Cricket: Eden Park legitimate venue for cricket

By David Leggat

Eden Park is a legitimate international cricket ground, albeit one with a couple of joke boundaries, and the ground is set to be a significant player during the 2015 World Cup.

As England, in particular, and New Zealand rained 23 sixes into the crowd during the opening T20 of the ANZ international series, the element of surprise the maximum stroke can bring was completely lost.

Expect more of the same when the teams clash in the ODI decider today, and potentially in the third test starting on March 22.

However, grumbles that the ground may not be a legitimate venue are wrong, according to International Cricket Council guidelines.

Eden Park's problem is desperately short straight boundaries, only partly offset by significantly larger areas of space square of the pitch on both sides.

The ICC rules state that the minimum length of the straight boundaries from the middle of the pitch is 64 metres.

However, New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said last night that in late 1997, the ICC confirmed all existing international grounds would be granted full status.

Eden Park's first test was in 1930 and it has hosted 47 tests, second domestically behind the Basin Reserve's 53.

Grounds being put in use after that had to fulfil a changed criterion. If a ground is not used for five years, then its "immunity" lapses.

Although the last test was played on Eden Park in 2006, there have been T20 or ODIs on the main oval every year since, thus getting around the five-year reference.

The end-on boundaries, which can be cleared by a gentle drive or an edge over slips, don't matter as much for the limited-overs versions; they are less amusing for test cricket.

When NZC chose to step away from its policy of using boutique-style grounds for tests to reintroduce Eden Park, it said the only countries for whom it would be considered suitable were England, Australia, India and South Africa, the big draws who would most likely attract the largest crowds. "The board agreed to trial Eden Park again, and that's what we are doing," White said. "It's very much to see how it goes. We think it's very important to have test matches in our largest city."

White made the point that the drop-in pitch is so good and true that "it makes the ground seem smaller"; that is, it is easier to strike through the line of the ball with confidence and get a full result.

Around seven New Zealand venues are understood to be in the running for hosting World Cup games in two years. Eden Park is expected to figure prominently.

- NZ Herald

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