September Cricket Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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September is a very busy month for cricket pitch maintenance, as most groundstaff are faced with the completion of final matches and hectic end of season renovations. All materials and contractual arrangements for the hire of machinery or specialist labour should have been ordered in advance to ensure they are available for the forthcoming works, which generally commence from mid September.

The objectives of end of season renovations are:

  • To repair worn areas.

  • Prevent a build up of thatch layers (scarification).

  • Restore surface levels (top dressing).

  • Alleviate compaction (aeration).

  • Re-establish sward densities (overseeding).

  • Application of Pre-seeding/autumn fertilisers to promote sward establishment.

Most of the tasks detailed can be undertaken within a limited budget. Local conditions and circumstances will need to be taken into account.

If any members are undertaking any specific work not detailed, please let us know by adding a comment in the section below the diary.

September Maintenance Tasks for Cricket

Natural Grass

Task

Frequency

Reason

Aeration

When conditions allow

Sarrel roll the square to keep the surface free draining. It will be essential to use the sarrel roller after any rolling works.

Autumn Renovation


When conditions allow after the end of the playing season

These works will involve a number of operations that are carried out on the whole cricket square.

It may be necessary to soak the pitches/wickets prior to undertaking any work.

The following activities are generally implemented during the autumn renovations and usually carried out in the following order:-

  1. Mowing the sward, preparing surfaces for renovation.

  2. Scarification, removal of unwanted debris (collect arisings).

  3. Aeration, decompaction of soil profile, improving the air and gas exchange in soil.

  4. Top dressing, restores levels and improves surface drainage.

  5. Overseeding, restores grass populations.

  6. Fertilising, provides nutrients for grass growth.

  7. Brushing, to incorporate dressings and to help the grass stand back up.

  8. Watering/Irrigation.

Further information on renovation techniques and equipment can be seen on the following link. Renovation.

Brushing/ Sweeping (square)

Daily/ Weekly

Prior to mowing, the surface should be thoroughly brushed every time. Continue to brush square daily to remove moisture from the grass surface, stopping the spread of disease and facilitating an improved quality of cut on the dry grass.

Covers
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As required

Portable covers are very useful in protecting surfaces during inclement weather. Wicket covers are used to control the soil moisture content of cricket wickets especially when preparing wickets for play.

Covers and sheets can be stored away after the playing season is finished.

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Diseases (square and outfield)


Daily/Weekly

Turf disease can become quite prevalent in September when soil moisture levels increase, coupled with the presence of early morning dews. The combination of moist soils and surface moisture on the leaf blade can increase the susceptibility of disease attack.

Regular brushing in the mornings to remove the dew off the playing surfaces will reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak. Many turf grass diseases can be active at this time of the year. Fairy rings, and red thread are the most commonly seen.

Drainage

Weekly

Inspect drainage outfalls, channels and ditches. Ensure that they are working.

Fertiliser programme

If grass shows signs of stress (weak growth, discoloured)

Fertiliser treatment and turf tonic can be continued in accordance with your annual programme. If you haven't got a fertiliser programme, have your soil tested; try an independent soil analysis company for an impartial set of results.

Most facility managers will now be looking to apply their autumn fertilisers in association with their end of season renovations.

A list of available fertilisers can be seen on the following link: Autumn Fertilsers

Applying fertilisers when ground conditions are dry and arid is not viable, as the plant cannot make use of the nutrients. Dry soils do not allow effective transport of nutrients into the grass plant. Soils have to be in a wet state to enable efficient transfer of nutrients to the plant.

Having an appropriate irrigation system will allow you the opportunity to fertilise as and when required. Many groundsmen are now moving towards the little and often approach, applying smaller doses of fertiliser to cater for the plants requirements at that particular time.

Harrowing/raking (outfield)

When conditions allow

Harrowing/raking helps restore levels and keep surfaces open.

Inspect Cricket structures

As required

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Check and repair fences, scoreboards, covers and sightscreens. All structures can be stored away for the winter after use.

Irrigation

As required

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It is essential to have water available for irrigation purposes. Irrigation is required for pitch preparation and repairs. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied. It's important to ensure that the water gets down deep into the root-zone to a minimum of 150mm to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe. Allow to dry out and repeat irrigation process. Allowing surfaces to remain dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil and thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality. Further information about irrigation of sports surfaces can be see on link Irrigation.

Litter/debris

Daily/Weekly

Inspect and remove debris from playing surface - litter, twigs and leaves.

Machinery (Repairs & Maintenance)

Daily/Weekly

Ongoing inspection and cleaning of machinery after use.

Marking out

As required.

