The sound of leather on willow …

I can well remember being impressed as a child by my Scottish parents’ remarkable ability to recall poems they learnt as children, which they would recite to us at appropriate moments to reinforce a point or teach us a lesson, or just to share their love of language and verse.  One such poem came to mind today following a visit I made to the recently redeveloped Hagley Cricket Oval here in Christchurch, which in ten days’ time will host the opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, between New Zealand and Sri Lanka:

Vitai Lampada
THERE’S a breathless hush in the Close to-night –
Ten to make and the match to win –
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! play up! and play the game!”

– Sir Henry Newboldt, 1862-1938

And this is where I have to come clean and confess that all these years I have always believed this poem to be all about cricket …  It wasn’t until I undertook a little Google research today that I discovered it’s actually about a boy who grows up to fight in Africa, and is stirred to heroic action by schooldays memories, symbolising Newbolt’s view that war should be fought in the same spirit as school sports.  Hmmph – so much for my interpretation …

A good deal of controversy has surrounded the development of the new cricket oval in Hagley Park, with many opposed to it.  The entry in Wikipaedia has this to say about the park:

“Hagley Park is the largest urban open space (164.637 hectares) in Christchurch, New Zealand, and was created in 1855 by the Provincial Government. According to the government’s decree at that time, Hagley Park is “reserved forever as a public park, and shall be open for the recreation and enjoyment of the public.” Hagley Park is characterised by its trees and broad open spaces.”

The development of Hagley Oval was seen by many as transgressing the spirit of this decree, and it took some time for the project to be approved and started, with the new oval finally hosting its first international cricket match, a 5-day test match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, starting on Boxing Day last year.   With the first game of the Cricket World Cup (to be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia) scheduled for Saturday 14 February, additional temporary seating is presently being installed, so I took a few photos this evening to share with you.  Unfortunately the area is restricted entry at present due to all the construction work going on, so they’re all taken from outside the fence, but hopefully you’ll get the ‘flavour’ of what’s going on 🙂

Firstly, here’s a picture I found online of the crowd at the first day of the Boxing Day Test:

Hagley cricket oval from the air

And here’s what’s being constructed at present:

DSCF6807  DSCF6801 DSCF6813 cropped

These stands will add an extra 10,000 seats to the capacity, which will mean that lots and lots of these will be needed 🙂


As well as these to send pictures all over the world:


No doubt there will be a few of these around to keep a beady eye on all the proceedings:

DSCF6812 cropped

And – providing the wind is blowing in the right direction – those at the games in Christchurch will see a number of these flying right overhead as well:

DSCF6815 cropped

(Look at that blue, blue sky – here’s hoping we get lots of that while the Cup’s on!)

Go, my beloved Black Caps! 🙂




2 thoughts on “The sound of leather on willow …

  1. At first I was horrified to think that Hagley Park, that beautiful park you took me to so long ago, in 1993 to be exact, was going to be cut up to have a cricket oval inserted, but . . . .164 hectares is over 400 acres, there’s ample room for cricket. And the original decree does say ‘for the recreation and enjoyment of the public’. ‘Nuff said! So enjoy it, all you cricket fans. It’s looking good. I shall be watching from afar, probably at ungodly hours of the night, with fingers tightly crossed.

    I did appreciate the captions with the accompanying photos!

    • I think your reaction was shared by many Christchurch residents, Jill; and I have to confess I was uncertain about it for a while … However, the area being developed was already in use as a cricket ground, so it’s not a new use for it; and I have to say that when I first saw it on TV during the Boxing Day test, I felt very proud of what has been achieved. I love the ‘village green’ look of it (not with the temporary stands that are presently there, obviously), and now feel much more comfortable with the redevelopment project. Listening to all the positive remarks from the TV commentators also helped 😉

      And I shall think of you sitting up in the wee small hours, watching the games! No doubt our fingers will be crossed for different teams, as they will be in Australia come October and the Rugby World Cup! 🙂

      Just as a matter of interest, did you know that that poem wasn’t all about cricket?


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