Test Cricket Grounds
Having been to 87 of 121 Test Cricket Grounds that have hosted the game, we have many fond and many preserved memories of most Australian Cricket Tours since 1995. The growth of the game and need to meet comfort and quality standards of the modern game means more venues are being built and old grounds are redeveloped, whilst even older grounds are abandoned.
With two new test cricket grounds coming online every year since 2001, there is more opportunity to tick more boxes. Over the years, we have welcomed many people for just one test because they simply wanted to go to a new test cricket ground (or an old one they hadn't yet seen), even if the new grounds are not the most alluring. Sadly, as a result of more cricket grounds being built, the chance of playing at historic venues, such as Eden Gardens, fades.
When asked what my favourite test cricket ground is I could easily roll off 15+ venues and why. Every ground offers something different, creating a fine line between fave or foe. It is not always useability that make a test cricket ground enjoyable, but perhaps more than anything the ease of entry. You want to be welcomed and treated like a person who is there to watch the cricket, and nothing else. It doesn't always work that way, but it doesn't make the overall ground experience a right-off.
Like on Cricket Grounds of London, I am not saying the grounds listed here are the best. They're simply favourite grounds based on a prime factor, emotion. How passionate, entertaining, easy, and indulging life in the ground was.
It is important to know that watching Australia playing cricket outside of Australia can add a lot more of everything. A lot more people at the game means a lot more colour, a lot more music, a lot more atmosphere, a lot more reaction, and so on.
Many emotions lived when watching Australia playing in Dominica (for e.g.) may not be present if Afghanistan were playing in Dominica. If you only have 500 instead of 5,000 people at the game you don't need as many rum bars or BBQ's, there isn't as much colour and carnival, and life in the ground may be a little more 'flat'. Thus one may question what makes Dominica so good. It's all subjective!
Everyone has their favourite test cricket ground for very different, but very valid reasons. Opinions are not wrong, but they can change!
Here's my alphabetical favourites.
Adelaide Oval, Australia
“Radelaide” it is referred within close circles and rightly so. Adelaide is 'radical' and not just going to the cricket but the event surrounding a Test Match; from morning breakfast pints to after-game pie-floaters washed down with Cooper’s Pale Ale, blender parties & 'chardonnay moments'. If there's one Australian test cricket ground that many I know always want to go, it's Adelaide Oval. Though it now seats 50,000, many suggest it's just another stadium but far from it. Development has always been respectful of the Oval's history, style & colours, with signature fundamentals well protected.
The hill veiled by Morton Bay fig trees, the Cathedral backdrop, the manual scoreboard under which generations of sobriety have met to watch an over or two, from meeting mates behind the Member’s, to the pleasure of bringing in your esky and folding chair, Adelaide Oval is still every bit the 'village cricket oval' it first was. If all Australian test cricket grounds used Adelaide's approach to spectators, going to every test match in Australia would be a far greater pleasure. There's a welcome relaxation and ease when watching cricket in Adelaide elevating it above all other Australian venues… so long as it’s not a Day-Night Test!
Antigua Recreation Ground, West Indies
This ripper of a ground in the heart of St John’s, a ground everyone in the land could easily get to, was the heart of West Indies' Cricket. And even if every one of Antigua’s 80,000 did turn up, they would not close the gates. If you wanted to go to ‘The Rec’ you would be let in, if not climb an overhanging tree, or stand on a ladder to overlook the wall. Any game here was a vibrant mass of people, BBQ, music, Wadadli Lager, Cavalier Rum, dancing, ganja, rhythm, passion and an unparallel love for cricket. From the bleachers to the ancient scoreboard requiring 18 operators and meek terraces adjacent, to the flimsy relics of the West Indies Oil and Andy Roberts Stands no matter where you perched, you knew you were at 'The Rec'.
