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Southend-on-Sea, EnglandSouthend-on-Sea Cricket Club, The Pavilion, Southchurch Park, Northumberland Crescent, Southend-on-Sea, Essex. (01702 615195)
Southchurch Park is a huge, rambling ground, boasting 3 cricket squares and two rather ordinary pavilions. It is maintained by the local council and, by a happy coincidence, is only about half a mile from Thorpe Bay, where my parents still live.
It is the only 'seaside' venue still used by Essex County Cricket Club.
Clacton has fallen out of favour and Chalkwell Park has not been used since 1977. Southend Cricket Week is held in July and involves all the usual logistical problems associated with cricket festivals.
Although the nominal capacity of the ground, once the tiered seating is in place, is 10,000 spectators, the club would count itself lucky if half that number attended. The wicket is generally regarded as good, but it has received its share of criticism in the past and on one occasion, failed to measure up to requirements and the Essex was duly fined.
The ground enjoyed its heyday in the period immediately after WWII. Reviving a pre-war tradition of playing touring sides at Southchurch Park, Essex entertained Don Bradman's Australians there in May, 1948, in front of 16,000 spectators. This match was one of the most crushing defeats ever inflicted on Essex. By close of play on the first day, the tourists had amassed a total of 721 all out, a record which still stands, while Essex had to content themselves with the honour of being the only team to have bowled the tourists out in one day.
Bradman himself scored 187 runs in just over two hours. Keith Miller, annoyed at having to play over Whitsun, offered no stroke to the first ball he faced from Trevor Bailey and was clean bowled for a duck. Shortly after, Bailey was obliged to leave the field injured. There is nothing to suggest that the two incidents were related.
On the second day, Toshack and Miller tore Essex apart, obliging them to follow on. The second innings was much like the first, except this time, it was Johnson who did the damage. Tom Pearce, the Essex captain, managed to score 71 runs before being caught and bowled by Johnson while T.P.B. Smith hit a gritty 54 before being given lbw to Barnes. Essex finally went under by an innings and 451 runs.
Possibly the most notable achievement at Southchurch Park was in 1977, when Ken McEwan became one of the few batsmen to score four centuries in consecutive innings. He scored 106 not out against Gloucestershire, a century in each innings against Warwickshire, and then rounded off his performance with a total of 218 against Surrey, an aggregate score of 542 runs in ten days.
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