Eden Park's Outer Oval to join pitch technology club

Lynn McConnell

March 25, 2003

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Eden Park's Outer Oval is going to be the latest ground in New Zealand to implement portable pitch technology for its cricket.

The need has arisen from the struggle to accommodate cricket and rugby on the ground.

The same reason for its introduction on Eden Park's main ground and at Jade Stadium in Christchurch.

Normally rugby is played on the Outer Oval ground in an east-west direction, which leaves about a third of the cricket block exposed on the rugby ground.

That provides problems for both codes. If the wicket block gets too dry during the winter it becomes too hard for rugby, and if it gets too wet it can become very soft.

Cricket, on the other hand, finds that if damage is done to the wicket block, it is that much further into the summer before the ground can be used for first-class cricket.

In order to accommodate both teams, the rugby ground has been re-aligned to run north-south and on the part of the cricket block where the rugby pitch runs, a portable pitch will be installed. That will account for four turf pitches on the side of the rugby ground and five free turf pitches outside the rugby ground.

Auckland Cricket's chief executive Lindsay Crocker said two issues were sorted with that approach - the rugby accommodation issue and the chance for more experimentation of the portable pitch technology.

At the moment it is only used for international matches at Eden Park on the main enclosure.

"Having the portable facility means that we will be able to get going earlier in the season. There are a number of advantages that are going to be of benefit to us," he said.

Crocker didn't think it would be an especially expensive idea for the Eden Park Trust Board which administers both grounds because all the raw materials were available at the ground.

While there was talk of a longer term development for the Outer Oval nothing had been decided on that, but the work being done now would not impact on anything that might be planned for the future.

Crocker said he was aware of the comments that were made as the last rounds of the State Championship were played in good weather around most of the country that more cricket should be played in late-March.

But he said it was necessary to remember that much of the first-class programme is aimed at providing support for the international team and getting them ready for Test matches or One-Day Internationals.

That was why the State Championship started in November, because there were always Christmas-New Year Test matches now.

Auckland had made a policy of attempting to play its first round Championship matches on the East Coast at Gisborne or Napier, or even in Dunedin, where the weather tended to be better in the early part of the summer.

But even that plan was foiled this summer when the Auckland-Northern Districts match at Gisborne was rained out.

The idea of all teams playing away at a venue like the High Performance Centre at Lincoln University was not a new one but it came down to the logistics of pitch use at the three grounds there, he said.

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