THE FOUR GROUNDS OF THE CRICKET WORLD.
By g. l. jeskop. (For the- Dunedin. ' Star."—Copyright.) Wherever tho Eilglisk-ftpcii-kinjr race do congregate there shall wo find cricket flourishing, he the conditions what tlioy mar. On the outskirts of a West. .Africa n swamp, on so?iio barren spot, in (he Andaman Islands, no place is too 'outlandish for the. game to lie. indulged in in some form or other. It has established itself firmly- from orto end of the Pole to the other. .lit no place has the gamo made more rapid strides than in Australia, which in a country with a climate so propitious for its pursuit i.s scarcely a, matter for wonderment. Indeed, it wonld be more a matter for surprise were it not so. _ And being so exceptionally favored in this respect, it isi only what might be expected that whenever' an attempt is made to classify the famous cricket grounds the palm is bv general consent awarded to the land of tho Southern Cross. We may have grounds which as regards the wicket and the plaving area do not suffer in comparison with those of Sydney or Melbourne, but in the -tout ensemble" we have perforce to take a back seat. —At Lord's.—
. When v,e allude to the premier grounds of England instinctively we start with Lord's'and tho Oval. 'Not, perhaps, on account of any exceptional virtue on their part over others, but because of historic associations. As a matter 01 fact, although the Oval wicket has no superior with us, tho same could hardly be said of the enclosure at headquarters. The wicket there may have undergone considerable improvement since the days when " shooters" were as common as "nose-ehders," hut even now both such classes of noxious deliveries—if not quit© so frequent—are to this dav to be experienced. And yet wickets'have been made, and continue to bo made, out of tho unpromising clay soil there, upon which bowlers are as powerless as on tho superfine wideds of Worcester. i Tho feature of the ground is .its slope, I which, if not so pronounced as Cheltenham I or Canterbury, is still sufficient to influence ! tho course of a ball. When the ground is sun-baked little, momentum is required to propel a ball from the top to the lower side. It is very rarely that the accommodation of the ground is severely taxed, but there have teen occasions when it has been found necessary to dose the gates. In the irattcr of enclosures and stand accommodation it is the best wc can produce, but our best is a long'way behind Australia To the pavilion we can point the finger of pride. It is the most comfortable and palatial in existent'*. From a spectacular point of view Lord's on a crowded day of an Eton-Harrow or Oxford-Cambridge match takes a lot of beating. Fashion has decreed that these matches should be among the. social functions of tho season, and it needs but a glimpse of the turf after the luncheon parade to realise that she has placed her mark on the ground in no uncertain manner. —The, Oval.— Since the days of Apted the Oval has been famous for the perfection of its wicket. Unusual though if, may seem, its excellence ied to a successful protest against all wickets which underw.ent what is termed artificial preparation. Still, although the "faked" pitch is banned, the Oval enclosure maintains its excellent reputation. For the ordinary public the accommodation is rather primitive, and the absence of shelter makes tho lot of the spectator in showery weather one of extreme discomfort. The huge gasometer* which tower over the ground on the Lambeth side aro in a way picturesque if only on account of their extreme ugliness. In length alone the Adelaide ground may come first, but the playing area at the Oval is tho largest of all enclosures. As a matter of fact, it is rather too big, and a considerable spaco at the lower end might with advantage bo lopped off. It po>se,sses a pavilion second only to that of lord's, and is 111 that respect superior to any of the colonial grounds. --The Melbourne Ground.—
'die Melbourne ground has no superior in England either in respect to accommodation of spectators or as regards the playing area. It is tended with the same vigilance as a 'varsity college court. Except a few privileged mortals—the Dons of the club—-no footsteps other than those of the 'cricketer aro allowed to tread upon it. Into the- preparation of n. test match pitch the
