HAMPSHIRE'S field of dreams has been named as the second best in the country in a survey of cricket grounds.
The new multi-million-pound Rose Bowl complex at West End compiled 76 points out of a possible 100.
The author Anthony Meredith was so impressed by the setting that he described the new venue as "a thrilling, unambiguous statement of self-belief. I wish I could award it 20 out of 10".
The writer, in his annual report for The Cricketer magazine, gave the club full marks for sign posting and car parks, and was also impressed by its catering, friendliness, and the scope of goods on sale at the ground.
But he was critical of Hampshire - as well as many other counties - for their poor promotion of home players, describing their overall anonymity as "disastrous".
He also took every county to task over their marketing of the four-day championship.
Canterbury was given the accolade of being the best ground with 86 points. Derby was denigrated as the worst, scoring just 45 points, one more than the home of English cricket, Lords. Both were slammed for their lack of atmosphere.
Graham Walker, Hampshire's chief executive, was encouraged by the results, but warned: "You ain't seen nothing yet."
He added: "It's like the car hire advert - `we may be number two so we have got to try harder'."
The county have their sights set on achieving Test county status. Durham's Chester-Le-Street ground, which has been the county's home for only six-and-a-half years was recently awarded a floodlit one-day game between England and India next summer, and Hampshire have been given ODI status from 2003.
Hampshire have just started a £2m fitting out of the pavilion. This will include a Long Room, with a 240-seater restaurant, a members' bar with seating for 200 people, and the club will be putting some 600 seats on the top deck which will be used for entertaining.
The pavilion will also include refurbished players' and umpires' dressing rooms, plus an office for the director of cricket.
"A lot of people have put a lot of hard work into this ground, but there is still a long way to go," added Walker. "We didn't score too highly in the `pizzazz' and `heroes' categories in the survey, so we have a lot more work to do.
"But I can guarantee we will have a lot more pizzazz next summer."