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Located a short walk from the central business district of Newcastle, No.1 Sports Ground was for many years a stopover on the tour itinerary for many visiting teams as they faced the Northern New South Wales XI. In 1981/82 the ground was allocated a Sheffield Shield match when the SCG was unavailable, and healthy crowds saw No.1 then become host to at least one first-class fixture per year.
Despite the demise of the Northern NSW tour fixture in the early 1980's, No.1 has in more recent times hosted the first-class game between NSW and touring sides, generally to the visitors' detriment. England have lost to NSW in both of their encounters here, while the West Indies were lucky to escape with a rain-affected draw. The tour matches have been something of a hex for NSW however, with both Mike Whitney and Greg Matthews ending their first-class careers during successive NSW versus New Zealand tour matches because of injuries incurred mid-game.
An earthquake which struck the city in December 1989 caused structural damage to the grandstand and forced the closure of the ground. Protracted insurance wrangles delayed reconstruction for three years and cost Newcastle the opportunity of hosting a match in the 1992 World Cup.
After the ground's reopening, first-class matches continued to be held here until the 1997/98 season, when adverse reports on the pitch and outfield, combined with a desire to centralise all NSW home games at the SCG, saw it removed from the roster. The surface was completely relaid during the 2000 off-season. Unfortunately the new surface was not quite ready in time for a Pura Cup match which had been planned for the ground in December.
The only taste to date of full international cricket came in February 2000 when the Australian women's team totally outplayed its English counterparts in a one-day international. An Under-19 test two years earlier gave an early glimpse of rising Pakistani all-rounder Abdur Razzaq, who scored a century and took a hat-trick against the Australian youth team.
No.1 Sports Ground has seen crowds in excess of 22,000 for local rugby league grand finals. While this figure has yet to be put to the test for a cricket match, it is to the regret of local fans and officials that Newcastle has never been allocated a Mercantile Mutual Cup game.
(Rick Eyre, November 2000)
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