Avenue Road, Abergavenny as seen in a Chmapionship match during the early 1990s. Image Credit – Glamorgan Cricket Archives.

As the image above shows, Abergavenny is widely regarded as amongst the most picturesque grounds on the countycircuit. The intimate atmosphere and rural location, nestling amongst the tree-topped hills on the Welsh border, a mile or so to the north of a small and friendly market town, plus its quaint pavilion and irregular boundary, all provide a timely reminder of what cricket must have been like in the pre-commercial era.

The Abergavenny club dates from 1834, and since 1896 they have been playing at the Avenue Road ground on land owned by the Marquess of Abergavenny. The Marquess proved to be a kind benefactor to the cricket club, financing the building of the pavilion and covering the costs of creating a decent wicket. The reward for all this effort was the addition of Abergavenny to the Monmouthshire fixture list, and in 1910 the Avenue Road ground staged their Minor County fixture with Carmarthenshire.

In 1935 Glamorgan merged with Monmouthshire in 1935, and second eleven plus club and ground fixtures subsequently took place at Abergavenny. In 1948 the ground hosted Glamorgan`s Minor County fixture with Devon, and with Glamorgan pledging to stage first-class matches in Monmouthshire, the Abergavenny officials hoped that their attractive home would soon host a Championship fixture.

However, the superior facilities and larger pavilion at Ebbw Vale won the day, and Abergaveny continued to stage just second team and Benefit matches. But a series of ground improvements occurred during the late 1970`s after a fire in 1977 had severely damaged the pavilion and destroyed the adjoining tea-room. A generous grant from the Welsh Sports Council helped to pay for the renovations and the creation of much larger facilities, and all at a time when Glamorgan were staging more games at outgrounds.

The enhanced pavilion facilities at Abergavenny, as seen during the mid 1980s. Photo Credit – Glmaorgan Cricket Archives.

The Abergavenny club duly made a request to stage a Sunday League game, and in 1981 they were allocated the match with neighbours Worcestershire, followed in 1982 by the fixture with Northamptonshire. The Glamorgan officials were suitably impressed by the hard work, both on and off the field by the Abergavenny folk, as well as the generous sponsorship from local businesses, so in May 1983 the Abergavenny ground staged its inaugural County Championship fixture.

Worcestershire and Gloucestershire have been regular vistors to Avenue Road, and their batsmen, as well as the Glamorgan players, have taken full advantage of the placid wicket and small boundaries. One of the best examples was the 1990 fixture against Worcestershire, as Graeme Hick recorded a superb 252*. Phil Neale, the visiting captain, then set Glamorgan a target of 495 to win on the final day, and the Welsh side ended on 493-6, and came agonisingly close to setting a new championship record.

However, the most famous game in the ground`s short Championship history came in August 1995 as Andrew Symonds made 254 and smashed the world record for the highest number of sixes in a first-class match. The Australian hit 16 in his double-century, followed by four more in the second innings. Almost unnoticed Indian all-rounder Javagal Srinath claimed 13-150, and his supreme efforts, on a ground regarded as a bowler’s graveyard, were in keeping with the surreal atmosphere generated by this most idiosyncratic, and charming, of county cricket venues.

The view from the pavilion at Abergavenny. Image Credit – Glmaorgan Cricket Archives.