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Castle Park is, by far and away, the most attractive of the grounds used by Essex County Cricket Club. Lying to the north of the High Street, and below the level of the town and castle itself, the park is bordered by the remains of the Roman perimeter wall and the old Colchester by-pass. During Colchester Cricket Week, the park is transformed by the sudden arrival of tiered seating, the ubiquitous blue and white marquees and, of course, the mobile scoreboard. The pavilion is quite an elegant building, backed by trees through which the tower of the Victorian town hall peeps, spire-like, in the distance. Through the park runs the willow-lined River Colne, beautiful enough, but responsible for most of the ground's considerable drainage problems.
Colchester Cricket Week is held in August. In the past, the festival has been bedevilled by bad weather, so much so that in 1966, it was transferred, in the middle of a match, to Colchester's secondary venue, the Garrison Cricket Ground. This arrangement lasted until 1975, at which point the club, presumably worried more by falling attendance than a certain G. Boycott's knack of scoring double centuries on the Garrison wicket or the unattractive nature of the Garrison ground itself, decided that a return to Castle Park was overdue. Despite the snow which disrupted a match against Kent in early June, the move proved to be a wise one. Essex have an impressive record at Castle Park, having won, or at least drawn, most of the matches that have been played there.
Castle Park has seen more than its fair share of centurions of both varieties. It has been the scene of several notable cricketing achievements. When Essex entertained Kent at Colchester in 1938, A.E. Fagg became the only batsman ever, to hit a double century in each innings, scoring 244 in his first and 202 in his second. Even Graham Gooch, with his famous triple century against India at Lord's in 1990, cannot boast a comparable achievement.
Ken McEwan, always a prolific scorer, hit five hundreds in four consecutive visits to Castle Park between 1981 and 1984. He surpassed himself in 1983, scoring 181 against Gloucestershire and then, in the same week, 189 against Worcestershire, on both occasions securing a comfortable victory for his adoptive county.
Javed Miandad also has good cause the remember Castle Park. In 1981, after Glamorgan had secured a first innings lead, a century each from Gooch and Hardie allowed Essex to declare their second innings at 411 for 9. Undeterred at being set 325 runs in almost exactly the same number of minutes, Javed Miandad raced away to 200 not out and it was only when he ran out of partners, some 14 runs short of the required total, that Essex and a nervous crowd of supporters could breathe freely again.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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