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The cricket season is under way and Sunderland CC’s 1 st XI has got off to a flying start with a great victory away at Gateshead Fell. It has already been noted in an earlier blog that expert sport historians recognise the club as the oldest surviving recorded sports’ club in Tyne and Wear with solid records going back to the 1830s. Equally interesting are the club’s Ashbrooke ground’s links with Durham County and, in particular, with a host of international visitors. This summer sees Sri Lanka, South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies playing at the county’s Riverside Ground as part of the cricketing World Cup. Three of these countries have lengthy links with Ashbrooke and our archives have dozens of photographs to prove it!

New Zealand played Durham County at Ashbrooke in 1931, 1937 and 1949. This photograph from the archives, however, is from 1927 when the game was moved to Chester le Street because of a tennis tournament.

South Africa played at Ashbrooke in 1907, 1924, 1929, 1935 and 1955. This photograph of the 1924 side was one of many cricketing photographs taken outside our bowls’ pavilion simply because it was thought to be photogenic!

The West Indies visited Ashbrooke in 1906, 1928, 1933, 1939 and, famously, in 1950. This remarkable photograph from 1928 has Sunderland administrator and rugby player W H Bell (dark hair), who had guested for Hartlepool Rovers v the Maoris in 1888, standing behind a row of West Indian cricketers which includes the legendary Learie ( later Sir Learie )Constantine.

Over 40 large photographs of important sides visiting Ashbrooke mostly to play Durham County have now been digitized. The earliest photograph in the archive is a unique one of the 1878 Australians who played 22 Gentlemen of Sunderland at Chester Road – also a valuable picture of an American side – the Gentlemen of Philadelphia - who visited during the Edwardian period. There will be more on these and other Ashbrooke cricketing heritage matters across the cricket season. Play cricket at Ashbrooke and you are stepping in the footmarks of the good and great of World Cricket.

Keith Gregson


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