First Ashes cricket pitch brought back to life

Published: Monday, June 29, 2009, 15:20 [IST]
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First Ashes  pitch brought back to life

London: The first cricket pitch used for an Ashes series on English soil has been returned to sporting use after seventy years.

According to a newspaper report, veteran international cricketers stepped onto the wicket at Sheffield Park near Uckfield in East Sussex to play a match more than a century after a game was first played there.

Back in 1884 it hosted a warm-up match between the first Australian touring side to try for the Ashes here, and an English side captained by W G Grace.


Henry Holroyd, the Third Earl of Sheffield, a keen cricket supporter, created the pitch. During his day crowds approaching 25,000 came to enjoy first-class matches that often featured Grace, a friend of Lord Sheffield.

Cricket then was accompanied by "a fanfare of fireworks and hundreds of fairy lights which illuminated the glorious parks, water and pavilions, swathed in silks and fauna", according to one historian.

Lord Sheffields influence arguably contributed to Australias cricketing dominance in the modern era, as he put up 150 pounds to fund a inter-state competition called the Sheffield Shield, which continues to this day.

However, on his death in 1909, the country estate was sold. The pitch was dug up during the First World War and used for growing wheat. It became a cricket pitch again between 1918 and 1939 and thereafter was converted into a military base for the Canadian armoured division during the Second World War.

Trees were later planted on it before ownership passed to the National Trust, which converted it back to a field again.

Having lain fallow for decades, the pitch has been restored after the Trust allowed a local side called the Armadillos to restore it.

On Sunday former internationals including Australians Dean Jones and Rodney Hogg, and Englishmen John Snow, John Lever and Martin Bicknell took to the pitch in a match between the old rivals - Lord Sheffields Australian XI and Old England XI.


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