The development of the Bay Oval

Sports correspondent & historian
with Sideline Sid

Traditional cricket fans believe that the holy grail of the game is test match cricket.

February 2024 will see the fifth test match at the Bay Oval since the ground-breaking initial match-up between the Black Caps and England November 21-25 in 2019.

The two long-time rivals served up a rare match which went into the afternoon of the fifth day, before New Zealand posted a historic victory.

International team visits to the Bay Oval will have gone full circle, when South Africa square off with New Zealand in the first of a two-game test series on February 4-8, 2024.

It hardly seems a decade since South Africa became the first visiting side with ICC full membership to play at the Bay Oval.

When South Africa stopped off at the Mount Maunganui cricket venue in October 2014 to play two ODI encounters, the Bay Oval was still in formative development with many of the current facilities to come.

Wind back the clock a further decade, and where the Bay Oval proudly sits today was nothing but a wilderness of sand and scrub.

The desire to develop Blake Park into a purpose-built first class cricket ground was accelerated when New Zealand Cricket dropped the old Blake Park wicket from the major association fixtures roster, because of supposed sub-standard pitches.

March 1, 2005, was the beginning of what stands today, when the first sod of the Bay Oval was turned in a small ceremony to celebrate the occasion.

Ten years of development and milestones continued, before the first of the big guns of the cricket world went into head-to-head battle with the New Zealand Black Caps.

While the Black Caps lost both of their 2014 ODI matchups with the Proteas, there were hints of future success to come. In the first game, Luke Ronchi fell one run short of scoring the first Black Cap century at the Bay Oval, when dismissed for 99.

The floodgates of international cricket at the Bay Oval opened after the 2014 South African encounters.

ICC Women's Cricket took centre stage in 2015 through to 2017, when Australia (five matches) and England (three matches) played the White Ferns at the Bay Oval.

Suzie Bates became the first White Fern to belt a century at the Western Bay of Plenty cricket venue, with 106 against England in February 2015.

However, the 2015-17 era belonged to Australian Women's Cricket GOAT, Meg Lamming, who hit three centuries (127, 114no, 104no) in five visits to the Bay Oval wicket.

The International Cricket Council showed it's faith in the Bay Oval with the ICC 2018 Under 19 Cricket World Cup final, and six other contests. 

India thumped Australia by eight wickets in the title decider.

All the major cricket playing nations, with the exception of Australia, continued to visit the Bay Oval to engage in ODI and T20 International contests.

All eyes were on New Zealand in 2022 with the Covid rescheduled ICC 2021 Women's World Cup.

The Blake Park ground hosted seven games, including the opening stanza, in which New Zealand lost a thriller by three runs to the West Indies.

However, it was the introduction of test cricket to the Bay Oval that brought worldwide attention to the region.

February 2024 will see South Africa return to the Bay Oval for the first time since 2014. This time, the cricket world will focus on the traditional form of the game through all the zigs and zags of up to five days of cricket.







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