0 A pre-season pitch battle for Durham groundsman

Dave Measor is enduring his toughest start to a cricket season in 34 years.

The Durham groundsman - runner-up in the County Championship awards two seasons ago - is this year struggling to create any sort of playing surface.

"It should be a green carpet by now, but because of the weather we are weeks behind. We currently have no more than a tinge of green," he said.

"Up to last week the grass hadn't grown at all since September.

"We have a sand-based surface and we put the sand down in September for the grass to grow through, but it hasn't happened."

The sand was still clearly evident on the outfield when the Gazette visited last week, and while the groundsman and his team have used their considerable skills to create a firm, flat surface, they can't make the grass grow.

"I feel I'm around four weeks behind. The worst thing is the cold. March this year was like January normally is," Measor said. "We had a wet summer last year, then a wet autumn, then bitter cold.

"I've never known it this bad in my 34 years in the job.

"You always get cold spells, but never as prolonged as it has been since the turn of the year.

"We've struggled to get the square anywhere near where it should be for the first game of the season. We can play, but it's not ideal.

"It normally takes two and a half to three weeks to prepare a pitch, but I haven't been able to do it the way I would like. I keep having to cover it.

"I watch the weather forecast and fret over it - but what can you do?

"I've cut the outfield, but only as a decorative cut. There's hardly any grass come off.

"The players have not been abroad to prepare this year, and they wanted outdoor nets in March, but that was impossible.

"But I won't get any stick from the players. They know the problems."

And the seam bowlers might love the early season games because the ball will do a lot for them.

The groundsman has not been able to get the heavy roller on, so the pitch could vary.

There may be uneven bounce, and the ball might not come onto the bat.

It will be hard to tell the full impact of the weather until the games get underway.

But ever the optimist Measor added: "Let's have a nice warm, sunny summer - then we can forget about the long winter."

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