The University of Otago Oval is a sports ground located at Logan Park, Dunedin, New Zealand, and owned by the Dunedin City Council. The ground was originally owned by the University of Otago, but ownership was transferred to the city council when a redevelopment was completed in the early 2000s.
The ground is the home of both the Otago Cricket Association and the University of Otago Rugby Football Club, and is also used as a training base for the Highlanders Rugby Football team. The University of Otago Oval hosted the first game where the Umpire Decision Review System was officially used, after a test run in Sri Lanka in 2008.
A media complex, which consists of television and radio commentary rooms, is situated at the northern end of the ground. Temporary scaffolding for television cameras is built at both ends of the ground (above the media complex, and on the bank at the southern end) when required. A historic grandstand is located at the southern end of the ground, and an electronic scoreboard on the north-eastern side.
The grandstand complex includes changing rooms, members’ rooms, lounges and bars, players’ viewing areas, a medical room, kitchens, offices, umpires’ rooms, a canteen and shop, media rooms and storage rooms. A building attached to the rear hosts the University Rugby Club.
Total eight test matches were played in this ground.
The University of Otago Oval became New Zealand’s seventh test ground when it hosted its first test match on 4 January 2008, between New Zealand and Bangladesh. This was Dunedin’s first Test match for ten years. NZ$6 million was spent refurbishing the University of Otago Oval and it has now replaced Carisbrook as Dunedin’s test-cricket venue.
Just one month prior to the Test match, a State Championshipmatch between Auckland and Otago, which was scheduled to last four days, ended in less than two due to an under-prepared pitch. Auckland scored 94 and 128 and Otago 170 and 54 for 4. Auckland Coach, Mark O’Donnell, had this to say about the pitch:
“It was an unmitigated cock-up and a disgraceful wicket. I’ve been five times to [University Oval] in the last five years and on each occasion it’s been substandard. They just haven’t got it right. If you’d put a test attack on that surface you’d probably have killed someone once the divots dried out.”
O’Donnell also said that those claiming that the pitch was not at fault and that poor batting had played a large part in proceedings were “deluding themselves”.
As a result, New Zealand Cricket sent its chief turf assessor, Jarrod Carter, to Dunedin to help the local groundsman, Tom Tamati, prepare the test pitch. Although the University Oval’s first test finished inside three days that was largely attributed to poor batting by most of the Bangladeshis rather than to the nature of the pitch: New Zealand scored 357 and the Bangladeshi openers had a 161-run partnership in the second innings. After the match Daniel Vettori, New Zealand’s captain, said:
“Everything about the whole setup was fantastic, apart from the size of the boundaries. It was a little bit farcical. They were just too small. If you bowled to [Australian batsmen] Matthew Hayden or Adam Gilchrist it would be a tough day as a spinner. Aside from that, if they can sort it out I couldn’t rate it higher. It can be one of the premier test venues.”
From 11 to 15 December 2008, New Zealand played the West Indies at the University of Otago Oval. The match was ruined by rain. The ground’s drainage and the ability of the ground staff to cope with rain were criticized.
Dylan Cleaver, writing in The New Zealand Herald under the headline “Dunedin not fit to stage a test” stated:
“At Brisbane, it rained so hard the Gabba was reduced to a lake. The next morning, play started on time at 10am. Yesterday, despite there being nary a spittle of rain since the previous evening, a ball was not delivered until 2.45pm. That borders on farcical. Until such time as the Otago Cricket Association or New Zealand Cricket invests in a decent drainage system and super-soppers, the University Oval should not host another test.”
Dylan further described the University Oval as a “club ground”.
Ross Dykes, the Otago Cricket Association chief executive, said the article was insulting to Dunedin, the University Oval and the groundstaff. He confirmed the ground had drainage problems, because it had been built on reclaimed land, but rejected criticism of New Zealand Cricket or the ground staff:
“We had a huge amount of rainfall and I think we probably did everything we could. … It has to be appreciated that this ground is the old Pelichet Bay, so it is reclaimed land. … When you get that amount of rainfall, you get to a point where you can clear off the surface moisture but by trying to get more out you only end up dragging more up.”
The University of Otago Oval hosted its third Test match from 24 to 28 November 2009, against Pakistan. Play was briefly interrupted by rain on the second day, and bad light plagued several of the evening sessions, but the problems of the previous Tests did not emerge. The match proved to be a cliffhanger, with a win to either side, a draw or even a tie still possible as the fifth day entered its final session. New Zealand eventually won by 32 runs, taking Pakistan’s last five wickets for 54 runs in the final session of day five. The Test was hailed by some as the test of the year, notably by Sambit Bal writing for Cricinfo:
“Dunedin provided almost everything. The drama. The twists. The contest between bat and ball. Swing and seam and pace. Stirring batting. Wickets falling in a heap and then the batsmen fighting back. … Easily it was the best Test of the year: if it failed to move you, cricket will never be your game.”
The fourth Test match played at the University of Otago Oval saw New Zealand face South Africa from 7 to 11 March 2012. The two sides were evenly matched, with New Zealand gaining a slender first innings lead of 35 runs, scoring 273 to South Africa’s 238. However, the Proteas rallied in their second innings, scoring 435-5d. with captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Jacques Rudolph all scoring centuries. Chasing a target of 401 to win, New Zealand reached 137/2 at close of play on day 4, setting up a tantalising end to the Test match. Unfortunately, however, no play was possible on the final day due to rain, and the match ended in a draw.
The fifth Test match at the University of Otago Oval was contested between New Zealand and England from March 6 to 10, 2013. It was the first test in a three match series. New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum won the toss and elected to bowl, however there was no play on Day 1 due to rain. A poor batting display from England saw them dismissed for 167 on Day 2, with Neil Wagner and left-arm spinner Bruce Martin (on debut) each taking 4 wickets for New Zealand. New Zealand then racked up a huge lead, declaring at 460 for 9. Debutant opener Hamish Rutherford scored an aggressive 171 and Brendon McCullum struck 74 from 59 deliveries, while James Anderson took 4 wickets for England. The English then went into survival mode and managed to hold on for a draw, scoring 421 for 6 by the close of play on Day 5. England’s opening pair of Alastair Cook and Nick Compton each scored centuries, while night-watchman Steven Finn batted for almost 5 hours to score 56, his maiden test 50.
Crowd attendance was 22,188 for the match, including the rained-out first day.
The sixth test match at the University of Otago Oval was contested between New Zealand and the West Indies from December 3 to 7 2013. West Indies won the toss and chose to bowl first. A classy batting display from Ross Taylorand Brendon McCullum propped up New Zealand’s first innings. Taylor scored his maiden double century and was unbeaten on 217 when New Zealand declared for 609 for 9. West Indies was bowled out in the first innings for 213 and was forced to follow on but Darren Bravo scored his maiden double century in reply which led them to a safe score of 507. Chasing a target of 112 on day 5, New Zealand’s top order crumbled against West Indian spinner Shane Shillingford and they were reduced to 44 for 4 but was lifted up by Taylor and Corey Anderson to 79 for 4, 33 runs away from victory before rain forced an early draw.
The seventh Test match at the University of Otago Oval was contested between New Zealand and Sri Lanka in December 2015. New Zealand won by 122 runs.
The eighth Test match at the ground was contested between New Zealand and South Africa in March 2017. The match was drawn after rain prevented play on the fifth day.
The ninth test match at the University of Otago Oval will be contested between New Zealand and the West Indies in the 2020/21 season.