Test cricket returning to Eden Park, but not till next year

Te Waha Nui report by Sam Hurley
New Zealand Cricket is to hold a major test match at Eden Park for the first time in seven years. The test, scheduled for the tour by England in May next year, will be a one-off.

Auckland Cricket communications manager Iain Laxon says the city has been starved of the five-day game at international level by a New Zealand Cricket policy of holding tests in smaller, purpose-built venues.

New Zealand Cricket has made an exception to the rule for such a big tour, he says.

“It is a big step in getting test cricket back on the schedule and hosted in Auckland,” he says.

Chairman of the New Zealand Cricket Players Association, Ross Verry, is pleased with the decision. “The key thing is actually getting test cricket back in Auckland,” he says.

Test venues are chosen because they offer the best possible facilities for players to prepare and play, as well as meet commercial and spectator requirements, he says.

“Auckland wasn’t able to provide those standards in the past few years.”

Auckland Cricket has a long-term plan to try to make the Eden Park Number Two ground a test match venue.

However that is a number of years away, says Laxon.

When Eden Park was redeveloped for last year’s Rugby World Cup, Auckland Cricket decided to move to Colin Maiden Park in Glen Innes for all its first class, T20 and one-day matches.

The playing conditions, wicket, outfield and practice facilities at Colin Maiden meet test match standard. However, the changing rooms and spectator facilities wouldn’t match International Cricket Council standards, Verry says. “The players prefer to play on cricket built-facilities.”

Auckland Cricket always planned to move back to Eden Park after the World Cup, says Laxon. “We went to Colin Maiden Park and it proved to be an excellent venue, and was very well suited to domestic cricket, but it was very much a temporary option.”

Cricket history at Eden Park dates back to its first test in 1930 which, coincidentally, was between New Zealand and England.