Chris Waters – Why York CC’s Clifton Park deserves to be back on the menu

THE way to a cricket writer’s heart is through his stomach, so it was good to see that York Cricket Club got its priorities in order by laying on some of the best press food it has been my pleasure to consume during last week’s County Championship match between Yorkshire and Warwickshire.

Yorkshire v Warwickshire at Clifton Park earlier this week. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

The sausage, mash and green beans combination on day one, for example, although it may not sound particularly special, was so good that it moved me to utter the magic words “and please pass on my compliments to the chef” – sentiments that have not always spilled from my lips at the nation’s outgrounds.

Throw in coffee, tea and biscuits on tap, including a pleasant number of chocolate cookies, and the game was a positive gastronomic delight for members of the fourth estate.

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I know that there was much contented belly-rubbing among my colleagues, too, with none of us especially keen to check the bathroom scales, no doubt, once the fun and games had come to an end.

Gary Ballance and Will Fraine run between the wickets during Yorkshire's clash against Warwickshire at Clifton Park earlier this week. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

On a more serious note, York are to be congratulated for putting on a magnificent occasion as first-class cricket returned to the city for the first time since 1890.

It had been a while, to put it mildly, with Clifton Park deployed because Emerald Headingley was needed for the World Cup. It is not known when first-class cricket will go back to York, with Yorkshire’s home Championship matches traditionally divided between Headingley (five) and Scarborough (two).

But, as Mark Arthur, the Yorkshire chief executive put it, “Let’s hope that it’s not another 129 years.”

So impressed have Arthur and Yorkshire been with facilities at Clifton Park, which have improved significantly during a decade of nearly £1m investment, that the ground will stage two List A games next summer and at least one in 2021.

Enjoying the action: Supporters at York Cricket Club's Clifton Park ground for Yorkshire v Warwickshire. Picture: SWPix

That is because Headingley will then be needed for The Hundred, the controversial competition likely to appeal to precious few of those who flocked to last week’s Championship match.

“As for 2021, it will be down to how the fixtures fall and what is happening at Emerald Headingley,” said Arthur of York’s likely programme. “But York have made a real statement, and all who visited the ground will applaud the quality of environment that was created.”

That environment, in fact, was particularly special.

Far from being some primitive field/club facility, the tree-lined Clifton Park venue was picture-perfect, with a large temporary stand, a giant hospitality marquee and a beige gazebo catering to spectators.

In the opinion of this writer, York compares favourably to any outground in the country – even if Scarborough will always be, in my view, the creme de la creme.

Not once did I hear expressions such as “This would never have happened at Scarborough”, for example.

Practically the only criticism I heard was the amount of time it took motorists to exit the ground, with only one exit point on to the main road.

This, alas, is an unavoidable inconvenience, with the surrounding rugby fields and parkland making it impossible to find an alternative exit.

On the other hand, Clifton Park has vastly superior car-parking provision to the vast majority of county headquarters – way better than Headingley, for example, while Scarborough’s parking is nonexistent.

There is provision for around 1,000 cars on the neighbouring rugby fields at Clifton Park, and the stewards were friendly and efficient, too.

All in all, the York club are to be congratulated on a job well done.