Rankings - New Zealand cricket grounds
New Zealand's cricketing summer is now upon us, so where's the best place to catch a match?
Here are my definitive rankings of our nation's best parks to have ever hosted an international one-dayer or Test.
16. Owen Delany Park - Capacity 15,000
The Taupo ground hosted the last of its two one dayers back in 2001, when it came under criticism then for having a poor playing surface and lighting towers that were not up to international standard.
Players complained the poor quality lights made batting and fielding all but impossible for night cricket. It appears international cricket in Taupo is extinct.
15. Pukekura Park - Capacity 3,500
A picturesque but postage-stamp sized ground with appalling drainage; Pukekura has been overtaken by Yarrow Stadium as New Plymouth’s premier cricket venue.
The park had its only taste of international cricket during the 1992 World Cup, when Sri Lanka ran down Zimbabwe’s total of 312, a massive score back then.
Fun fact: it was used as a filming location for the Tom Cruise film The Last Samurai, where it masqueraded as a Japanese army camp.
14. Westpac Stadium - Capacity 34,500
An enormous and soulless venue for our summer game, the Cake Tin has only ever been full for a cricket match once - when Martin Guptill smashed a legendary double ton during the 2015 World Cup.
Usually only a third-sold at best whenever the Blackcaps pay a visit, a day out at the cricket here can be a cold and emotionless experience.
With little leg room, seven hours spent squeezed into one its yellow bucket seats to watch a one dayer is uncomfortable and draining.
Astoundingly, designers even envisioned test cricket being played there when it was being built at the turn of the century - idiots.
13. Saxton Oval - Capacity 6,000
Nelson’s picturesque ground hosted three one dayers during the 2015 World Cup.
While Ireland's win over the West Indies was a tournament highlight, not many locals turned up to watch the likes of the UAE battle Zimbabwe, and the ground produced little atmosphere.
Still, plonk the thing in Auckland and you’d have a tailor-made test ground.
12. University Oval - Capacity 3,500
One of the country’s only proper cricket grounds where rugby does not tread, Dunedin’s oval is aesthetically pleasing but sadly suffers from having a tiny playing surface.
Hemmed in by an old art gallery building the ground's outfield is miniscule - former Blackcaps captain Daniel Vettori called the boundary size “farcical” after the oval hosted its first test in 2008.
The ground’s poor drainage has also copped plenty of criticism.
It is pretty though, but that can only take you so far in life.
11. Carisbrook - Capacity 29,000
The ungainly setting for ten test matches while it was around, the Brook’s famous concrete terrace witnessed many a student couch burning on a beer soaked afternoon.
Visiting Indian and Sri Lankan teams would often freeze up in the brisk Dunedin climate, while a one dayer under lights could force fielders into two, sometimes three woollen jerseys.
Hosted a famous Shell Cup final in 1993 when Canterbury went home the victors, and a few angry locals were arrested on the way home for drunken behaviour.
10. Eden Park - Capacity 42,000
Boasting the shortest straight boundaries in international cricket, visiting players are known to gasp, and then laugh as they walk out onto the ground for the first time.
While it produced a white-hot atmosphere during the 1992 and 2015 World Cups, the stands are seldom full for our summer game.
While some seats are close to the action, the stadium is just too much of a concrete, rugby-styled jungle to properly enjoy cricket.
A near-mythical test venue back in the 1970’s and 80’s, the old embankments drunk and abusive crowds are the stuff of legend, but sadly the place is just too big to host five day cricket in the modern era and it is rarely seen.
Maybe one day Aucklanders will get the international cricket stadium they deserve, because as it stands, Eden Park is one of world cricket’s biggest jokes.
9. Cobham Oval - Capacity 5,500
Whangarei’s new kid on the block hosted a solitary one dayer in 2012 when the Blackcaps hammered Zimbabwe by 141 runs.
The ground has no lights, but who cares? Its pavilion stand is a thing of beauty and reminiscent of something you’d find at an English county ground.
It deserves more international cricket, maybe even a test.
Auckland cricket fans would mud wrestle their own mothers to have a boutique ground like this in their backyard.
8. Queenstown Events Centre - Capacity 19,000
With world cricket’s most stunning backdrop to call on in the Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown’s oval looks great on TV, but sadly many of its ten one dayers have been blighted by wet weather.