The world’s highest batting average of 38 runs per wicket suggests how small this test cricket ground is (or how good the batting strip), and how close you’d be to the action that was often a side-show. Chickie’s 'Double-Decker Disco' in the West Indies Oil Stand pumped tunes from open gate to late, competing for percussion with the Iron Band beating rhythms of door panels, iron pipes, & hubcaps. The antics of legendary entertainer ‘Gravy’ swinging from the rafters, or Mayfield flopping in flippers would distract even the most concentrative umpire. All the while the scent of barbecued fish & chicken, and pots of stew waft across the game. Cricket at 'The Rec' was the 'life of West Indies' Cricket', but is now dearly departed. The ICC got hold of the game in the West Indies in 2007, shunting it out of town to the lifeless Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium. The great man's name on door, the only thing of heart here.
Basin Reserve, Wellington, New Zealand
The world’s only dedicated test cricket ground. Since ‘one-day' games moved to floodlit Westpac Stadium in 2000 only 4 ODI’s have been played at the Basin Reserve this millennium; perhaps why the outfield is one of the best in world cricket. The view from atop the steep embankment too is one of cricket’s finest, especially with the white picket fence still a pointed focus of the traditional game.
With the laid-back New Zealand approach to life, in 2010 the gates did not open until 9.33am with the game starting at 10am; the toss viewed from over the turnstiles! Once the gates open, no matter how big the crowd (when Australia plays it's sold out!), beautiful common-sense is at play here. You can bring in your folding chair, chilly-bin (esky), thermos, flagpole, umbrella, banner, cricket bat, and anything else you need to get the most out of your day at the game. Kiwis know you are here to watch the game, enjoy the game, and behave like test cricket aficionados; sub-arctic blood-chilling gale-force summer winds aside!!
Bourda Oval, Guyana, West Indies
If you go to an inner-city Australian cricket oval, there is a chance you will find one stand built in the early to mid-1900’s. It may have stairwells at the front or on each side, giving access to a single deep terrace lined with long wooden benches under a remarkably high corrugated iron roof, supported by ornately corniced steel poles. Take this ‘thought’, place several of these of varying size and levels, ‘side by side’ behind a rusty fence and dusty pickets, and you'll find yourself in historic Bourda Oval; the quintessential club cricket ground, sanctioned to host test cricket but with room for 20,000.
Like any suburban cricket oval, anything went for those spectating at this famous test cricket ground in Georgetown. If it weren’t for the limited space around the ground, including the moat protecting the world’s only test venue below sea level, you could probably drive in and watch the game from the roof of your car. Music from your car stereo would be no different to that which pervades Bourda during a test match, and which oscillates the rickety stands to their foundation. It is a trip to the good old days of watching cricket when you'd flip a coin into a bag to enter an amazing ground that pays homage to the great Guyanese cricketers; Clive Lloyd, Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs, and even Kenny Wishart who only played one test. These alongside the colonial ‘Ladies Stand’ and stunning wooden pavilion. The ICC caught up with Guyana for their shitty Cricket World Cup 2007, and shifted the game out of town and out of focus to Providence and now Bourda Oval sits a dusty legacy to the West Indian Cricket Team that once was.
Eden Gardens, Kolkata, India
If there is one test cricket ground anyone should have on their bucket list, it is Eden Gardens; a giant ground home to India's most partisan & vociferous crowd. Being part of the mayhem and exuberance of spectating here is incomparable. Not the most relaxed entry protocol is a preamble to cricket life in a stadium that is now a little more comfortable. When Australia last played Test Cricket at Eden Gardens in 2001, all seats were made of cement, grazing knees and scoring shorts. In 2011 the concrete benches were replaced with more spacious plastic seating, which subsequently reduced the 100,000+ capacity to 80,000. This is still alot of passion and pride to absorb, along with the awesome egg-rolls for pre-game breakfast!
From the moment you see the stadium and its giant floodlights looming through the haze across the Maidan, you are instilled with a sense of fear. There is nothing subtle about this colossal venue on the Hooghly River. Corrals feed you from afar to the correct gate where your bags and body are searched with greater intensity than airport security. Once inside, the dark, the noise, smell, atmosphere, and thumping heart of Indian cricket hits you with the crowd's unmistakable yet lovable euphoria at victory or misery of losing. Like every test cricket team will play one Test at Lord's Cricket Ground when touring England, every team should play at Eden Gardens. If nothing else, we should return to Kolkata on our Australian Cricket Tour To India.
