Article on County Cricket as featured in The Times on Wednesday 18th March 2015
Wight-ball game part of Hampshire’s festival revival
Festival cricket at holiday venues, a dying pastime in England and Wales, will be revived this summer when Hampshire return to play on the Isle of Wight, subject to a ground inspection this week, for the first county fixture since 1962.
The club intend switching their Royal London Cup fixture against Lancashire on August 17 from the Ageas Bowl to Newclose, a ground built near Newport by Brian Gardener, an enthusiast who died in January. Gardener’s hope was that Newclose, constructed on his own farmland, would attract Hampshire and MCC as well as becoming a European centre for the Indian Premier League during the monsoon season. He forged a friendship with Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman, who will send representatives to the ground to ensure the square is fit for county cricket.
“Whilst it is our intention to play at Newclose, there are investigations to be completed before this decision can be made,” Bransgrove said. MCC already play on the ground each year.
Hampshire abandoned staging first-class matches near Cowes when J Samuel White, the shipbuilding firm, closed and the playing area was no longer used. The fixture against Lancashire will be at peak holiday time, shortly after the sailing regatta, and the club hope to attract spectators from the mainland through a deal with ferry companies.
Bransgrove has been keen for Hampshire to play on an outground since they gave up their fixtures at Basingstoke, Bournemouth and Portsmouth. Danny Briggs, the Hampshire spin bowler, comes from the Isle of Wight. Gardener, a businessman and farmer, designed Newclose in accordance with his own tastes, with a £900,000 pavilion and restaurant, white benches modelled on the ones at Lord’s, an electronic scoreboard similar to that at the Kia Oval and landscape akin to Wormsley. He contemplated buying the disused railway tunnels at Lord’s before deciding to build his own venue.