A basic specification for minimal maintenance of a Cricket Square and Pitch Preparation.
SEPTEMBER, END OF SEASON RENOVATION
- Mow all grass of square to approx. 2mm. To achieve this three or four passes of the square may be required.
- Using a heavy duty scarifier, Graden, Sisis 600 or something that has the ability to scarify with a tungsten tipped blade to a depth of at least 6mm, scarify in three directions. Power sweep all arisings after/during each scarify pass to leave a clean surface.
- Apply a suitable amenity grass seed for cricket at the rate of 4/5 kg per pitch. This seed should sit in the clean scarify lines, ideal planting trough.
- Apply a pre seed fertiliser, 6.9.6 or 5.5.10 or very similar at a rate of at least 2.5Kg per pitch, double the rate if finances allow.
- Top dress with clay loam at the rate of approx 150/200kg per pitch, spread evenly through a top dresser and then drag matted in until the surface is flat and free of heaps of surplus loam.
- If no rain is imminent then watering will need to be considered.
- As soon as grass has grown to no more than 50mm at the most, trim to approx 35mm using a rotary mower with a newly sharpened blade and collector.
- At this time of the year the grass may need cutting every few days for up to a couple of weeks. During this time reduce the height of cut to 19/25mm, never cutting of more than 25% at any one time.
- End of October early November, casting worms will always need to be treated with Carbendizum at this time. During this month another application of fertiliser will be required, I suggest 4.0.8 + 4Fe applied at the rate of 2.5kg per pitch. A programme of monthly spiking should now take place through to January. I would always suggest using vertical action machines that have the ability to spike to a depth of at least 100mm, deeper if possible. The Groundsman models and the Toro procore are excellent machines to consider using. Roll over technology is now not advised. Applying fertiliser after spiking is always considered to be good practice.
- Around Christmas/New year, another application of fertiliser is nearly always required. Again, 4.0.8. + 4Fe at 2.5kg per pitch is generally considered suitable.
- End of Feb/early March, another treatment of Carbendizum is required to control the casting worms.
- At the same time another application of 4.0.8 + 4Fe will be required at the same rate as before.
- Throughout the winter, a close eye should be kept on the square for any decease. The most common decease will be red thread, but if the feeding requirements as above have been kept to then this is likely to be minimal. If a square suffers an attack of fusarium, then it is very likely that the square has a thatch problem, should have been dealt with during the end of season renovations, or it has been overfed during the late autumn/early winter.
- During the late autumn/winter, grass growth is usually much slower, but it very rarely stops, so regular mowing is still vital to keep the grass sward to a constant height of 19/25mm. This may mean as little as once a month, sometimes in a milder spell more often.
SPRING - March/April
Rolling is the excitement for this period. Many myths are spoken about pre season rolling, if you want to read the science into rolling then google Cranfield University and look up the results of a four year study in cricket pitch rolling. These however are the basics. Never roll when the ground is too wet, by this I mean, if you push your thumb into the surface and your thumb gets wet, then the surface is too wet, please leave the roller in the shed and don’t be persuaded to waste your time just because it is a nice day and you have the time.
There is nearly always a dry week or two in March, as a rule of thumb, once it has been dry for a week there is a chance the ground could be ready to roll. The optimum rolling speed is ½ a mile an hour. That means it takes 11/2 to 13/4 minutes to roll from behind the stump line at one end to behind the stump line at the other. This is one pass. To roll back on the same line constitutes two passes. Never carry out more than four passes on any one day. Science suggests that 22 passes are required to compact the square to depth during the pre season. It is recommended that having rolled the square one day, leave to dry for another day or two before commencing with your rolling programme. In an ideal situation, dry spell, your rolling will be completed in ten to eleven days. However, rarely are conditions ideal for any length of time so please bare in mind the following, if there is a wet day, leave another day to dry before continuing with your programme, never be in to much of a hurry to complete the programme, if you have to continue even though you have played you first matches so be it. Whatever the weather you should be up to speed by the end of April at the latest.
What rollers, light at first, your cylinder mower if that is all you have, three or four passes with each will be sufficient. Once you get the heaviest roller out, ballast it up after three or four passes. No benefit is gained by delaying getting the big roller out as soon as ground conditions are suitable.
Mid April, apply the first application of spring/summer fertiliser. This could be 8.0.0 + 4 Fe or 12.0.9 or similar, at 2.5kg per pitch, the choice is yours. However, it will need to be applied every four to six weeks during the summer up until the end of July. The square will require mowing at least once a week during the summer, but usually twice and the height of cut should be maintained at 12/13mm.
The more time that can be spent the better, usually. The following is what I consider absolutely minimal:
- Each week a pitch should be selected, this will normally be every other one through the square. Once these are used go back to start then play in between.
- Approx ten days before a match, water selected pitch thoroughly, this means to a depth of 75/100mm. Test by using a screwdriver or taking a core. Allow to dry for approx 36 hours and then start rolling. Again at the same speeds as above and never more than four passes. Every other day leading up to the match should be sufficient. Science suggests that any more than ten passes is a waste. Keep pitch dry if possible, if you cant then you cant.
- Each other day carry out the following:Cut pitch to approx 8mm on a Monday, rake it, sisis combi rake or similar two or three times and mow. Wednesday repeat. Friday repeat but at 4/5mm and mark out. Saturday morning if possible, final mow and a ten minute roll.
- If pitch is to be used on the Sunday, then sweep up ends at end of game. Sunday morning cut and roll as for Saturday and remark. Same to be carried out if pitch is to be used for a mid week game.
- Once pitch has been finished with for that week, repair ends. Fill holes with loam, rake in seed and level of to surrounds. Keep watering to aid germination.
- Repeat above for each week of the season. If the weather is unkind, wet, it may be possible to use a pitch for two weeks running, then repair it. Repaired pitches should be available to use again after six to eight weeks. Some clubs use a pitch for two weeks any way and then put it to bed for the rest of the season. The choice is yours.
The important thing to remember is this, a pitch gets harder through drying, increased bulk density, not through over use of the roller in less than ideal conditions. Rolling is all about timing, not just because it has not been done or it happens to be a nice day.
In my opinion, the minimum time required each week will be in the region of five to six hours spread across the week, say an hour to an hour and a half a day to prepare a pitch and maintain the square, cutting and repairing ends etc. If there are midweek games then more time will be needed.
This is a very basic specification, more time can easily be spent, brushing the square, regular verti cutting, covering/uncovering of wickets etc.
Communication between the club and the councils sub contractor will be essential if reasonable pitches are to be prepared. The club may wish to take on the responsibility of the rolling, leaving all mowing and marking out to the councils sub contractors, after all they will have the required mowers. Watering may have to be a joint effort, again communication will be essential. Sunday mowing off and remarking may well be carried out by the club.
Should any more advice or assistance be required please do not hesitate to ask.
ECB Pitch Advisor for Wiltshire
For the ECB’s recommended guidelines for the construction, preparation and maintenance of cricket pitches and outfields please download their Techinical Specifications document