As another summer of cricket begins, Kiwis around the country will spend hours sitting on grass embankments (or plastic seats), soaking up the sun (or avoided getting soaked) and clap on the Black Caps in encouragement (or hang their heads in disappointment).
New Zealand has a decent number of cricket grounds to call on when the Black Caps are playing host but are any of them actually decent?
A simple ratings formula was put to cricket reporters David Leggat, Andrew Alderson and Dylan Cleaver. They were asked to rate nine of New Zealand's cricket grounds, with Cobham Oval and Queenstown Events Centre not featuring due to international inactivity - neither have hosted a Black Caps' international in three years.
Each reporter had to give every ground a score for:
Pitch (Marked out of 20)
With an individual score of 60 for each ground, we've combined the scores to come up with a total of 180.
Here are the results...
9) McLean Park, Napier - Total score: 99/180
- Worst outfield
- Worst food (tied)
Welcome to sunny Hawkes Bay, a cricketing talent hothouse with attitude. Shame about the ground.
McLean Park is an unwelcome survivor from the days of the dreary duel-purpose grounds that were a stain on New Zealand's cricketing reputation. Lacking in charm or sophistication, McLean Park gives no clue to the art deco wonders on offer outside its ramparts.
This ugly, confused semi-stadium, semi-park, has also been found to be deficient below the surface, with sweeping showers rendering the ground unplayable where others would be fine.
The council is investing heavily in a soil and drainage upgrade. Let's hope they're not doing it on cricket's behalf. It is time for New Zealand Cricket and the Central Districts Cricket Association to take the initiative and leave this dog to rugby.
As the ultimate insult, in a province known for its wine and food, the grub served up here is an embarrassment to the region. - DC
8) University of Otago Oval, Dunedin - 107/180
- Best food (tied)
- Worst pitch
The ground is a pleasant 25-minute hike from the city centre, and worth every step towards the grass embankment.
Don't be fooled by the recent ejections during the New Zealand-South Africa test. Those young chaps were generally having harmless and humorous fun, like singing "Happy Birthday" to Ross Taylor and supporting their local pace bowler with a "Neil is a Wagner" chant. The genial interaction with players was impressive, highlighted by Morne Morkel complying with the "skol" refrain and popping the empty bottle of water on his head boat-race style. Still, security's never far from muscling in to snuff out japes. The pram prevention strategy was also a low point, a policy which has since been rescinded by New Zealand Cricket. The atmosphere tends to be less vibrant in Dunedin during the student summer holidays.
New groundsman Mike Davies put in a solid performance on test pitch debut, although the surface lacks for consistent pace. The outfield played like a billiard table but, if there was a criticism, it might be a fraction soft.
Seize any chance to visit the Long Room in the main stand. It is furnished with lots of pictures and memorabilia of Bert Sutcliffe; always a promising start. - AA
7) Eden Park, Auckland - 113/180
- Worst food (tied)
- Worst scoreboard
The irony of Eden Park's inappropriateness for cricket is that the Cabbage Tree Swamp that once dominated the area was drained for the express purpose of housing the Kingsland Cricket Club and, eventually, the Auckland Cricket Association.
Trouble being, it allowed its upstart partner, the Auckland Rugby Union, to lease the ground in winter and cricket was only ever going to play second fiddle to the whims of the national sport thereafter.
It's a dreadful cricket ground. The orientation of the pitch was altered when the stadium was redeveloped for the Rugby World Cup but they've robbed Peter to pay Paul, changing the ludicrously short boundaries to straight (from their previous backward square).
Unless the ground is full, as it was for the Cricket World Cup, it is an echo chamber, with punters trapped inside its concrete walls and served bad food and drink.
And yet... some of the great cricket matches in modern New Zealand history - the drawn test against England, the test win against India, the tied ODI against India, the World Cup pool match against Australia, the World Cup semifinal against South Africa and the 'Stoinis Affair' - have all taken place there. - DC
6) Westpac Stadium, Wellington - 116/180
- Best location
- Worst atmosphere
The best location in the country for spectators, with its proximity to downtown and the railway. Seeing people advancing along the concourse always captures the sense of love and anticipation around sport in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, a surfeit of loud yellow - sorry, Wellington gold - seats means it seldom feels full for 50 and 20-over internationals.
The exceptions were New Zealand's World Cup pool games against England and the quarter-final against the West Indies, when the atmosphere was as good as anywhere in the country.
Tim Southee's seven for 33 and Martin Guptill's 237 not out made those respective matches stand out.
The outfield is perfect around the drop-in pitch, but the short square boundaries leave an awkward feeling that a mistimed aerial square cut or pull might go for six.
The pitch never gets a resounding tick from home or visiting players. It's not admonished either, but terms like "slow" and "sticky" get bandied about at post-match media conferences. - AA
5) Saxton Oval, Nelson - 121.5*/180
- Best food (tied)
- Worst location
New Zealand's second newest international ground, behind only Mt Maunganui's Bay Oval, this is an immensely pleasant, picturesque spot to watch the game.
