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Grounds for optimism

Posted in Domestic Cricket


Fans sample the delights of outground cricket on a sunny Scarborough day

It’s that time of year again when cricketing outgrounds take centre stage in the county calendar.

Whether it’s the LV= County Championship, Friends Life t20 or Clydesdale Bank 40, the traditional and highly successful cricket festivals are popular with both supporters and players alike.

The festivals offer players the chance to play in front of full houses such as Scarborough, Cheltenham and Chesterfield rather than going into battle at a half-empty Headingley Carnegie, Lord’s and Old Trafford.

With the grounds packed, the atmosphere is a lot more hostile and can be intimidating for opposition players, with the boundaries only feet away from the terraces.

The atmosphere between spectators always seems to be a lot friendlier and the weather warmer, always a bonus when bringing in the crowds.

Outgrounds are not just a holiday for players, though. They appreciate the large crowds that flock through the turnstiles and are always determined to provide some entertainment.

That’s why, more often that not, positive results are enforced - and that’s not because the facilities are poor.

Groundsmen at these so-called lesser grounds are determined to provide a solid surface to ensure the best possible game can take place.

The championship match between Lancashire and Durham at Liverpool last week was a real nail-biter and, despite only 734 runs being scored in four innings, crowds went home happy after seeing an entertaining four days cricket.

The pitch was given the standard of approval by the ECB pitch inspector, who described the wicket as “one of the best I’ve ever seen”. The different surfaces around the country also provide exciting challenges for players, which is healthy for the county game.


Cheltenham, like many other festivals around the country, gives supporters a chance to get up close and personal with the players

Outgrounds have realised standards have to be maintained to keep ensuring their facilities are suitable for county cricket and have acted accordingly.

Scarborough recently had a makeover, with the ground looking a lot fresher and modern to make the experience for supporters all the more pleasant.

The fact counties have given their second homes the chance to host t20 matches this season has also raised the profile of the game across the regions.

The t20 clash between Surrey and Sussex at Whitgift School last night provided over 5,000 people with a chance to watch a close-fought encounter that saw 388 runs in 40 overs.

It also gave the people of Croydon the opportunity to see international stars such as Umar Gul, Matt Prior, Chris Tremlett, Monty Panesar and Dirk Nannes express themselves in the school grounds and, with ticket prices reduced, it was always going to be a successful event.

Despite occasional criticism of taking cricket to different grounds across the country, you can’t hide the fact it breathes new life into a county cricketer’s season as well as attracting larger audiences, which is all for the good of the game.

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