Cricket preparation is everything
By David Markham
Writing in the Wetherby Groundsman, the official newsletter of the Wetherby League, the former Headingley Groundsman also warns about the need to treat moss promptly when it appears on squares.
Keith, who is now Groundsman at the Yorkshire Academy headquarters at the New Rover Club in North Leeds, writes: "This to me is the most interesting part of the year. It doesn't seem that 45 years ago I prepared a cricket pitch, yet I still look forward to the start of a new season with all the enthusiasm I had all those years ago.
Spring work is the second stage of wicket pitch preparation and its success depends to a large extent on the thoroughness given to the previous autumn work you did on the your square.
I approach autumn work with some pleasure because I am laying the foundations for next season's pitches and should always have this in mind when working on the square at this time of the season.
If the conditions are right then it should be an enjoyable part of a Groundsman's programme and done properly there will be no need for complaint against your pitches and the reliability will be up to your expectations.
Well, last autumn, the conditions were not good. September was one of the driest months I have experienced. Seed germination and grass establishment were well below what we would have normally expected.
I visited several grounds to look at their squares. Also, quite a number of worried looking Groundsmen have called in to see me all with the same problem - weak grass growth, sparse and bare pitch ends.
Unfortunately, that is an ideal environment for an invasion of the dreaded moss. My recommendation to all is to apply a moss killer. If there are any signs of moss on your square act now and treat it with a moss killer.
Back to spring work, pre-season rolling is absolutely crucial to the production of cricket pitches. There is no set time or length of time for rolling. All I know is that it is generally the coldest day of the year when I begin, be it a gentle drying wind with hazy sun or a blustery cold northerly March blow. If the conditions are right you must get on with some rolling, not forgetting half a day at the right time is worth a month at any other time.
In normal weather conditions it should be possible to give your square a reasonable amount of rolling from mid-March until the start of the season. The square should be rolled in all directions, but with the emphasis on cross rolling in early stages, always finish on the line of the pitches. The aim is to consolidate the square to a depth of about four inches before the season starts.
On average, a minimum of 20 hours rolling should be done on a ten inch pitch square. This is a very important stage in pitch preparation because, you are rolling into your square, pace and bounce that is essential for good cricket pitches. If this rolling is successful, cricket pitch preparation is simply wetting the top few inches to give a smooth flat surface, cutting the grass short and then allowing the pitch to dry out.
Good soil will withstand the impact of a cricket ball, good grass roots will hold the dry soil together and a well consolidated square will give good even bounce and some pace."