Renovation, extension of Molyneux Park wicket under way

Work relaying the pitch block at Molyneux Park began earlier this week. Photo: Supplied
Work relaying the pitch block at Molyneux Park began earlier this week. Photo: Supplied
They are digging in at Molyneux Park.

But this is no stodgy, head-down effort at the crease.

We are talking heavy machinery, big holes, shovels, sweat and lots and plenty of clay.

But rest easy. The pitch at Molyneux Park will be back resembling a wicket block very soon.

The long overdue renovation and extension of the wicket block got under way earlier this week. Work is expected to take three weeks and Otago Country Cricket Association chairman Malcolm Jones has promised a faster, bouncier pitch.

‘‘It has been planned for a couple of three years and has finally gone ahead,’’ Jones said.

‘‘It is a full relay of the block and it will be increased in size from four strips to five.’’

The venue has had a checkered past. It lost its New Zealand Cricket warrant of fitness following the 2008-09 season and it was withdrawn again in 2011.

The pitch drew criticism again last season when Otago hosted Northern Districts in a twenty20 game. The wicket was low and slow and unsuitable for a quality T20 game.

But under the leadership and loving care of new head groundsman Guy McCone, four successful T20 games were staged this season and the pitch received good reports.

So good, in fact, the question was raised whether it was necessary to relay the pitch block.

But Jones said it was definitely time to upgrade.

‘‘The original block was prepared and put down suitable for cricket in the mid ’70s and, apart from the odd renovation, this is the first work that has been done since then. It was well overdue.’’

Jones said the pitch had the reputation of being slow and low but he hoped the new blend of Kakanui and locally-sourced clay would produce a faster and bouncier surface. The Alexandra sun would do the rest.

‘‘When the hard work has been put in, the groundsmen have achieved some pretty good results. And just looking back over the results today and there have been 29 centuries scored in 30 first-class games.

‘‘You saw that again with the T20s which were played in December. They were stunning pitches and received great reviews.

‘‘But with this relay which is going on now ... hopefully, it becomes an absolute stunner.’’

By adding a fifth strip, Jones hopes the venue will attract more top-level cricket.

Dunedin has been named as one of six host cities for next year’s women’s World Cup.

‘‘That will take the University Oval out for a period of the domestic season, so we’re really hopeful of picking up one or two Plunket Shield games, as well as hosting T20 games during the holiday period.’’

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