IT might be pushing 22 years since he took Hampshire’s last first-class wicket at Dean Park but former England international Shaun Udal still has fond memories of his old haunt.
Long before gaining recognition on cricket’s ultimate stage, ‘Shaggy’ embarked on his 17-year stint with Hampshire at a time when they regularly crossed the county border.
But while just four of Udal’s 301 first-class appearances – inclusive of a host of Tests and one-day internationals across the world – took place in Bournemouth, the quaint surroundings of an iconic location remain etched on the legendary off-break bowler’s mind.
“When I first started playing we all had to change in this horrific cowshed at the side of the pavilion,” Udal recalled. “It was very old but it was the scene of our first County Championship win so it was always a very poignant place to go back to.
“The pitch was always okay, very well looked after but it was never the quickest or best to bat on. As a bowler, I always enjoyed it there and we had some good games.
"You very rarely had a drawn game at Dean Park, it was one of those grounds where more often than not, you would get a winner.
“It was an advantage to play there because it was different and we were used to it, we adapted and could pick bowlers to suit the conditions while the opposition were unaware of what they were facing.
“The festival atmosphere helped. There would be marquees up all round the ground and the holidaymakers would come and boost the attendances, it made for a good atmosphere and we always looked forward to playing in Bournemouth.”
Hampshire’s senior squad make a rare return in Thursday’s T20 double-header (12.30pm and 5pm) as club captain Jimmy Adams, T20 captain James Vince and England’s Ashes star Michael Carberry prepare for their limited-overs Blast campaign.
High financial costs and a failure to upgrade facilities were cited as the reasons behind Hampshire ending their 95-year love affair with the picturesque Cavendish Road site in 1992, a move that had been on the cards for many years but caused considerable hurt among Bournemouth cricket fans nonetheless.
Remembering the final match against Middlesex, in which Udal rattled the stumps for the final time with his dismissal of Chas Taylor for a duck, the 45-year-old said: “There were a lot of people around and quite a lot of sadness because it was the end of a long era.
“It was more disappointment rather than anger that the rent had apparently been put so high that we couldn’t afford to put on the cricket there any longer which was a terrible shame.
“I always felt it was important to play cricket across Hampshire, not just in Southampton. We used to play in Basingstoke and Portsmouth as well and Bournemouth was a nice place to go, even if it wasn’t technically in Hampshire. We were always treated well.”
Having retired from first-class cricket, Udal made a return with Middlesex and was credited by revered fellow international Angus Fraser for fixing a “fractured dressing room” during his brief spell as captain.
Since then, he has continued to turn out for Leatherhead in the Surrey Championship as well as occasional appearances for the Professional Cricketers Association’s Masters XI.
Udal now lives in Basingstoke and runs the clothing business he acquired two-and-a-half years ago as well as hosting at matchday guests at both Hampshire and Middlesex.
And although he no longer has a connection to the Bournemouth area, he threw his weight behind the campaign to keep Dean Park as a cricket venue with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Dorset’s home.
The Friends of Dean Park was formed to protect the site from development once the current lease – held by Bournemouth University – expires in November this year.
Udal added: “Anything that keeps cricket going has my backing, particularly in areas where I have played.
“If it’s close to an area with some schools maybe they could create some good links which would only be positive for the game of cricket.
“Ultimately, though, it will depend on what the owners want to do, that’s the way of the world.”