HOME OF CRICKET IN THE INTERIOR
The epicentre of cricket in the KwaZulu-Natal interior is Pietermaritzburg that boasts a proud tradition dating back more than 100 years. Among its long-standing clubs are Zingari (128 years), Maritzburg Cricket Club and Standard Cricket Club (both 124 years), and Young Natalians Cricket Club (80 years).
The city has provided a number of South Africa’s greatest cricketers from both sides of the previous racial divide – Jackie McGlew, Roy McLean, Cuan McCarthy, Chris Burger, Jonty Rhodes, Ahmed Deedat, Gopaul Manicum and Michael Patricks.
The city boasts a proud heritage in the struggle for non-racial cricket, exemplified by the Aurora Cricket Club, and a township coaching programme dating back to the 1970s. The city also played a formative part in the anti-Gatting Tour demonstration that was the impetus for the unification of South African cricket.
The Pietermaritzburg Oval hosted numerous international matches, including a rugby match that featured the New Zealand All Blacks against Natal in 1828. According to historic records, the first cricket match was played at The Oval in the summer of 1903.
In this regard, South Africa’s first official inter-provincial day-night match took place in Pietermaritzburg at the Jan Smuts Stadium on February 25, 1985.
The City of Pietermaritzburg has every reason to be proud of the home of cricket in the interior of KZN. Anchored by its iconic red-brick pavilion and framed by more than a 100 London plane trees on the banks, the Oval lays claim to being one of the most picturesque grounds in the country. Speaking of trees, the custodians over the years have gone to great lengths to plant trees in commemoration of notable feats, as a walk along the banks flanking the boundary will attest.
Of particular significance is a giant Indian Mahogany inside the boundary, one of only two such instances world-wide, that adds a charming touch to the ground. To deal with the technicalities of scoring, any ball that hits the tree is counted as a four!
Given the ground’s magnificent ambience, not to mention its quant touches, it is perhaps not surprising that the Oval exerts a talismanic effect on the Sunfoil Dolphins who love playing here. Aiding the cause is a picture perfect pitch that plays true and consistent.