Corey Anderson smacked his world record 36-ball century there against the West Indies on New Year’s day in 2014, but even that game was curtailed to just 21 overs a side thanks to the rain.
The ground has never hosted a test and will probably never do so; the weather is just too inclement.
7. Bert Sutcliffe Oval - Capacity 3,000
This beautiful ground’s finest hour came when it hosted the final of the Women’s World Cup in 2000, as a packed house roared the White Ferns home by just four runs against Australia.
The oval in Lincoln, just outside of Christchurch, hosted two men’s ODI’s in 2012, but Kenya’s win over the Netherlands and Scotland’s victory over the UAE won’t be remembered as classic encounters.
Became the first ground outside Australia to host a Sheffield Shield match in February 2016, when New South Wales and Western Australia locked horns in what was essentially a warm up match for the tourists ahead of the two test series against the Blackcaps.
6. Lancaster Park - Capacity 35,000
Hosted New Zealand’s first ever home test match against England in 1930, ‘the Lanc’ was a cricket ground long before rugby got hold of the place.
It's witnessed some of favourite son Richard Hadlee’s finest moments, including the taking of his 400th wicket.
The stadium was also the first ground in the country to host a one dayer under lights in 1996 - but Christchurch’s night time dew has never been conducive to bowling the white ball at night.
It had been developed into one of most modern grounds in the country prior to the 2011 earthquake, although the tiny playing surface was laughable for cricket.
'The Lanc' now sits derelict with the Hadlee stand having being torn down.
To be fair, cricket fans in Christchurch are probably much better off with Hagley Oval, I’d take its grass bank over a cold plastic seat any day.
5. Bay Oval - Capacity 10,000
The Tauranga ground hosted its first one dayer in 2014 when the might of Canada took on super-powers Holland in a World Cup qualifier. It’s scheduled to host its first test in 2020, when Pakistan next pay a visit.
With Tauranga’s population booming the oval will likely see some major improvements over the coming decade. It could yet turn into one of the country’s very best.
4. McLean Park - Capacity 10,500
Another tiny ground more suited to rugby than our summer game, the square boundaries in Napier are some of the shortest in the world.
Tim Southee found them to his liking as he plundered nine sixes on his debut test against England there in 2008. Sadly, Southee’s 44 ball 77 is still his highest test score.
Tastefully redeveloped over the years, today McLean Park is one of our best, if only because it doesn’t have a lot of competition.
3. Seddon Park - Capacity 10,000
One of New Zealand’s only proper cricket grounds but another with a tiny playing surface, the inner city Hamilton oval has witnessed plenty of Kiwi cricketing history.
All Blacks great Jeff ‘Goldie’ Wilson famously hit a four there in 1993 to beat Australia in a one dayer, while the Blackcaps chased down the a massive 350 to again beat the Aussies in 2007.
The main pavilion has aged badly, while the banks of ugly temporary seating could do with a more permanent structure.
The best thing going for the ground is its fantastic grass embankment - sitting on it is worth the drive down from Auckland alone.
2. Hagley Oval - Capacity 18,000
A freshly minted cricketing paradise finished in time to host the opening match of the 2015 World Cup, the Christchurch ground has fast become one of the country’s best.
Although cricket has been played there since 1851, some concerned locals tried to stop its construction into a modern venue because of the perceived environmental impact.
International cricket in the Garden City is set for a fantastic future.
1. Basin Reserve - Capacity 13,000
Nothing’s been done to improve this famous old ground for over three decades, but it still remains one of the best boutique cricket grounds anywhere in the world.
An afternoon on the famous grass bank is something any fan needs to tick off their bucket list, and its inner city charm and atmosphere is hard to beat.
The Basin is a living example of what most Australian cricket grounds used to be like before they were converted into the soulless concrete AFL jungles they’ve now become.
It’s witnessed some of the greatest moments in New Zealand cricket history, with McCullum’s 302 and Crowe’s 299 obvious standouts.
Seriously in need of some tender loving care and redevelopment, the old museum stand can’t seat spectators anymore because of its earthquake risk, while the tired R A Vance stand could do with a refit of new seats and corporate boxes.
Despite this, the Basin is still the best in the country by some margin, because it is our one and only purpose built cricketing cathedral dating back to the birth of the sport here.
The money needs to be found to tastefully upgrade it so it survives long into the 21st century.
The Basin Reserve is a national treasure.
All photos sourced from Photosport