Marking out the crease should be done with care, using frames or string lines to help achieve clear, straight lines.

Materials

As required.

Keep a good supply of materials at hand for repairs and maintenance.

Do not forget to organise and order well in advance your autumn renovation materials from your suppliers. You may want to investigate new products or services. Allow time to do this.

Mowing, square & outfield

As required

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Mowing of the square and outfield should be undertaken on a regular basis to maintain heights of cut. The square should be maintained at between 6-14mm and the outfield between 12-25mm.

Continue to verticut, training the grass to grow vertically. If you don't have a verticut option then use a drag brush to help stand the grass up prior to mowing. If using verticutting units be careful not to mark/scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.

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Remember not to neglect the outfield; it too has a major effect on a game if unattended. The outfield should be treated the same as any other natural grass pitch, carrying out regular mowing, aeration and feeding programmes to maintain a healthy sward.

After matches repair any divots and scars that have resulted from play. Ensure you have enough supplies of soil material and seed for repairs.

Outfield renovations can be completed at the end of the cricket season, however the amount of work carried out may be determined by whether the outfield is being used for other sports (football/rugby).

Similar operations can be carried out on the outfield, scarification, aeration, top dressing and fertilising.

Pest control

As required

Worm treatments can be carried out if needed, but please remember to ask yourself why worms are present. Ph level, organic matter and your cultural practices on the square need to be assessed.

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Daily/Weekly

The use of heavy ballast rollers should be implemented to help prepare the wickets for matches, making sure rolling is done under the correct surface conditions, when the soil is moist but not too wet. Carrying out a proctor soil test will help determine the correct timing of rolling. A simpler method is to stick a knife or slit tine into the soil profile and see if it comes out clean. If it does, it's the right time to roll. Rolling should start and finish in line with the direction of play.

Ideal rolling conditions would suggest the soil be in a state of plasticity-or "plasticine". Consolidation will still be your aim throughout the season. The pitch is required to be consolidated throughout to a depth of no less than 100mm.

Proctor testing is used to evaluate the compaction characteristics of the soil. This test determines the maximum density the soil can be compacted to, and at what moisture content the soil is most prone to compaction. Proctor testing is useful in determining how compacted a soil is in the field. proctor test (click on link to see details of carrying out a proctor test).

Seed bare & worn areas on Cricket square

When conditions allow

Seeding of the ends where the grass is weak, sparse or bare can be continued.Use germination sheets to aid this process but remove the sheets regularly to check for diseases. Remember that without good seed to soil contact the operation is useless.

Ensure you use new seed as old material may not give you the required germination rates.

Soil tests

Ideally once or twice a year, or as required.

Soil sampling is an important part of groundmanship. The results will enable the manager to have a better understanding of the current status of his soil and turf. There are many tests that can be undertaken, but usually the main tests to consider are:

  • Particle Size Distribution (PSD) this will give you accurate information on the soil type and it's particle make up, enabling you to match up with appropriate top dressing materials and ensuring you are able to maintain a consistent hydraulic conductivity (drainage rate) of your soil profile.

  • Soil pH, it is important to keep the soil at a pH of 5.5-6.5, a suitable level for most grass plants.

  • Organic matter content, it is important to keep a balanced level of organic matter content in the soil profile.

  • Nutrient Levels. Keeping a balance of N P K nutrients within the soil profile is essential for healthy plant growth.

Once you have this information you will be in a better position to plan your season's feeding and maintenance programmes.

Wicket Preparation

As required

Preparation of the pitch should start ten days prior to a game. Mark out your cutting area with string, nails, paint or markers to obtain a straight cutting line. Your first cut should be as accurate as possible because it becomes very difficult to correct inconsistencies when the pitch is cut more prominently.

Start by hand scarifying to stand the grass up, this tool will not mark the soil surface. Cut the pitch once and repeat the process again. Dependant on weather, you may need to water. Ensure you irrigate to get a good depth of watering, you may need to cover to prevent evaporation. Once surface water has gone you can then begin to roll. Roll pitch until the surface is visibly dry. Continue to roll each day in the run up to the match, checking the consolidation by bouncing a cricket ball on the soil surface or testing the resistance by inserting a metal rod into the surface. The wicket can be left uncovered unless you have weather that is too wet, windy or sunny. During these conditions the wicket should be covered.

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Wicket repairs

After matches

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Artificial wicket and net Facilities

Artificial Grass Systems

Surface treatments

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Sand filled systems require regular brushing to maintain manufacturer's recommendations for sand levels and pile heights.

Net facilities

post -season

Repair damaged structures and netting, order new if required. Strim and mow around structures.

All net and practice structures can be repaired and stored away for the winter.