1. Always Allow Enough Time for Preparation
Cricket pitch preparations can take anything from 5-15 days. Every Groundsman’s preparations will be different. No two pitches are the same and neither is the equipment each Groundsman has available.
Some clubs have covering systems whilst others don’t. This will have a major bearing on pitch preparations.
2. Only Scarify as Necessary
A common mistake clubs often make is to scarify every part of the cricket wicket.
Scarification should be carried out between the popping creases to reduce the density of grass, using pedestrian or mechanical brush/rake machinery (not thatch removal or similar type tines), hand rake or a strong broom, care being taken not to disturb the soil surface.
The bowling ends should not be scarified as this will assist in reducing the wear and tear, and aid recovery from the damage caused by players. Scarification should continue until the grass sward has been sufficiently reduced in density. There should be no mat of grass and the surface soil should be visible between the blades of grass.
3. Don’t Forget… Your Square Needs Water!
If the surface is dry, it is generally considered that water, either by rain or applied by irrigation, is essential in the preparation of a pitch in order to give it a firmer, solid surface for match play. Water copiously, if necessary, with the aim to soak the profile to a depth of 75-100mm.
There is no fixed period for the watering of a pitch, but this should be done well in advance of a match in order to ensure that the pitch is completely dry at the start of play. Ideally, this should start no less than ten days prior to the match.
In prevailing hot, dry weather conditions it may be necessary for further light irrigation or ‘flashing’ nearer the match day, although this decision would rely on the experience and expertise of the ground staff, as is the deployment of covers, where provided, to prevent unwanted wetting of the surface or to control the rate of drying during the course of preparation.
4. Different Rollers for Different Conditions
The rolling of the pitch should commence with a light roller when all surface water has disappeared. As the pitch dries, the weight of the roller should increase.
Groundsmen should use the heavy roller at every suitable opportunity prior to a match whilst any moisture content remains. The heavy roller should not be used once all the moisture has gone from the pitch.
5. Mow Every Day (where possible)
For the remaining pre-match days during the course of preparation, mow every day, or at least every other day, between the popping creases and, in combination with light scarification/brushing, progressively lower the cylinder to the desired height of cut (typically between 3-5mm), or as low as possible without scalping and ensuring the surface is not scarred or disturbed in any way.
6. Match Day!
On the morning of the match, start early and brush, close mow and roll (typically for around 15-20 minutes). Finally, if not done the previous day, mark out the creases on the pitch, clearly, accurately and neatly with lines not more than 25mm wide or less than 12mm using string lines or a marking frame if available. Use a proprietary marking compound or whiting powder or combination of both.
BIO – Lewis is an ‘Institute of Groundsmanship’ Certified pitch care specialist with ECB recognised training. He has over 12 years’ industry experience and is a passionate about sports ground maintenance. Lewis is the contracts manager for Nigel Jeffries Landscapes Ltd.