groundsman putr, his very soul—a preparation lasting over somo weeks." in which the 'main treatment is floods of water and heavy rolling. The wicket, before the, ap-' plication of the copious moisture, is shorn of grass with a scythe ; the lawn mower is raicly used for this preliminary operation. After the heavy roller's effect in " squeedginsr" the mud into the eoiisislejicy of concrete, naturally the effect of so much wafer and rolling is in make (he wicket take unto itself the. appearance of a i.ice strip of macadamised rosd. No wickets last beirrr than the Melbourne irickcls. Mate-he.s, mny last a week, but there is rarely "any sign of crumbling. The <,nly ila-w io bo 'found on tho ground is the presence of lofty rim trees on the lower side, which are situated directly behind the bowler's arm. It is true that they afford a kindly shade to parched spectators, but to incoming batsmem they add to his difficulties of obtaining a good sight of the ball. In the matter of stand accommodation Australia is far ahead of us. But we rather score in the matter of pavilions. The Melbourne pavilion at the time of the visit of A. 0. Maclaren's team in 1901 was a ramshackle affair, and unworthy of the premier club of Australia. To-day, hdw-
ever, there stands a club bouse more in keeping with the traditions of the ground. It may not be, able to challenge comparison with the palatial buildings of Lord's, the Oval, or Old Trafford, but for all that it is an imposing pavilion. The huge grand stand to the left of the pavilion as one enters tho ground dwarfs anything which we possess of a like description. In front of this " monstsr" and around it are covered enclosures much on the same lines as those, familia-r to us at Lord's, Then of course we have the usual scoring apparatus, winch "ft a building in itself. Here we have the scorer's book laid bare before us—every run scored—bowlers' analyses—order of going in—and the names of the successful fieldsmen. Naturally tho score card is tin effete institution. --Sydney :. Tho Paradise of .Batsmen.—
If is the same with Sydney—Sydney the paradise of batsmen. One can scarcely imagine a more perfect ground. The New South Welshmen can with justification lay claim to the possession of the finest ground in the cricket world. As regards light and the nature, of the turf it bears a closer resemblance to our English grounds than does either Melbourne or Adelaide. Tho i Sydney Oval wickets may be. no better than other Australian grounds, but they do not possess quite their pace, and accordingly English batsmen are more, at home upon thorn. Where tho superiority ot Sydney over other grounds is most market! is in general arrangements and structural improvements for spectators. Unlike the great majority of cricket grounds, excrescences in tho nature of pavilions or stands are not situated directly behind the bowler's arm. Consequently batsmen are free from those irritating delays so frequently caused by the movements of spectators. Besides the huge stand, capable of accommodating well over 12,000 spectators, which is sensibly placed at the side of the. ground, there are four others which cater for tho different sections of the public. When these are well filled —as they ally are in a Test Match—with the youth and beauty of Australia, it is a sight which gladdens tho heart of even a footsore cricketer at the end of a weary day of leather hunting. We have our prototypes in the 'Varsity and Eton and Harrow matches, but the colonial love of bright colors produces a picture of vividness beside which our home grounds are but of sombre hue. To give completeness to the gathering there is a lawn in front of the grand stand, where, the inevitable band pours forth the latest melodies. So much for the. stand side of the Sydney Oval. The other side of the ground—the, pitch of the " linkers " —is not entirely devoid of the picturesque, although the crowd are not garbed in the latest things in fashions. What they lack in attire they more than make up for in the piquancy of their language. From I them emanate at times such playful ebullitions as the hurling of paper sandbags at the " outfields," who are apparently the law-ful bait of the. " barrackers." Altogether a cricket match at Sydney is an experience which is indelibly impressed on one's memory.
All tho four grounds are famous in Test Match history, and the, mythical "ashes" have, in turn found a resting phtce in each enclosure. As long as cricket is played thoso. same grounds seem destined to lead the way. Long may they flourish !
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THE FOUR GROUNDS OF THE CRICKET WORLD., Evening Star, Issue 15696, 9 January 1915