Sports correspondent & historian
Four Western Bay of Plenty club cricket teams will get the chance to play on an international cricket ground this week.
On Thursday evening, the Bay of Plenty Cricket Reserve Grade Championship, with the McNaughton Trophy at stake, will see Sikh Sports and R&A Sangha go into a head to head battle, under lights at the Bay Oval.
Just two days later, the Bay of Plenty Club cricket flagship competition in the 2021 Versatile Tauranga Williams Cup, will take place between current Baywide champion of champions Mount Maunganui and challengers the Otumoetai Cadets.
The rare opportunity to follow in the footsteps of some of the best players in the world on the Bay Oval, has been made possible by the strong support of grassroots cricket by the Bay Oval Trust and management team.
Both trophies on the line at the Blake Park number one ground have a long and proud history.
The Williams Cup dates back to the formative years of the Bay of Plenty Cricket Association in the 1930's.
First contested as a challenge trophy, the "Old Bill" is now the big prize of the Baywide premier cricket season.
While names such as Whakatane, Rotorua Old Boys', Ngongotaha, Kawerau, Arawa, Taupo Cricket Club and Taupo Old Boys' are engraved on the time-honoured cricket prize - the Western Bay of Plenty clubs of Mount Maunganui, Greerton, Te Puke and Cadets have dominated proceedings for the last two decades.
A donation from the McNaughton family from Te Puke, for Western Bay Reserve Grade competition in the 1980's, led to the trophy becoming the Baywide Reserve Championship prize.
Western Bay of Plenty Grade (Reserve and B Grade) cricket players play much of their cricket on grass wickets, which doesn’t take place in many parts of New Zealand, where teams battle away on artificial wickets.
The long standing grass wickets at Tauranga Domain, Pemberton Park and the Te Puke Domain, along with Fergusson Parks three grass blocks, give local teams good batting and bowling surfaces, where application at the batting crease and bowling skills are rewarded with wickets and runs.
The development of the Bay Oval has changed the configuration of the grass wickets at Blake Park, with the Bay Oval Trust overseeing three quality grass strips.
A recent development has been the addition of a grass wicket block, at the Alice Johnson Oval, at Gordon Spratt Reserve in Papamoa.
The explosive population growth in the Papamoa region, and the establishment of the Papamoa Cricket Club, has seen another grass wicket added to cater for the growth of the game in the region.
Further away in the extremities of the Western Bay of Plenty, the Katikati Cricket Club have fundraised and worked extremely hard with numerous working bees, to install a grass wicket at Moore Park.
On Sunday, April 11, the Katikati Cricket Club will showcase the new community cricket field, with the official opening of the new wicket block and the acknowledgement and dedication of the donated replacement equipment, which was destroyed by fire earlier in the current season.