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Sunday, August 15, 2010

10. The St Lawrence Lime

There are many reasons to love cricket. For start, there are few other games where you can watch a single match for five days solid and still celebrate the fact there's no result. This is a sport that inspires batsmen to selflessly walk before being given out, while accepting mental disintegration as a legitimate tactic. But rather than going into all the game's many and various idiosyncrasies, let's just concentrate on one: the St Lawrence Lime.

Faced with a tree growing in the middle of a pitch, any other sport would do one of two things: move the pitch, or chop the tree down. But cricketers think differently. So when Kent County Cricket Club's home ground was founded in Canterbury in 1847 (then called Beverley, but latterly changed to the St Lawrence Ground), it was built around a local lime tree.

Obviously, having a tree the wrong side of the boundary can pose a few practical problems, but Kent's players soon settled on the rule that a shot striking any part of the tree was worth four runs. A bonus if the ball trickled into the tree's substantial undergrowth, but a bit annoying if its 120ft height obstructed an otherwise clear six. (The only player since the war to successfully score a six over the tree was Carl Hooper of Kent and the West Indies, in 1992.)

Sadly, in January 2005, high winds finally brought the tree down. However, the club had already been working on a successor, since the St Lawrence Lime had been found to be suffering from heartwood fungus. In March 2005, the fledgling tree was moved within the boundary to take up its rightful place in cricketing folklore.

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