A groundsman’s lot… the story continues
Continuing with our series – A groundsman’s lot ain’t just about roads to bat on!
Here’s the next instalment from our very own Gary Newall.
Cricket Pitch Preparation – The first game.
The pre-season work has finished and we now have a lovely green, nicely stripped square (11 strips) to work on.
We now need to prepare a strip for the first game (and 50+ more to come). Each strip is marked out at 10ft wide and we use the middle 5 strips for the 1st team games as there is a minimum distance to the boundary requirement (50yds I think) so usually one of the outside pitches is used for pre-season friendlies.
Pitch prep start about 10 days prior to the game. The first task is to cut the pitch down to about 10mm using our lovely Dennis FT510 mower which is old but with a bit of love and grease still does the job (a bit like the groundsman!!). Now then, cutting on a straight line between two white marks 22 yard apart is easier said than done even with a string-line to guide you (try it at home and you will see). So this often takes a few correcting passes with the mower.
Then the lovely grass we have grown over the winter needs raking/scarifying/cutting to thin it out and expose the soil. We have a Sisis push rake that does a great job but is a killer on the calf muscles and also Dennis has verticut unit which works like a superfast rake and cleans out the dead grass, slices up any lateral growing meadow grass and stands up the leaf aids a nice clean cut. Removing a couple of wheelbarrows full of grass and debris is not unusual.
Next is rolling. This is a much talked about and very complex topic so I will keep it brief. If you have 4 hours with nothing better to do then you can read about the science of it here:
Basically the soil needs to be wet to allow compaction – If I press my thumb into the soil and it leaves an indent and feels plasticine like then that’s about the right conditions to roll. 2-4 passes on our 2 tonne roller at about 0.5mph gives maximum compaction any more than that is wasted effort. Once the soil profile has dried a little (usually the next day) then you can give it another 2-4 and then every other day till match day.
3 days prior to the game I will reduce the HOC (height of cut) to about 6mm then the day before the game down to 4mm continuing with the brushing and rolling in between. This should leave a brown shiny surface with a tinge of green.
Finally mark out the crease using our marking out frame, ensuring that both ends are squared up and in perfect alignment. I have spent many hours pacing from one end to the other with bits of string everywhere, then during a groundsman seminar I attended at Heathcoat one of the guys said
“I just put a string-line from one middle stump to the other and place the centre of my marking frame along the string-line”
– simple and has saved me hours.
On the morning of the game I give it a final cut and roll we are ready for play.
Coming next: Post-match pitch repairs and general square maintenance (bet you can’t wait)