Tunbridge Wells

A brief history of the Nevill Ground

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The Tunbridge Wells Cricket, Football and Athletic club (which can trace its origins back to 1762) purchased the land on which the ground stands in 1895, on a 99-year lease from the Eridge Park estate of the Marquis of Abergavenny. The ground name is derived from the same source; Nevill being the Marquis' family name.

The TWCFA were joined in the year of acquisition by the newly-formed Bluemantles Cricket Club, and building commenced in 1896. The completed ground was opened by the Marquis of Abergavenny in 1898, but little of the original architecture remains today. Most notably, the original pavilion was burnt down in 1913 during a protest by the suffragettes. The current structure, a near-identical replica of the original, dates from this period and bears a small scoreboard.

Soccer ceased to be played at the ground in 1903. The ground has also been used for hockey, archery, athletics and cycle racing. Most notably, the tennis courts that punctuate the area around the cricket field were used in the past to host a tournament of some repute.

During the First World War, the playing area was used by the cavalry as a picketing area for horses. This necessitated much repair work to restore the playing area to a useable state.

The freehold of the ground was acquired by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in 1946, the lease having passed into their hands a year beforehand. The future of first class cricket at the ground appears to be safe for the immediate future.

One structure of note share the ground with the pavilion. The Bluemantles stand is situated to the right of the pavilion when standing facing that building from the wicket. It was named after the one of the cricket clubs that occupied the ground at the time of its opening, replacing an earlier structure that had become unsafe. Another stand occupies a position on the other side of the pavilion, but this is currently an open scaffolding structure.

Three major events of note have occurred in the cricketing history of The Nevill Ground. In 1932, A.P. Freeman of Kent and V.W.C. Jupp of Northamptonshire shared 28 wickets of the 30 to fall in the match. Two bowlers from opposing sides, both spin bowlers, sharing over 90% of the wickets to fall in a match is a rare event, maybe even unique.

In the 1983 World Cup, the ground saw one of the most remarkable matches in the history of limited overs cricket. The inaugural one-day meeting between Zimbabwe (then not a Test-playing nation) and India (the eventual winners of that tournament) saw Zimbabwe heading for an historic win until the great Indian allrounder Kapil Dev and wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani shared an unbroken ninth wicket partnership of 126. This remains the highest 9th wicket stand in all forms of limited-over international cricket to this day. Kapil Dev's unbeaten 175 in that match was then the highest score (currently the 4th highest) in the history of one-day internationals. A lasting memory for what is likely to be this small ground's only international cricket fixture.

More controversially, a random drugs test conducted on a Sussex player during the Kent v Sussex fixture at the ground in 1996 led to the first ban arising from a positive test in the history of English cricket. This matter has been dealt with amply elsewhere and will be dwelt upon no further.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Grounds: Nevill Ground
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