New ground: Five unusual cricket venues

A look at some non-traditional cricketing nations that have hosted international matches

Martin Smith

21 May 2018, 01:12 PM

News that Steve Smith's comeback to cricket might come in Canada may have come as a surprise, but the North American nation is no stranger to top-level cricket.

Cricket.com.au reported on Friday that Smith's camp has been approached by organisers of the Global T20 Canada, a six-team event that will be held just outside of Toronto later this year.

If Smith is to take up the offer, he won't be the first international cricket star to play at the tiny Maple Leaf Cricket Club.

The venue has hosted 22 full international matches since the first game a decade ago, including a four-team T20 tournament in 2008 (pictured above) featuring the likes of Sanath Jaysuriya, Mahela Jayawardene, Misbah ul Haq and Shahid Afridi.

Take a closer look at five unlikely countries that have hosted top-level cricket.

Singapore

Despite being one of the most densely-populated countries in the world, and not a traditional cricketing nation, Singapore has two venues that have hosted international cricket.

The Singapore Cricket Club, based at what is now known as Padang Sports Ground, was first established in 1837 and was once a regular host for Australian cricket teams on their way to Ashes tours in England.

Sanath Jayasuriya was the star of the 1996 Singer Cup // Getty
Sanath Jayasuriya was the star of the 1996 Singer Cup // Getty

But the only full international cricket at the tiny venue came in 1996, when the Singer Cup between India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka was held in early April.

The highlight of the tournament was the 48-ball century scored by Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya, which was then a world record, while he also posted the fastest ODI fifty in the final against Pakistan, which his side lost

The Kallang Ground then hosted the Singapore Challenge in 1999 and 2000, ODI tournaments that featured India, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand.

Gary Kirsten helped South Africa win the 2000 Singapore Challenge // Getty
Gary Kirsten helped South Africa win the 2000 Singapore Challenge // Getty

Just like at Pandang, the small boundaries at Kallang proved enticing for the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Andy Flower with an average of 12.75 sixes hit per game in the 1999 tournament, won by the Windies.

The 2000 event was more low-scoring as Gary Kirsten led the Proteas to victory over an under-manned Pakistan and New Zealand.

Morocco

North Africa got its first taste of top-level international cricket in 2002 when Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka took part in the Morocco Cup, a seven-match ODI tournament held at the purpose built National Cricket Stadium in Tangier.

The tournament was held in August and organised by Sharjah businessman Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, who wanted to spread cricket to new regions and was keen to play at a time of year when is homeland is too hot for outdoor sporting events.

Pakistan's Shahid Afridi plays a shot at the Morocco Cup // Getty
Pakistan's Shahid Afridi plays a shot at the Morocco Cup // Getty

Sri Lanka won four of their five matches, including the final against the Proteas, as captain Sanath Jayasuriya led the way with a tournament high of 299 runs.

The likes of Waqar Younis, Allan Donald and Muthiah Muralidaran also impressed but despite being pencilled in again for the following year, the tournament never took off and international cricket hasn't been played in Morocco since.

Malaysia

Cricket administrators cited a desire to spread the game to new markets as the reason for staging a triangular one-day tournament (the DLF Cup) in Malaysia in 2006, featuring India, Australia and West Indies.

Mike Hussey at the Kinrara Academy Oval in Malaysia // Getty
Mike Hussey at the Kinrara Academy Oval in Malaysia // Getty

But success of the hastily-organised event, which saw the rapid construction of the Kinrara Academy Oval just outside Kuala Lumper, was hurt by the absence of drawcards India from the final, which led to a sparse crowd for the tournament decider won by Australia.

The handful of Malaysian cricket lovers who did attend the tournament had plenty to be happy about, not least when 24-year-old Mitchell Johnson – playing just his seventh ODI – removed four of India's top five in the space of just eight deliveries in the third game.

But while the tournament witnessed the emergence of Johnson as well as some sparkling batting from Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle, top-level cricket has not returned to the Asian nation in the 11 years since, although plans are afoot for Pakistan to host matches there.

Sachin Tendulkar celebrates a hundred in the 2006 DLF Cup // Getty
Sachin Tendulkar celebrates a hundred in the 2006 DLF Cup // Getty

United States

The US faced Canada in the first international cricket match in 1844 but, despite a brief resurgence around Philadelphia in the early 1900s, it has only been in recent times that top-level cricket as returned to the United States.

The stars and stripes fly over the Central Broward Stadium // Getty
The stars and stripes fly over the Central Broward Stadium // Getty

The 20,000-seat Central Broward Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida has been the centre of cricket's push into the American market.

The venue has hosted several Caribbean Premier League matches as well as six T20 internationals, the first of which was in 2010.

Its short history included a T20 world record game between India and West Indies in 2016 when a total of 489 runs were scored in a thriller that went down to the last ball.

West Indian Dwayne Bravo is dismissed in Florida // Getty
West Indian Dwayne Bravo is dismissed in Florida // Getty

A 49-ball century from Evin Lewis was the key to the Windies' total of 6-245 before KL Rahul responded with an incredible innings of 110 not out from just 51 deliveries as India fell one run short of victory.

Canada

Before the Maple Leaf Cricket Club earned international status, the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club was the only venue in Canada that had hosted international cricket before. And not just any international cricket; the 5000-capacity ground witnessed the biggest rivalry in the game – India v Pakistan – for three consecutive years in the 1990s as part of the Sahara 'Friendship' Cup.

The three ODI tournaments in 1997, 1998 and 1999 were split, with Pakistan winning two and India one, while Pakistan grabbed overall bragging rights winning eight games to seven.

Pakistan celebrate winning the Sahara Cup in Toronto // Getty
Pakistan celebrate winning the Sahara Cup in Toronto // Getty

Some of the best players the game has seen, including Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Akram, Rahul Dravid and Saeed Anwar, strutted their stuff in front of an audience of mostly subcontinental ex-pats from across North America.

The tournament was ultimately scrapped when political tensions at home led to major sponsor Sahara withdrawing its funding.