The evolution of Bay Oval

By: Sideline Sid

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Ten thousand people in party mode at the Black Clash at the Bay Oval last Saturday night, was probably a million miles from the minds of the group of cricket administrators, who conceived the plan for an international cricket ground at Blake Park. 

Free to air television coverage, took the party to the nation, on a night where festivity and fun on the embankment was more important than cricket skills on the field of play.

Shot-putter Tom Walsh opening the batting for Team Cricket was a master stroke that set the tone of merriment for the night. Kieran Read's batting prowess for Team Rugby re-inked his cricket credentials as a former ND age-group representative.

However the star turn for this cricket fan, was the antics of umpire Billy Bowden and his chicken dance method of signaling fours and sixes during the night.  

To get to this undoubted highlight in Bay Oval history it is necessary to wind the clock back two decades.

Around 2002, New Zealand Cricket pulled the plug on the popular holiday season major association one-day games at Blake Park, due to supposed sub-standard pitches.

A think tank of local cricket administrators then hatched a plan to construct a new ground that would have a 'village green' atmosphere, where up to ten thousand patrons could enjoy top level cricket.

March 1 2005, saw the first sod turned on a new cricket venue that would attract some of the best players on the planet and worldwide television audiences.

The journey to last Saturday nights extravaganza, was measured, with the first step being the NZC Ground Warrant of Fitness in the spring of 2007. 

January 2014, saw the arrival of the Bay Oval as an international venue, with 14 matches in the 2014 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers, taking place on the Bay Oval and the top ground adjacent to the pavilion.

The first international encounters were warm-up matches between Uganda and UAE and Canada versus the Netherlands. The Canadian and Dutch sides met again in the playoffs, to play the first ODI at the Bay Oval, courtesy of having ICC ODI status.

From a reasonably humble start, the international team profiles ratcheted up several notches, when the White Ferns played the West Indies in two ICC Women’s T20 Internationals during March 2014.

Spring 2014, brought the first heavyweight clash to Mount Maunganui with the Black Caps taking on South Africa, in two matches of the ODI series.

To date ten ODI's have seen South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and India engage in cricket combat with the Black Caps, while Bangladesh, West Indies and Pakistan have also paid visits to Blake Park to engage in T20 International competition. 

The icing on the cake so far, has been the three test matches, which has seen the Black Caps vanquish England and Pakistan and a shock defeat to Bangladesh, during the last three seasons.

Add in 17 Women's Internationals and the 2018 ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup, along with the likes of Afghanistan and New Zealand A fixtures – making some 70 encounters at the Bay Oval featuring international cricket visitors.

However the best is yet to come, with the 2022 ICC Women's World Cup bringing seven matches to the Bay Oval and the tantalizing prospect of a day/night test in the future.