Local administrators did a cracking job getting the venue, situated about 15 minute drive out of the centre of Nelson, up to scratch and winning three World Cup matches there in 2015.
It has had nine ODIs in the last three years, along with six women's ODIs and T20 internationals.
The pitch can be a touch slow but there's nothing to fear from it. It has one main stand, a smaller one behind the stumps at one end and a lovely bank running around half of the ground.
To one side the rolling hills provide a spectacular backdrop. It's not quite Queenstown, which is unmatchable, courtesy of nature, but it'll do nicely.
It is one of the locations New Zealand Cricket fancy as a boutique holiday time spot, with good reason.
The catering is top class, the locals on the gate don't bite, and it's well worth a visit if you're in the town at the right time.
Could it become a test venue? For sure, although more likely of the Bangladesh/West Indies variety than, say Australia or India. That's simple economics.
But it's a highly impressive addition to New Zealand's international venues. - DL
* Two out of our three writers have visited the ground and their scores were averaged.
4) Bay Oval, Mt Maunganui - 124.5*/180
- Best food (tied)
Being positioned between rugby grounds and a salt works doesn't immediately appeal as a must-go location.
But since making its international debut in January 2014, the rejigged Bay Oval, situated within the large, multi-purpose Blake Park, has fared well.
New Zealand have played three ODIs - two losses and a win - and three T20s, all won in the last 14 months. The players like it, although to be fair a large chunk of New Zealand teams live in the region.
On any given Sunday you could pick a New Zealand five for a game of beach cricket at the Mount, a four minute drive away - or 10 minutes for a brisk walk up the mountain.
The pitch, in the words of Tauranga local Trent Boult, is getting better, with a bit more pace than it's early incarnations. Boult has taken six for 97 in three T20s there; seven for 153 in three ODIs.
The crowds have been good, it being set up as a natural amphitheatre with a grass bank surrounding most of the ground, save a modern pavilion. It is unquestionably a good viewing ground and can get seriously hot.
It's a welcome addition to the roster of grounds.
Test matches? There's certainly an intention of pushing in that direction, but as with Saxton Oval it would more likely host a lower-ranked nation than one of the heavy mob. - DL
* Two out of our three writers have visited the ground and their scores were averaged.
3) Hagley Oval, Christchurch - 126/180
- Best outfield
To paraphrase from the film Field of Dreams, "build it and they will come".
A purpose-built oval had been touted in Canterbury since 1998, and was fast-tracked following the earthquake damage to Lancaster Park.
Cricket is as old as "the first four ships" in Christchurch, and the city needed a venue to reflect that.
Eventually, after the defeat of some opposition who claimed it would detract from the surrounding 164 hectares of Hagley Park, the oval debuted for the 2014 Boxing Day test against Sri Lanka and hosted the opening match of the 2015 World Cup. It will be a fixture on the summer calendar indefinitely with a sound pitch, manicured outfield and loyal patronage.
The venue brands itself "a ground for all generations". There's plenty of room for games of cricket between children; university students and families occupy the embankment; older folk use armchairs to establish sentinel-like positions high on the flat ridge; and a cross-section opt for membership of the Hadlee Pavilion.
The oval is an uplifting walk from the city centre, where you can draw inspiration from the tenacious rebuild in the face of natural adversity. - AA
2) Seddon Park, Hamilton - 133/180
With village-green sensibilities in the middle of New Zealand's fourth largest city, Seddon Park is not perfect but when the sun is shining and cricket is good, it feels close enough.
Let's start with the shortcomings. It is a touch too small, a fact exacerbated by the fact the wicket square is not "centred". That means the short boundary to the groundsman's shed can be a bit of a joke.
The temporary seating at the northern end of the ground is both tacky and acts like a roasting tray, while the pavilion is not fit for purpose. A permanent, boutique structure at this end of the ground, similar in scale to Centurion in Pretoria, perhaps, is long overdue.
Seddon Park is a fine cricket ground. It has two types of clay to cater for the different demands of test and white-ball cricket and the ground is always immaculately prepared.
There is a wider variety of food on offer than most grounds. It is a shame the manually operated scoreboard has been replaced by a fully digital model but that's progress.
A sun-kissed day on the bank at Seddon Park will remain one of the sport's enduring pleasures. - DC
1) Basin Reserve, Wellington - 153 points
- Best pitch
- Best atmosphere
- Best scoreboard
Wellingtonians call it HQ. It hosted the second ever New Zealand test - pipped by Christchurch's Lancaster Park by a few days.
Stewie Dempster and Jack Mills celebrated with a 276-run partnership, still the second best for the first wicket 87 years on, exceeded only by Glenn Turner and Terry Jarvis's 387 at Guyana in 1972.
Often referred to as the world's biggest roundabout. London's Hyde Park Corner doesn't compare. For some the constant noise is a pain; others reckon it's part of the ambiance.
The outfield is large and batsmen get value for shots. The pitch is generally high standard, if a touch misleading. Seeing green can tempt captains into bowling first. But it is often deceiving.
