Summer celebrations are set to seal Hampshire’s reputation as “the cradle of cricket” when exhibition matches, and the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay, help mark the 250th anniversary of the first recognised First-Class cricket match.
For years cricket fans have been bowled over by sporting history in the village of Hambledon, whose famous club, founded in the 1750s, became one of England’s most powerful bodies and even helped to develop many of the game’s early rules.
Matches were played on Broadhalfpenny Down, still used today, while opposite the picturesque ground is The Bat and Ball pub, which became Hambledon’s clubhouse, and now draws cricket fans from across the world to see historic memorabilia adorning its walls (www.batandballclanfield.co.uk).
This summer Hambledon notches up an impressive score as it marks the 250th anniversary of the very first officially recognised First-Class match, between Hambledon XI and an All England XI.
Played as a two-day game on 24-25 June 1772, the match pitched Hambledon XI, consisting of the finest players in Hampshire, against an All England XI made up of the finest players from Surrey and Kent, for a prize of 500 Guineas – but the winners remain shrouded in the mists of time.
And to commemorate this cricketing milestone, history will repeat itself when an All England team take on Hampshire All Stars in a celebration match at Broadhalfpenny Down on Friday 24 June, as part of four days of commemorative matches.
Backed by The Barmy Army, the official England Supporters Club – which will be providing a special souvenir kit for the day – and Hampshire Cricket, a call was put out for players of all ages, men and women, from all backgrounds but with a “powerful cricketing back story” to be part of history and join the England team.
The matches will be played on Friday 24 June (men) and Saturday 25 June (women) at Broadhalfpenny Down, the location of that inaugural match in June 1772. Completing the anniversary cricketing celebrations will be two other matches, Brigands v Bat & Ball XI on Wednesday 22 June and Brigands v Hambledon on Sunday 26 June (www.broadhalfpennydown.com).
Hambledon will be back in the headlines again on Wednesday 6 July, when the Commonwealth Games 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay, part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, visits Broadhalfpenny Down in honour of its landmark status as a place that witnessed the evolution of cricket.
For those wanting to celebrate, just a few miles away from the pub lies England’s oldest commercial vineyard, Hambledon Vineyard, which not only produces the finest English fizz, but also celebrates its links to the cradle of cricket with stumps, bat and ball incorporated into its logo. As well as running tours and holding special events, the UK’s only gravity-fed, state-of-the-art winery is also set to open a new visitor centre this year (https://hambledonvineyard.co.uk).
And for anyone looking for a different spin on cricket, Hampshire is also home to one of the strangest games played anywhere in the world. The annual Bramble Bank cricket match takes place in the sea between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on a stretch of sand that only becomes visible once a year. Although depending on sea conditions, it all happens during the year’s lowest spring tide, usually in late summer, when two sides take to the field, or, in this case, a sandbar, which surfaces in the middle of The Solent.
For the more traditional game, August will once again see Hampshire become one of the venues hosting new cricket competition, The Hundred, when The Ageas Bowl in Southampton welcomes back the Southern Braves (https://www.thehundred.com).
Offering cricketing fans the perfect base, the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl is a stunning, modern hotel located at the home of Hampshire Cricket. As well as offering sweeping views of the cricket ground, the hotel boasts Beefy’s restaurant – inspired by the legendary cricketer Sir Ian Botham – along with a full-service spa, and 18-hole golf course (www.hilton.com/en/hotels/souaghi-hilton-at-the-ageas-bowl-southampton/).
For more about cricket short breaks, see www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/cricket.
More general tourist information about Hampshire is at www.visit-hampshire.co.uk.