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New Zealand's most scenic cricket ground
9:41am Thursday 6th March 2008 in Sport
Without doubt the most scenically beautiful cricket ground in New Zealand is Pukekura Park in New Plymouth.
Situated on the south-eastern flank of North Island, it ranks high on my list of the world's most delightful cricket venues and it was a joy to report a match there on England's 1987-88 tour.
A smallish playing area is surrounded on three sides by steeply banked grass terracing surmounted by a framework of exotic trees.
Perched precariously atop the middle summit in the press tent, I had a perfect view down the pitch and beyond a colourful medley of roofs with the shimmering Tasman as its backcloth.
Seated around this terraced amphitheatre were a thousand sparingly-clad spectators on slatted benches, their sun brollies adding more colour to a kaleidoscope of green.
There was a marked shortage of power points available to the media, the only one I was able to locate to Tandy' my copy to the Mail on Sunday being sited within the ladies loo.
After last month's international in Wellington, I made a detour to revisit and photograph this uniquely terraced ground and discover its history.
It transpires that the ground was largely created by an Irishman, John Darby' Claffey, who was its curator from 1878 until 1896.
Exceptionally skilled in turf management, Claffey persuaded a farmer to part with sufficient to grass the entire outfield and terraced viewing banks on three sides of the ground. He devised a method of grassing the vertical surfaces by using pegs and squares of turf.
One of Central Districts' many first-class venues, Claffey's handiwork has staged 51 first-class matches since 1951.
In February 1992, a 50-over World Cup match between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe produced one of the most dramatic limited-overs encounters, with a record aggregate of 625 runs and the result determined with just four balls to spare.
Zimbabwe amassed 312 for 4 with Andy Flower, England's batting coach on this tour, scoring an undefeated 115.
Only an aggressive 88 not out from 61 balls by Arjuna Ranatunga, saw Sri Lanka home by three wickets.
The cricket ground is just a small part of a stunning park and botanical gardens featuring a huge variety of native trees, king ferns and rhododendrons.
In the park's centre is a long, thin lake (also designed by Claffey).
It is parted by The Poet's Bridge, named after the horse whose winnings paid for its construction.