x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Tree plants the seeds of tradition

Second home Golf aside, there aren't many sports that allow a tree in the playing area.

Golf aside, there aren't many sports that allow a tree in the playing area. But cricket does, or at least my favourite cricket ground does. The St Lawrence Ground in Canterbury - home to Kent County Cricket Club - has had a lime tree inside the boundary since cricket was first played there in 1847. The original tree sadly died in 2005, toppled by a storm, prompting cricket fans to lay flowers on its spot as a tribute.

I breathed a sigh of relief when a new lime tree was planted in its place, even if it is a much smaller version. It's not just the presence of "Limey" that makes the St Lawrence Ground my favourite venue. There's nothing better, on a warm summer's day, than sitting back with a drink in hand, watching some of the world's top cricketers in action there. Steve Waugh, Muttiah Muralitharan and Rahul Dravid have graced the Kent team in the past few years, as has the West Indian batsman Carl Hooper.

He topped the lot in my opinion, even clearing the famous tree with a huge hit in one innings. Only three others are believed to have done that in 160 years. Kent may be the team I go there to support, but there is something about the St Lawrence Ground that transcends sporting rivalry. It may feature a host of international stars, but the setting is typically English. Canterbury Cathedral can be viewed in the distance, while ice cream vans and drinks tents are perched on top of grass verges around the pitch.

It hints to a bygone age but the ground is not stagnant, hosting floodlit cricket matches and pop concerts in recent years. How the ground will look in 100 years time I don't know - but you can be sure there'll be a tree at the centre of it.