is to play a very significant role in the international age-group championship, with the opening game between New Zealand and the West Indies on January 13 and key match-ups featuring Australia, India and England along with the Grand Final. 

This writer believes the greatest benefits the Under 19 tournament will leave in the Bay of Plenty, is the massive television exposure around the world.

The television audience from the cricket-mad Indian sub-continent is likely to be measured in the millions, with Western Bay of Plenty tourist spots receiving plenty of exposure throughout the world. 

The resulting publicity of our beautiful region, will showcase the Bay of Plenty to many millions of cricket watchers throughout the world, for over three weeks in early 2018.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian