Pitch turned for top form
If Molyneux Park’s cricket pitch gets the tick of approval after the domestic Hawke Cup games in December, Alexandra could see the return of top Twenty20 matches next season. Emerging from the dark days of an employment dispute with the ex-groundsman, when the turf was deemed unfit for first-class cricket last year, brighter days were forecast for Molyneux in 2013. The proof will be in the pitch, with groundsman Andrew Douglas employed last December to win back the official warrant of fitness. He is getting ready to turn the turf this week, refurbishing the wicket block for the December 8and 9 Hawke Cup match between Otago Country and Southland. Otago Cricket Development manager Andy Sainsbury said because of the favourable comments he had received during the New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association celebrity match played at the park in February this year, he had every confidence that top notch cricket would be back. ‘‘It’s not just about cricket. New Zealand Cricket does not make a great financial return from these matches but it’s what Christmas cricket does for the town and how it ties in with other summer holiday activities, such as the Omakau races and other events.’’ New Zealand Cricket’s grounds and facilities manager Ian McKendry said Molyneux Park was ‘‘still on the radar’’ for both district and first-class matches but it would be Otago Cricket’s call on when this would happen. Otago Cricket chief executive Ross Dykes, visiting Alexandra this week, said it was important for the sport’s development in Central Otago that matches were played in Alexandra again. But he said it was a tall order for the council, which had taken over from the now dissolved Molyneux Park Charitable Trust, to foot the bill. ‘‘It’s a real challenge for the Central Otago District Council being asked to put in a lot of infrastructure for just a couple of matches a year.’’ However, parks officer Geoff King said the council had made a commitment to upgrading the park to get top cricket back and it was now up to the Vincent Community Board to make decisions to get the park back on track. Queenstown would be the closest venue for most Central Otago people to see a HRV Cup Twenty20 match when Otago Volts go up against Auckland Aces at the Queenstown Events Centre on December 31. After the district’s game in December and the celebrity match on January 27, the next Hawke Cup match would be played February 23 to 24.
Perfect pitch: Otago Cricket development manager Andy Sainsbury and Molyneux Park groundsman Andrew Douglas check the wicket.