Richard Moore: Oval's in splendid shape

By Richard Moore

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Trent Boult was in high demand during the Black Caps' one-dayer against Sri Lanka. Photo / Richard Moore
Trent Boult was in high demand during the Black Caps' one-dayer against Sri Lanka. Photo / Richard Moore

What a wonderful gem we have in this city down at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui.

It is a near-perfect place to go with the family and watch the great game of cricket while sitting on the oval's grass embankments.

Casual, relaxed and picturesque.

On a blue-sky summer's day it looks splendid and only needs a few mature oak trees dotted around the place to make it one of the nicest looking grounds you could wish for.

I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days at Bay Oval last week photographing the cricket internationals between the Black Caps and Sri Lanka and not only watched good cricket, but almost full houses of people having a great time in the sun.

The crowd even got a Mexican wave going around the ground and it transported me back to the Melbourne Cricket Ground where I have spent many, many days of leisure.

Of course there is a vast difference in stadium sizes - "The G" seats 95,000-plus - and Bay crowds could never hope to match the numbers of sport-loving Melburnians of whom it is said 15,000 will turn up to watch two flies crawl up a wall.

The MCG also has a long history and children are put down on the members' waiting list at birth so by the time they are adults they will have their own special place at Australia's home of cricket.

But, as a group, members of "The G" are disliked.

In their own stand they have sat aloof as impressive Mexican waves circled the massive ground.

Tens of thousands in the crowd would join in as each section of every stand would rise and throw their arms up. Well, in all but one ... the members' section.

After a few circuits the crowd would get even more into the atmosphere of the day by cheering as they rose.

Round the wave went until it reached the members, who would remain impassive (and seated) and then the next public section would rise and cheer. Then, collectively, the next time the wave circled to the members, 40,000 people went "booooooooo". It went on for half a dozen laps of the great ground and everyone, except the members, had a ball.

Years later, the members' stand was torn down to be replaced by a modern stand and for one summer there was a massive gap in the MCG.

I can't remember what match I was at, but the wave started and cheers sounded around the ground until the rising, arm-waving mass approached the members' gap.

"Booooooooooo" the crowd went to the empty space and then started cheering again as people on the other side of the space took up the wave. Next time around the boos again greeted the gap and so it went on. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen at a sports ground anywhere in the world.

As the Mexican wave reached the media area at the Bay Oval I waited for a similar response but, fortunately, we were clearly not expected to join in the revelry.

One thing I was asked to do, however, was to sign a petition calling for lights to be installed at Bay Oval.

"Oh you betcha," said I, as I reckon twilight, or night games of cricket at the ground would be absolutely fantastic.

And what a drawcard to attract more sports-loving visitors to our part of the Bay.

But before that happens we need to back cricket games when they are in town and - judging by the turnout last week to the one-dayer and T20 - that doesn't seem to be a problem.

I'm sure the crowd sizes will have been noted and we will, hopefully, be served up more international games.

Heck, if we get lights maybe we can also attract an AFL exhibition game to our town.

Oh be still my beating heart!

Richard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist and photographer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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