County Championship Cricket Returns To Newport

2019 will see the return of County Championship cricket to Newport in South Wales, when Glamorgan take on Gloucestershire on May 14th - 17th, at a new venue for County Cricket - Spytty Park, which is part of a new sporting complex at the Newport International Sports Village.

The original site for First Class Cricket in Newport was at Rodney Parade, a Victorian ground with a rich history of traditional cricket stories and many major performances by some of the game’s greats. It will be 54 years since Glamorgan played their last County Championship match in Newport against Warwickshire in1965.

However, in the late 1980’s, just as rugby was turning professional, Newport Cricket Club fought a losing battle with landlords Newport Athletic Club to safeguard the cricket ground, and the ground was eventually sold for a new school to be built on the site.

To wave the ground goodbye, Glamorgan played three, 40 over Rufuge Assurance Sunday League matches at the ground before it was built on in 1990.

1988 v Derbyshire
1999 v Gloucestershire
1990 v Yorkshire

The last 1st Class match against Yorkshire, scheduled to be live on TV, with cricket legends Viv Richards and Matthew Maynard in the Glamorgan team, being rained off without a ball being bowled. Club President, Bill Jones stating, ‘It was God’s way of shedding a tear for the loss of the ground,’ forever remaining in the hearts of all involved in the club. At that time it was thought that 1st Class County Championship Cricket in Newport would never be seen again!

However, Newport Cricket Club along with its many partners, have never lost ‘the dream’ of 1st Class County Championship Cricket returning to the city. The club has worked tirelessly to create a superb ground at the impressive Newport International Sports Village (Spytty Park).

The Sports Village was the dream of Director of Leisure at the time Alf Ropke. The Cricket Club were asked to be the Flagship club - the catalyst to entice others to the new site! 30 years on, the cricket club is centre stage to an impressive array of sporting facilities, which include:-

  • The new home of the Welsh FA Trust
  • The Geraint Thomas Velodrome
  • Newport Stadium (used by Newport County before their promotion to the Football League).
  • Indoor Tennis Centre
  • Indoor Swimming Pool
  • And a host of other smaller facilities catering for most other sports.

Cricket Club Chairman Mike Knight tells the story, ‘We were homeless and without a future when we left Rodney Parade in 1990, no money (as the Newport Athletic Club Management Committee refused to give us a penny from the sale of the Cricket ground), no ground, no equipment. It was pretty much the end of the Cricket Club. The offer to play at a barren marshland was not an entirely appealing proposition, but one we had no alternative in taking. The vision put forward was our only hope - the thought of County Championship Cricket ever being played in Newport again was a pipedream at best!!’.

Museum

The club has tried not to lose its glorious history and the new ground at Spytty Park proudly displays a new museum, which traces the history of the club from its birth in 1834, through to today - a must see for all cricket enthusiasts.

In a strange quirk of fate, the return of Championship Cricket to Newport with the 2019 match ironically against Gloucestershire will mark the 80th Anniversary, almost to the day, of probably the most memorable match ever held at Rodney Parade. A game depicted in detail in the new museum.

Most Memorable Match - Glamorgan v Gloucestershire 1939

The beautiful, tree ringed Rodney Parade ground was at one time one of the biggest grounds in the country, and was home to many famous matches and performances. Glamorgan CCC played First Class cricket at Newport for many years and many famous records and statistics followed, none more so than ‘That Match’, the 1939 County Championship fixture between Glamorgan and Gloucestershire.

Wally Hammond scored a remarkable 302 for Gloucestershire out of a first innings score of 505-5 dec, which was the highest score ever made on the ground and at that time a record score against Glamorgan.

His innings included 2 sixes and 35 fours, in his mammoth stay, and was his fourth triple century of his career, equalling the number of runs he scored against Glamorgan five years earlier at Bristol in 1934.

One of his sixes was claimed to have smashed one of the windows at the top of the huge power station which overlooked the ground. Groundsman at the time Fred Cox, claimed to have kept the smashed window as a souvenir.

Incredibly, in the same match Emrys Davies for Glamorgan, scored 287no, a score which remained a record score for a Glamorgan batsman for many years. Glamorgan having been bowled all out for 196 in their first innings, replied to the massive Gloucestershire score with a remarkable 557-4 to draw the game, a new record high score on the ground and one never to be bettered.

It’s taken the best part of 30 years to transform the desolate landscape of Spytty Park of 1990, into a First Class Cricket ground of today, but a band of hard working volunteers have put a lifetime of work into trying to fulfil their dream.

In recent years the ground has hosted many high profile matches with Wales Minor Counties and Glamorgan 2nds using the ground regularly.

International Recognition

However, it was in 2013 with well earned praise for the facility that things really began to escalate, with the Club being chosen to host Sri Lanka to use the ground as a Training Base during the 2013 ICC Trophy.

So impressed with the venue and the hospitality, it was not long before Glamorgan played a List ‘A’ match at the ground against Pakistan ‘A’ in 2016, which was again received glowing praise from all concerned.

When the ICC Trophy returned to England & Wales in 2017 it was Pakistan who used the ground as their Training Base, holding a practice session at the ground two days before they faced England at Cardiff in the semi Final of the tournament. As we all know now Pakistan went on to win the Trophy by beating India in the Final.

The ground is becoming well established in the Glamorgan itinerary, with the Glamorgan 1st Team squad using the ground to practice on whilst Sophia Gardens is unavailable, but it is the return of Championship Cricket that really whets the appetite.

Mike Knight concludes the story, ‘ In 1990 the club nearly died, there was very little hope, but a few stalwarts would not accept it! Many of the same people who saved the club in 1990 are still involved today, and we will be so proud when Glamorgan return to the City later in the year for a Championship match. We hope the people of Newport will recognise the tremendous effort that has been made to bring First Class Cricket back to Newport’.

Indeed the cricket lovers of Newport and its surroundings, now have their role to play and need to support the occasion and make sure Newport remains as a First Class venue for many years to come.

The Impossible Dream has been made possible!

© Cricket World 2019


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