On the Front Foot: Heart sinks at flyover threat to historic beauty of Basin Reserve


It has been an unfettered pleasure to be at the Basin Reserve. Pretty, close to the city centre, with grass banks and a sense of history, it is a rarity in New Zealand for being solely a cricket ground.

Most of their Test venues are used also for rugby and it shows, as it will at Eden Park, Auckland next week, where the short boundaries and the cavernous stands may prove embarrassing. But Wellington has been a joy. It was created where once was Basin Lake, which became a swamp after the 1855 earthquake. Subsequently the city fathers decided they needed a recreational reserve and chose this site – hence the name.

There is a bit of a kerfuffle at present because today's city fathers propose putting a flyover close by which would pass over the edge of the ground. It might relieve traffic but it would change the Basin ineradicably. It staged the country's second Test match (after the first at Christchurch) in 1930 and this is its 54th match. It is intimate and you can smell the history.

John Mills and Stewie Dempster put on 276 in that opening Basin match, still a record for the first wicket for New Zealand at home. Frank Woolley took 7 for 76, still the best figures by an England bowler at the Basin. There is a framed print in the press box of the words of Lord Harris, one of the great early men of English cricket, on his 80th birthday: "You do well to love it [cricket], for it is more free from anything sordid, anything dishonourable, than any game in the world. To play it keenly, honourably, self-sacrificingly is a moral lesson in itself and the classroom is God's air and sunshine. Foster it my brothers so that it may attract all who can find the time to play it; protect it from anything that would sully it so that it may grow in favour with all men."

Flyovers indeed.

Mixed omens for Compton

With his 100 in the Second Test, Nick Compton became the first player since Ravi Bopara to follow a maiden century for England with another in his next innings. Bopara then added a third, but there have been none since. The previous player to have scored his first two hundreds in consecutive innings was Clive Radley, and he also added another.

But Compo should take heart from the fact that Wally Hammond and Ken Barrington also did it, and they went on to score 22 and 20 hundreds respectively.

Pietersen breaks cover... sort of

Kevin Pietersen spoke on Sky Television yesterday. It has been his only media appearance of this tour so far. He was measured and sensible, offering insights about batting in the wind and being generous about Matt Prior. But regular requests for Pietersen to appear before a wider audience have been rejected so far.

He might have been reintegrated into the team after the dispute that almost brought English cricket to its knees last summer, but this has not applied to public appearances. Whatever anybody says, he remains a special case. Reintegration goes only so far.

Finn has space to rent

The second hero of the Dunedin Blockade was Steve Finn. He scored a maiden first-class fifty and faced 203 balls, an epic of concentration and resistance which few nightwatchmen in England's history have matched.

Yet his bat still remains untouched by sponsors' logos or makers' names. It is still a plain piece of willow.

Finn said that sponsors had failed to beat a path to his door, and offered this column the chance to have its name on his bat. He seemed unmoved, however, by the offer, one unsanctioned by management, of half a crown.


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