Hagley Oval's prospects excite

GEOFF LONGLEY
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2013

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Canterbury cricket's new ground at Hagley Oval has the potential to be among the best boutique grounds in the world, according to provincial coach Gary Stead.

Stead was speaking ahead of the new wicket block's first-class debut when Canterbury host Northern Districts in a four-day Plunket Shield match starting tomorrow.

Stead, who has played cricket extensively and for New Zealand, felt the venue could be magnificent if able to be developed in the manner Canterbury cricket intend, with a raised embankment, new pavilions and floodlights.

"The setting is just superb with the established trees and we are very happy to have it as our home base."

Canterbury will train there today and possibly have a hit on pitch used for club fixtures in the past fortnight.

"The angles have changed a bit, the block runs true north and south now, and we just want to get familiar with it seeing we will be there a lot in the future."

Getting a bare dirt pitch to a state fit for hosting a first-class match, in little over two months, has been the task of turf manager Rupert Bool.

He said he was pleased with what had been produced, given the limited time frame with Canterbury Cricket keen to get match-play on the block before the end of the summer: "It won't have the pace of the Waca in Perth but should have pretty consistent bounce and carry."

Still Bool, like any parent, was a little apprehensive about how his "baby" would perform under the scrutiny of two provincial sides.

The warm weather Canterbury experienced during January had posed some challenges in keeping moisture at the right levels and rolling was often conducted in early morning or the evening.

The block carries a lush sole of grass with the strip being used for the match comprising Kakanui soil while the other half of the block has Waikari soil wickets.

Former Canterbury pace bowler Michael Davidson, who played in the two-day premier grade match there last Saturday for St Albans, believed the ground staff had produced a decent pitch.

"It was a little on the slow side but if you bent your back and hit the seam, there was a bit there.

"But if you wanted to stay in and watched the ball carefully, you could," said Davidson.

Davidson said batsmen also got value for their shots with the ball tending to run away to the boundary on the saucer-shaped surface.

He said the wicket was already better than the club surfaces around the city.

Stead said with both Canterbury and Northern Districts having a leg spinner in their line-ups, Todd Astle and Ish Sodhi respectively, if there was any turn they would find it.

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"A first-class game is different with four consecutive days' wear on the wicket," he said.

Canterbury have made one change to the team of 12 which won its last match against Wellington.

Seam bowler Ben McCord, having proved his match fitness of late, comes in for left-arm spinner Roneel Hira who is on New Zealand T20 duty.

Tom Latham will miss day one of the match on New Zealand Cricket orders with Dave Fulton replacing him.

Northern are bolstered by the return of Black Caps batsmen Kane Williamson and BJ Watling who are looking to use the match for time at the crease ahead of the one-day and test series against England.

HOW THEY LINE UP

Canterbury: Peter Fulton (c), George Worker, Shanan Stewart, Dean Brownlie, Tom Latham/Dave Fulton, Todd Astle, Brent Findlay, Ben McCord, Ryan McCone, Matt McEwan, Tim Johnstone, Henry Nicholls.

Northern Districts (from): Joey Yovich, Daniel Flynn, Brad Wilson (c), Kane Williamson, James Marshall, Daryl Mitchell, BJ Watling, Ish Sodhi, Anurag Verma, Brent Arnel, Graeme Aldridge, James Baker, Tim Goodin.

- The Press

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