DORSET skipper Chris Park is hoping Hampshire’s return to Dean Park will help put the picturesque Bournemouth venue “back on the map”.
Hampshire are sending a full-strength squad to face Dorset in an eagerly-anticipated T20 double-header on Thursday, with games starting at 12.30pm and 5pm.
The 2010 and 2012 champions are using the friendlies as warm-up games ahead of their NatWest T20 Blast campaign which starts later this month.
Dorset officials are hoping a sizeable crowd will turn out as Hampshire showcase their talents at Dean Park, a venue which hosted the first-class county until 1992.
The historic ground, situated on Cavendish Road, was in the news last year when it emerged it had been put up for sale by owners, the Cooper Dean estate.
As a result, concerned residents succeeded in a bid to get the 150-year-old site listed as an asset of community value – a move that could hinder any future development.
The move gave them up to six months in which to raise funds to make a bid for the ground and a petition has been launched to try to save Dean Park as a multi-use sports ground.
Dorset captain Park told Echosport: “We are really looking forward to hosting Hampshire in what promises to be a celebration of Dean Park.
“We will try to be as competitive as we can against a very strong side.
“Hopefully, the day will be a good fund-raising event for us and we will get a good crowd in for the two games.
“More importantly though, we are looking to put Dean Park back on the map.
“There is a lot of stuff up in the air at the moment about the ground. As a Dorset lad and having grown up in Wimborne, I can remember playing my first Dorset under-12 game there and it is a fantastic venue.
“I have played Minor Counties cricket for the past 12 years and there isn’t a better ground in the country. Everything is great – the pitch, the outfield, the picturesque pavilion and the location – and away teams always enjoy coming to Bournemouth.
“The groundsman Derek Tapper has turned it round and the ground looked fantastic when we played Wales on Sunday. Hopefully, all that is going on behind the scenes can come to fruition and we can at least keep a semblance of the ground with quality cricket being made available there.”
Dorset (from): Park, McManus, Williams, Lawrence, Porter, Lintott, Thomson, Hicks, Denham, Wolstenholme, Hayman, Barber, Scott, Webb, Khan
Hampshire (from): Adams, Carberry, Dawson, Vince, Smith, Gatting, Ervine, Bates, Tomlinson, Abbot, Coles, Braithwaite, Wheater, Terry, Balcombe