The large grass bank is understandably a hugely popular spot but the ground, which has hosted more New Zealand test wins - 17 out of 59 matches, although the first didn't happen until 1969 - isn't without flaws.
There's a ridiculous situation around the heritage listed stand at wide long on which can't be pulled down and the city's governors won't fix it, so it stands an empty eyesore; the R.A. Vance stand needs a major tidy up. You need more than a lick of paint to hide the rust.
On bad days the wind whistles mercilessly up Adelaide Road or down Kent Terrace providing ferocious southerlies or northerlies - or both on consecutive days.
It's all part of the character. It wouldn't be a cricket season without the bails blowing off. You need a stubborn demeanour at times. Cricket lovers have that in spades.
Richard Hadlee took his 300th test wicket at the Basin; Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones put on the small matter of 467, a then-world record stand for any wicket in 1991.
It remains the king of New Zealand's cricket grounds. - DL
Best of the categories
Best pitch - Basin Reserve
The reason fans love this pitch is because it follows a familiar pattern. A couple of days from the test a line such as "you can't tell the pitch from the outfield" generally appears. Panic sets in and itineraries are checked in the vain hope you have flexible flights. The grass is shaved down but the pitch still has a verdant tinge on the opening morning. The toss-winning captain inevitably inserts the opposition. A few wickets fall, then the pitch flattens out so batsmen flourish on the second, third and fourth days, before spinners come into the reckoning during the final throes. You can't ask for more than that, provided the weather complies. - AA
Worst pitch - University of Otago Oval
New groundsman Mike Davies put in a solid performance on his test pitch debut last week, although the surface lacks consistent pace. There was carry at times, followed by BJ Watling picking balls up around his boots. You wonder whether Davies' inherited substandard soil. No one's demanding the Waca of yesteryear, but batsmen need to have confidence playing their shots, and pace bowlers need reassurance the ball will hoop through when they bend their backs. - AA
Best outfield - Hagley Oval
Hagley Oval. Large, roomy and perfectly manicured. Strong choice for best swathe of green in the country. - DL
Worst outfield - McLean Park
The shape, short sides, long straights, doesn't help but its complete inability to survive even a light rain without sogging up makes this a simple choice. To be fair, long overdue rehabilitation work is in train.- DL
Best atmosphere - Basin Reserve
There's something almost spiritual about watching cricket at the Basin Reserve, even when the southerly is whipping down Adelaide Rd causing a loss of feeling in your extremities. The crowd is always appreciative, usually knowledgeable and typically in high spirits. You only need a couple of thousand to make this place rock. - DC
Worst atmosphere - Westpac Stadium
Just a couple of kilometres across the CBD from the Basin sits Westpac Stadium, aka the Caketin. The contrast couldn't be greater. An awful place to watch cricket, it's cheese-coloured seats are rarely filled and the whole place exudes a sense of a big yellow error. - DC
Best Location - Westpac Stadium
You can't beat a stadium that is situated a stone's throw from the CBD and right next to the central railway station for those coming from the regions. Perfect location, shame that's it's an awful cricket arena. - DC
Worst location - Saxton Oval
It's in Nelson for a start, which makes it handy for about 1.04 per cent of the population. But that's fine, Nelson's a lovely place to visit. Herein lies the problem: it's not even convenient for Nelsonians, unless you live in Stoke or Richmond, with the pretty oval plonked in the green belt that separates those two satellite suburbs. Trafalgar Park might not have been the prettiest ground, but it was a damn sight handier. - DC
Best Scoreboard - Basin Reserve
A ground which treats patrons with the utmost respect through its best communication organ. The electronic Don Neely Scoreboard, named after the local cricketing historian, sits in adjacent harmony with a manual record of the day's play. Where most grounds have opted for the whizz-bang nature of only displaying the immediate statistical and scorebook action on the big screen, the Basin Reserve has a team of cricket tragics roving behind the numbers and letters to ensure the crowd has the whole game as a reference point. Just standing beside it for a few overs gives an appreciation of the enthusiasm and energy literally going on behind the scenes. It is a poignant reminder of a bygone era, which is increasingly rare in the digital age. - AA
Worst scoreboard - Eden Park
Seems to show information too infrequently on what doubles as a video screen. Often punctuated by advertising such as the "value" you'll get for one of the ground's meal combos of burger, chips and drink ($17 a few years back) or lining up a man-around-the-ground to bombard unsuspecting patrons with questions like, "How are you enjoying the game?" The trouble is that with no mute button, all attendees are subjected to these insights during breaks in play. - AA
Best Food - Bay Oval, Saxton Oval, University Oval
In truth, Dunedin is best. Food provided by the Compass Group is hard to top, plus other amenities are good. Saxton Oval a close second, such as pulled pork burgers, the pork caught by the bloke running the stall ''up there" with a thumb jerked to the surrounding hills; Bay Oval steady. - DL
Worst food - Eden Park/McLean Park
Eden Park inevitably overpriced and quality iffy, save Fritz's Weiners; McLean Park is more a disgrace considering it sits in prime cuisine land. Why no getting wineries involved? Very ordinary. - DL
This piece originally ran on March 16