For more years than I care to remember – dating back to the time of the dinosaurs, I think – we have both hosted and attended birthday parties at soft play centres. I don’t know how many; they all blur into one after a while. But now our kids and their friends are older, a new range of possibilities has opened up to us.
We’ve done Pizza Hut and Pizza Express parties. They are basically the same as soft play parties but with no soft play and more expensive pizza.
We’ve done football parties. We’ve done bowling parties. For Isaac’s birthday last year we even did an ice skating party.
But for our friends’ son’s 13th birthday party last Sunday we did something completely different: a party package at a Twenty20 game at The Oval.
For £15 per child, Surrey County Cricket Club put together an excellent day’s package. We shared a hospitality suite with a couple of other parties, with lunch, cake and party bags provided and various activities including face-painting and a balloon artist.
With a member of the club coaching staff to look after us – thanks to Danny for taking such good care of us – we were able to go down on to the pitch to watch the teams warm up and have a quick word with Surrey captain Gareth Batty and former England all-rounders Andrew Flintoff and Dominic Cork. This was somewhat lost on the kids but left me and the other dads in the party slack-jawed in awe. We even got to poke our noses in one of the commentary studios (although, alas, not the Test Match Special booth).
And then there was the cricket itself. Twenty20 is the perfect form of the game for kids to enjoy. It’s short enough to hold their attention – matches typically last 2¾ hours – and it provides plenty of fast-paced excitement, atmosphere and razzmatazz.
We had the added benefit of having vast expanses of private upper tier seating to ourselves, meaning the younger kids could wander around and play when they got bored without disturbing other spectators. When we had visited Lord’s for another Twenty20 game a week previously, we had been in the middle of a packed crowd and the boys became quite restless at times. No such problems here.
The fact we had a high-scoring game on a gloriously sunny afternoon helped too.
By the end of the day, we were all so pleased with how well things had gone that plans were already being hatched to repeat the experience next year.
The only downside of the party packages is that Surrey CCC can only offer a couple of dates per year – essentially weekends during the domestic Twenty20 competition, which mostly spans the school summer holidays. So if your child’s birthday is in the middle of winter you’re out of luck. But if you’re looking to organise a party for a sports-mad child during the summer months, I’d thoroughly recommend this. It’s a great experience for cricket-loving kids and adults alike, and surprisingly inexpensive.
For further details visit the Kia Oval website.
I was not paid or in any way incentivised to write this post.