Just 14 months after its shiny new $3.5 million pavilion was officially unveiled, Nelson's Saxton Oval will be packed to the rafters for its first big day out.
The picturesque oval with its grassy banks and picket fence, under the shadow of the Richmond Range, will become New Zealand's 13th one-day international venue in game four of the West Indies series today.
Tickets sold out before Christmas and a 5300-capacity crowd is expected, amid a much-improved weather forecast from the dire predictions of recent days.
Cricketing types in Nelson long dreamed of hosting an ODI, after touring teams played warmup matches at Trafalgar Park which is now rugby-dominated.
It just needed the right venue, and the impressive sports complex at Stoke, just south of the city, provided a perfect fit.
"That was a long time in the making, a significant amount of money to be raised and a lot of political to and fro to get the pavilion built," said Nelson Cricket Association chairman David Leonard, a former Central Districts fast bowler.
"It really finished off what was a fantastic ground and made it into a beautiful facility."
The NCA set up a trust which contributed around $700,000 to the pavilion, 20 percent of the cost, and the Nelson City Council provided the rest.
It was unveiled on November 11, 2011, with World Cup dreams in a few minds.
It was built in consultation with NZC, with dressing rooms and ground dimensions aimed at being a legitimate ODI venue.
Led by former NCA general manager Ed Shuttleworth, now working for NZC, Saxton also put its hand up for 2015 World Cup games and hit the jackpot when confirmed as one of seven New Zealand host venues last year.
"We didn't have much idea how that [bid] would pan out. For us to get three games was fantastic and that probably fast tracked us to get some international cricket here as a trial run," Leonard said.
"NZC see the value in these smaller games and this ground has basically been sold out for a few weeks, against having games in huge stadiums around the country where they're not full."
Now the fickle recent weather just has to play ball.
Around 80mm of rain has fallen in the past week, topped by another heavy dousing yesterday morning.
It was expected to continue today, but local forecasts now have the rain holding off until around 8-9pm.
The cricketing gods in Nelson may be smiling, after all.
"It feels like I've been checking the Met Service every five minutes for the last week. It's really improved today and it looks like we've had all the rain we're going to get till late [tonight]," Leonard said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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