Boutique bargain

Peter Watson
The smallest of the World Cup grounds, the Saxton Oval packs a pretty punch

While Nelson is one of the newest international venues, it was one of the first places where cricket was played in New Zealand, in 1844. Its selection as a World Cup venue might have surprised some outsiders, but it has been on New Zealand Cricket's radar for some time and fits with the general move away from the big, hard-to-fill concrete stadiums to purpose-built boutique grounds where people can get closer to the action. Nelson's excellent climate, popularity as a summer holiday destination, central location and good air links have also counted in its favour.

The venue
It may be the smallest of the World Cup venues, but Saxton Oval is among the most beautiful. Nestled between the hills and the sea in sunny Nelson, the picturesque oval, with its grass embankments and white picket fence, has quickly become a hit with spectators and players alike since its opening in 2010.

Situated just 15 minutes from the central city in a spacious sports park, it offers good parking, quality outdoor practice wickets and modern facilities, including an award-winning $3.8m pavilion shaped like an oval cylinder to reflect the cricket ground and the nearby athletics track it sits between.

As with many new grounds, the pitch and its surrounds have taken time to settle, but remedial work has produced a surface with consistent bounce and good pace and carry.

The venue got a big thumbs up after its ODI debut in January 2014, when New Zealand beat West Indies by 58 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis method after rain cut short the match, which attracted a boisterous, sellout crowd of 4500.

The ground capacity is likely to be increased to around 6000 with temporary stands for the three World Cup pool fixtures, the first of which sees West Indies return to play Ireland on February 16. This is followed by Zimbabwe taking on UAE three days later and the Bangladesh-Scotland clash on March 5.

Before that, New Zealand will play Sri Lanka on January 20 as part of their seven-match one-day series, which should be a good dress rehearsal for everyone, and the chance to iron out any last-minute hitches.

Ground page | Fixtures

Major players
Mark Douglas | Tony Blain | Jock Edwards | Bev Congdon

Home team
Nelson is a minor association that plays for the Hawke Cup and is one of five regions that make up Central Districts, which competes at the first-class level. The golden age of Nelson cricket was from 1958 to 1965, when it reigned supreme in the Hawke Cup and several players went on to represent New Zealand. It also held the cup from 1978 to 1982.

Peter Watson is a Nelson journalist and keen cricket fan

Comments have now been closed for this article