Playing The Shire's perfect backyard pitch

Cricket found its perfect pitch in New Zealand this week as two great cricketers led their teams out onto the village green for a spot of backyard cricket and a Cricket World Cup celebration in true Kiwi style – beneath the ‘Party Tree’ at Hobbiton Movie Set.

So it was that two of New Zealand’s most recognised faces, Sir Richard Hadlee and Stephen Fleming fronted up for the ‘tournament’ – the Hobbiton Movie Set Cricket Cup – in what has become the nation’s most recognised location, the hobbit village created for filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson’s epic ‘Middle-earth’ movies.

In the years since the first of the films was released in 1998, the whimsical location set in the rural Waikato region has grown into one of New Zealand’s leading tourist destinations, now well on target to receive its millionth visitor this year.

This time round, in the place where hobbits have been seen to party, a group of visiting Indian business leaders and priority travel agents – in town for the India v Ireland match at Seddon Park in nearby Hamilton – got to kick off their own shoes and follow the celebrated captains onto the pitch.

The tournament for four teams, two games of ten overs each, was all in good humour, of course – and not too far removed from the informal backyard cricket tradition that has helped foster so much New Zealand cricketing talent. Though, with 12 acres of carefully tended green, Hobbiton is a somewhat larger than the average backyard garden.

On the village green, there was a strip of freshly mowed grass and uneven willow wickets, surrounded by hedgerows and garden plots that players were required to negotiate when catching a ball.

It's not recorded anywhere whether hobbits actually played cricket. According to the rules of this tournament, players are allowed to eat and drink whilst playing but any "unsportsmanlike behaviour is not Hobbit-like and therefore unacceptable".

Between overs, the spectators were fed and watered with Hobbiton’s local Southfarthing ales, and entertained by musicians and fire eaters. Festivities continued with an after-match function in the 17th-century styled Green Dragon Inn on the lakeside opposite the village green.

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