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Get enlightened, bend it like Birmingham

The Edgbaston cricket ground, like many venues in this part of the world, is attempting to bridge the gap between the old and the new. Rohit Bhaskar reports.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2013 11:01 IST
Rohit Bhaskar

The Edgbaston cricket ground, like many venues in this part of the world, is attempting to bridge the gap between the old and the new. The Thwaite Memorial scoreboard, which served as the backdrop for an iconic photograph of Brian Lara after he scored 501* for Warwickshire in 1994, is no longer manual.

The structure remains the same, with its ancient weathervane (unlike the one at Lord's which has Father Time, this one has the Bear and Ragged Staff, the official emblem of Warwickshire CCC) and vintage clock, but the scoreboard is now a jazzed up electronic one.

The ground also has five floodlight towers with a most unique shape. Normally, floodlights at most cricket venues are long and erect. The floodlights at the WACA Ground in Perth, for example, rise high over the low-slung ground with its grass embankments, and assume a vertiginous aura.

At Edgbaston, the 160-foot towers dip at an acute 45-degree angle from the middle, almost creeping over the stadium. The reason for this distinct shape has as much to do with economics as with ergonomics.

The stadium is located in the heart of one of Birmingham's biggest residential zones and before the floodlights were installed the residents complained that the artificial light was not in keeping with the area's parkland character, and would send property prices plummeting.


Addressed by abacus
According to a Warwickshire County Cricket Club Official, it was these protests that forced them to address the issue. With the help of Abacus Lighting, who were given the tender for the installation of the floodlights, the floodlights were built in such a way that the light was primarily focused on the stadium and not the surrounding areas.

Thus they went with the awkwardly bent towers and state-of-the-art cantilevered masts, which featured a precision reflector system to direct light onto the pitch and away from neighbouring residential areas.

England, of course, isn't the first place you'd associate with floodlight cricket. The summer sun stays out long into the evening, and historically one remembers day-night cricket as an Aussie innovation under Kerry Packer and the days of World Series of Cricket.

However, you’d be surprised to know that the first cricket match played under floodlights wasn't at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but rather at a venue that isn't even one used for cricket. Highbury, the now-abandoned historic home of football club Arsenal, was the first to host a cricket match under lights way back in 1952 for a benefit match between Middlesex and Arsenal.

Enlightening, isn’t it?