x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

A garden of Kent which still blooms

Second home: There is something wholly irrational about an Essex supporter, living in Sussex and married to a girl from Lancashire being in love with a cricket ground in Kent.

There is something wholly irrational about an Essex supporter, living in Sussex and married to a girl from Lancashire being in love with a cricket ground in Kent. Yet the allure of the St Lawrence ground in Canterbury, in south east England, is irresistible. Not that my infatuation with the place had a very auspicious start. Some 30 years ago my local pub organised a coach trip to Canterbury to watch Sussex play Kent.

It rained, but the sun emerged later and I wandered round the ground, marvelling at the leafy, bucolic surroundings. There were open spaces where spectators could pitch deckchairs and the ancient, towering lime tree inside the boundary which, if you hit it, earned you four runs (or did until 2005 when high winds brought the thing crashing down) . There is something quintessentially English about the place - a sporting venue that sums up the values of grace, charm, fair play and the exquisite, pointless pleasures of a lengthy cricketing contest.

It has a sense of history about it, too - first class matches have been played there for more than 150 years. To sit on the boundary at Canterbury is to immerse yourself in the timeless delights of a game that you know is unlikely to have any dramatic conclusion. My fear is that all this might soon change. There is a multi-million pound plan to redevelop the ramshackle ground, with hotels, a conference centre and all that malarkey. And they are even talking of re-laying the pitch so that the one-day matches held there will be more "exciting".

Perish the thought. The pleasure of being enveloped by the olde world charm of the St Lawrence Ground should never, in my book, be interrupted by something as coarse as excitement. - David Sapsted