A FORMER England cricketer officially re-opened Harpsden Cricket Club on Saturday.
Angus Fraser was special guest at the Harpsden Way club, which has undergone an extension and landscaping work worth £185,000.
The England selector and managing director of cricket at Middlesex County Cricket Club cut the ribbon to officially re-open the building and gave a speech to club members and their friends and families.
During his bowling career, Fraser played 46 Test matches and 42 one day internationals for England.
He talked about spending his summers as a boy at Stanmore Cricket Club in London, the lifelong friends he had made there and the importance of club cricket.
He said: “What a beautiful ground. It’s lovely to see a club with better facilities and it’s always a special occasion when a new facility opens.
“Sports clubs are great places, not just because people get to play a sport they enjoy but because of the social interaction and the fun they have. Maybe one day a young cricketer coming through, having played at Harpsden cricket club, will be knocking on my door for a contract.”
Club chairman Rod Birkett was presented with a bottle of champagne and Joanne Cary, of the project committee, received a bouquet of flowers for their work on the project.
The refurbishment was funded by the John Hodges Trust, which owns the club site, Sport England, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, fund-raising events and individual donations.
The club now has larger home and away changing rooms, a larger dining area and a new kitchen.
Landscaping work was carried out to move the square 15 metres away from the road and to cut into a hill next to the square which provided a flatter playing area. The club decided to move the square after several incidents of cricket balls flying into the Henley Golf Club car park on the opposite side of the road.
There were several near misses including a ball smashing a car windscreen when the driver was sitting inside. Mr Birkett said: “This was a really lucky escape and something needed to be done before we weren’t so lucky.
“We were reading in the papers about a significant number of cricket clubs with the same problem. The benefit for us is that we had the size of site to be able to create a solution. We needed a new square anyway given the significant contours that had appeared on the square after many years of settlement and the fact that more cricket on the site, including a lot by the Henley Cricket Club juniors, deserved a flatter track.”
Other than significant work to the pavilion 25 years ago, including the introduction of showers and toilets, the ground and pavilion had not been changed since 1906 when land owner John Hodges donated the site for a cricket pitch and pavilion.
Mr Birkett added: “After an incredible amount of time spent by a significant number of people planning, fund-raising and managing this project we are where we are today.
“I do hope that if our original benefactor, John Hodges, is looking down on us today that he would be delighted with the investment that will hopefully protect cricket at his site for the next 108 years.”
Earlier in the day the club played a chairman versus president match.