Within the first few balls today, the Barmy Army was singing on the grass banks of Bay Oval.

The hymn Jerusalem, a popular British sporting anthem, rang out across the Mount Maunganui ground as local Black Cap Trent Boult ran in and bowled the first over of the ground's first test.

The sun was shining, a trumpet was playing, and the Army was singing along with corresponding actions performed in unison. One man was wearing a full suit, with a waistcoat, tie, and bowler hat.

The crowd, already a respectable size for a Thursday morning session of a test match, was still filtering in at that point, finding a place to sit on the embankment.

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As English cricket commentator David Lloyd – fondly known as "Bumble" – pointed out from the commentary box, there is just something about a cricket ground where you have to bring your own chair.

Many fans the Bay of Plenty Times spoke to during the day thought the same.

A group of English supporters found relaxing on the bank – friends who had travelled to Tauranga from Auckland, Australia and England – said it was "a lovely set-up".

"Really nice, good weather, lovely old cricket ground – classic cricket ground, not like a lot of the corporate ones you get these days," Ben Quilter, one of the group, said.

"A lot more people than we thought, considering England just knocked you guys over twice in the last six months," he then quipped.

"That's why I think there's more English fans here than Kiwis."

From left, Mick Ferguson, Rob Watts, Ben Quilter, Andrew Nash, Neil White, Steve Perkins and Ray Wilson. Photo / Andrew Warner
From left, Mick Ferguson, Rob Watts, Ben Quilter, Andrew Nash, Neil White, Steve Perkins and Ray Wilson. Photo / Andrew Warner

Local lad Eli Banbury, 11, from Pyes Pā, and his granddad Ross Banbury, from Te Puke, were there supporting the home team. They said it was a family day out.

"We're really rapt that Tauranga's hosting its first test. Seen some one-dayers here, and so this is great, it's an amazing ground and always good weather," Ross said.

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This is Bay Oval's inaugural test match; today it became New Zealand's ninth test venue.

The weather turned up for the occasion, with the sweet Bay of Plenty sunshine expected to continue for the rest of the week.

Ross Banbury and his grandson Eli Banbury were enjoying a family day out at Bay Oval. Photo / Andrew Warner
Ross Banbury and his grandson Eli Banbury were enjoying a family day out at Bay Oval. Photo / Andrew Warner

Across the road at Blake Park, 36 girls' cricket teams from 19 Western Bay of Plenty schools – from Katikati to Te Puke – spent all day out in that sun.

A team from Pillans Point School in Otūmoetai was among those taking part in the Genera Western Bay of Plenty Girls Super 6's, which is a culmination of Bay of Plenty Cricket's GoGirl school coaching programme.

The girls cricket team from Pillans Point School was having a day of cricket. Photo / Andrew Warner
The girls cricket team from Pillans Point School was having a day of cricket. Photo / Andrew Warner

It appeared the girls from Pillans Point couldn't get enough cricket, either, as the Bay of Plenty Times found them after their tournament down by the white picket fence at the boundary at Bay Oval watching the Black Caps and England.

"Everyone was being really nice and we were a team, even though we lost some of the games," said Vaibhavi Jamwal, 11, when asked about her day playing cricket.

"It was really fun there," she added.

Her teammate Paige Osborne, 11, said: "It's really fun because we were just playing cricket and now we get to watch it."

And there could still be four more days of test cricket viewing to come, with the Barmy Army ensuring the soundtrack is as memorable as the action in the middle of the oval.

Good morning! 🎺

Posted by England's Barmy Army on Wednesday, 20 November 2019
(l-r) Ben Nally, Michael Forde and Dave Rush all dressed up for test cricket. Photo / Andrew Warner
(l-r) Ben Nally, Michael Forde and Dave Rush all dressed up for test cricket. Photo / Andrew Warner

What do you think of Bay Oval as a test cricket venue?

"This stadium is awesome, it's how cricket, in my opinion, should be viewed – grass banks, you can have a wander around, you can go sit where you like ... and you've obviously got the mountain in the background. It's a really nice test venue and the weather especially has come out to greet all the fans today."

Peter Field, 24, Cheltenham, England

"Fantastic. We love it. The ability to sit up here, comfy chair, watch the cricket, relax, have a chat with your mates, it's awesome."

Jamie Reid, 48, Tauranga South

"It's awesome. It's small enough to really enjoy it, especially as a test oval. It's great. The bars, the toilets, everything's close and it's fantastic."

Connor Hanley, 40, Pāpāmoa

"I think it's fabulous, it's so relaxed and the atmosphere's brilliant here. Lovely."
Adrian: "I just think it's a lovely setting, really, lovely outlook, nice and relaxed. It's great. I just love it."

Steph (quoted) and Adrian Bullett, 50 and 53, Suffolk, England