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The announcement that the Bay Oval will become the country’s 9th test cricket venue was greeted with jubilation by Western Bay of Plenty cricket fans, who can now look forward with great anticipation to the Black Caps squaring off with England 21st to the 25th November 2019.

The opening day's play at the Bay Oval will herald the 104th test match between the two countries.

New Zealand’s first ever test match was played against England at Lancaster Park in Christchurch on the 10th, 11th and 13th January 1930.

As was the (cricket) custom of the day, there was no play on the Sunday.

New Zealand posted 112 and 131, with England scoring 181 and 66 for the loss of two wickets, to claim an eight wicket victory

A journey that started on the first day of March 2005 to turn a Blake Park wasteland into a first-class cricket venue, will reach the Western Bay grounds biggest milestone, with the Bay Oval accorded test match status when the first ball is fired down on the 21st November 2019.

While the vision was to one day host the original form of the game, there were numerous requirements to prove the Bay Oval capability to host test cricket.

A major step was the appointment of Bay Oval turf manager Jared Carter in 2010. Few in New Zealand turf culture have the knowledge and experience of Carter, who has nurtured the ground into an internationally respected cricket venue.

The Bay Oval first came to the attention of international cricket watchers, hosting 10 games during the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifying tournament in January 2014.

Just nine months later, ODI cricket arrived at Mount Maunganui, with the Black Caps facing South Africa in two games of a three match series.

Since 2014, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh, Pakistan, England and India have stopped off at the Bay Oval during their New Zealand cricket tours.

The international players seem to enjoy the laid back atmosphere and the respite from the concrete jungles of the country’s largest cities, in their visits to the Western Bay of Plenty.

Whilst the Bay Oval will take its place as the New Zealand ninth test venue, there are just five grounds that currently seems likely to host test cricket in the immediate future.

Northern Districts Cricket are in the box seat with Seddon Park in Hamilton and the Bay Oval.

The Basin Reserve in Wellington is an icon that dates back to its first cricket match in 1868.

The ground is also famous as the country’s biggest traffic roundabout.

Lancaster Park in Christchurch was a casualty of the big quake, however, the purpose-built Hagley Oval took over the mantle as Canterbury's test venue, when it hosted the Boxing Day test between the Black Caps and Sri Lanka in 2014.

Likewise in Dunedin, the redevelopment of Carisbrook saw the University of Otago Oval step up to host test matches in the Deep South.

Eden Park in the City of Sails seems to have been on the outer as arguments continue whether to develop Western Springs as a test cricket venue.

McLean Park in Napier is another unlikely to see test cricket in the near future after its well documented drainage problems.

Successful hosting of the Blacks Caps five-day encounter with England, is likely to lock in the Bay Oval as one of the first port of calls in the NZ Cricket annual allocation of test grounds, with perhaps a day/nighter with the pink ball in the 2020/21 season.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
www.sunlive.co.nz