Galle International Stadium, Sri Lanka
Location! Location! Location! If you want a test cricket ground that’s easy to reach, enter, leave, re-enter, and leave as often as you like without missing a ball, you cannot pass this otherwise rubbish venue opposite Galle Bus and Railway Stations. On our Australian Cricket Tour to Sri Lanka we live on Unawatuna Beach, from where you buzz to & from the game each day in a rickshaw with change from $1. You can leave for lunch and a grimy beer at the Sydney Hotel, buy train tickets, shop in the market, or go to the hotel, freshen up, and be back inside for the first ball. Unless you climb the 16th Century Dutch Fort to watch a session of play from high on the ramparts; the 'best place to watch the game' from outside the ground.
Convenience is what makes this a favourite test cricket ground, otherwise there's nothing special, except the Fort, about this high school field on a roundabout; a dusty goat-track with crap drainage considering it's on the seaside. With only one small stand seating perhaps 300, the rest of the gallery stands on the hills with no protection from any natural element. The best place to spectate is on the grass adjacent the sightscreen in front of the Fort. You lose the view of the Fort, but the breeze blowing across the peninsular makes this spot 10c cooler than sitting in the stand. As impressive as the Fort is, Galle International Cricket Stadium deserves to be much more!
Hagley Oval, Christchurch, New Zealand
If there's a positive to come from Christchurch's terrifying 2011 earthquake, Jade Stadium was condemned, which brought the redevelopment of the cricket oval in Hagley Park. Hagley Oval hosted its first test in 2014. Where the Basin Reserve has 2 grandstands and ring of brick steps or wooden benches along the boundary fence, Hagley Oval has only one stand, reserved for players, corporates, admin, and a few spectators. The rest of this outstanding oval is deep grassy hillside. Like most Kiwi grounds, bring your chair and expectation of a cracking day on a suburban oval. On the fringe of the city, opposite Christchurch Botanic Gardens, walking to this test cricket ground is one of the nicest strolls to one of the nicest days’ play you will find on a stunning field; the Kiwis know how to prepare outfields!
That said, it is an early walk as you need to be first in the ground to get that perfect spot on the hill, as Australia playing does draws a crowd. Like in Africa, you can set up camp and then leave for breakfast and return; great approach to the game! With ‘Sun Smart’ folk offering sunscreen, waterboys spraying iced-water, beer sellers pumping from a backpack, and barbeques grilling lunch under the oaks, you only hope the land of the long white cloud does not leak. Unlike Australian venues, you are allowed to prepare for mother nature in New Zealand!
Harare Sports Club, Zimbabwe
A long-time #1. Having watched Australia play their only Test in Zimbabwe in 1999, the ground was always special. People arrive early to set up their folding chairs to claim their place, build their BBQ's, go home for breakfast, and then come back for the first ball laden with fresh meat and matches. They had this practice down to a science, and everyone respected everyone that got there before them. Though a few cosmetic improvements over the years, it remains a simple test cricket ground with one small grandstand on the east, two very tall now permanent temporary stands at fine-leg, steep wooden portable ‘high school grandstand’ benches on the west, and one of the best outfields in the game, and backdrop jacarandas in full violet bloom.
The best thing about the ground was the Keg & Maiden pub at fine leg. On match days, anyone at the game could make table reservations for lunch and tea or laze on the beer terrace, the boundary rope just a few metres in front. Though ‘the Keg’ was in prime position, and better positioned than the player's balcony, it was not the only pub in the ground. The Red Lion was a tiny bar tacked onto the end of the player’s pavilion. This too was a public watering hole within this delightful test cricket ground only 2.5km from downtown Harare, and which neighbours Royal Harare Golf Club, one the continents’ finest courses. We should play in Zimbabwe more often!!
Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia
My home ground holds special memories of more than 40 years, and which are not the reason the M.C.G. is one of my favourites. It's an incredible stadium with an intense cricket history dating well-before the first Australia England Test in 1877. Though there's nothing left of the original stadium, the Olympic Stand honours Melbourne's hosting of the first Olympic Games outside Europe and the USA, in 1956. Some may think the 'Melbourne Cricket Ground' would include a number of stands named after the game's elite, yet Bill Ponsford is only cricket legend granted that honour.
With the MCG hosting a vast array of events away from cricket, the Australian Sports Museum is rightly in its place within this mighty test cricket ground, and the 70,000+ that attend the Boxing Day Cricket Test Match each year, is one the great days on any sporting calendar. Big Australian Rules Football matches in winter that often attract 90,000+ also create incomparable atmospheres. Stringent security over recent years has removed the simplicity of entry to this grand stadium on the fringe of the Melbourne City Centre, but it is still worth the beautiful 20mins walk out of the city to experience this bastion of Australian Sport and the original 'Home of Cricket'.
Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa
Sitting on ‘the oaks’ embankment at Newlands is one of the game’s great places from which to spectate. Looking at the game at mid-wicket with the sun setting directly opposite may not provide the easiest view of the game, the Table Mountain backdrop is the best sight from any test cricket ground. At dusk of a day-night game, the orange glow behind the mountain silhouette is stunning. Newlands defines picturesque. There's not a bad place to sit in this gorgeous venue easily reached by Metrorail from the city, the train stopping behind the ground. Even sitting in the railway terraces, your back to the mountain, looking across the field, the green of enormous oaks overhanging the colour and cheer of 1000 people squeezed on the grass is too an amazing sight.
On our private embankment, which our Newlands' ticket-guru reserves for us, kicking off your shoes to lounge on the grass with Table Mountain, the oaks, and the game in full view is reason why we'd love to tour every year. Without forgetting going on the field at lunch for the best ‘team photo’ you can ever take following cricket. With little shade anywhere in the ground, go to the concourse under the oaks and a special place for shade, Castle Lager, African food, atmosphere, and cricket. As one must go to Eden Gardens, Kolkata for raw passion and intensity, one must go to Newlands for raw beauty and calm.
The Wanderers, Johannesburg, South Africa
Known as 'The Bull Ring', on entering you would know why if you’ve ever been to a bull ring that is! Very tall stands, extremely steep wooden terraces, and steep embankment puts everyone over the game barely 70 metres to the middle no matter where you sit. As my introduction to cricket in South Africa in 1997, Wanderers remains a favourite. I've never been disappointed by watching cricket here. The cricket or result might have been crap, but not the experience or simplicity of entry.
It's a test cricket ground to bring everything except your gun, and like all test cricket grounds in South Africa (and New Zealand) allows you on the field at the lunch break, has a butcher shop with BBQ's to cook your lunch, sells full-fat Castle Lager, and significantly treats everyone like grown-ups! All the while play is a gentle clip of the pads for 6 and the ritzy northern suburbs, where we stay in Jo'burg. It is a pleasant 30mins stroll to the game each day and even shorter stroll to The Wanderers Club over the road after play for the cheapest cold beer you will ever be served in a chilled glass!
After all this cricket around the world, to answer an age-old question, this is ...
Our Favourite Test Cricket Ground
Windsor Park, Dominica, West Indies
This cracking little ground at the heart of Roseau is a return to the halcyon days of West Indies Cricket. Found at the top of the town, it is easy to walk to, easy to get into, awash with music, colour, BBQ’s, cold beer, smooth rum, amazing people, and a traditional West Indies atmosphere so lacking in the islands today. 3 small stands on the west defend the crowd from sun, wind, and rain blowing off the Caribbean Sea, and face the green delight of the hill that is Morne Bruce, dotted with colourful housing of a quiet life. The view from Morne Bruce looking into the ground makes a cracking photo.
After days among the BBQ’s and beer sellers, music and rhythm, colour and carnival of life behind the stands, you are a short stroll to the next rum shack or your hotel. With only small hotels scattered about Roseau (you need to travel 40km to the north west coast for more resort style pillows), you won’t ever be too far from the first ball, nor the splendours of the lush forests, waterfalls, cool gorges, hot springs, champagne reefs, and squeaky beach.