June Cricket Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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Nearly every Cricket groundsman in the country will be praying for some consistent warm weather in June, which is more conducive to preparing and repairing cricket wickets.

The weather for the last month has been atrocious, in fact there were probably more games played in April than in May. The persistent rain and cool temperatures have not only affected pitch preparations but also seen the postponement of a number of fixtures.

Grass growth has been poor, therefore shoot and root density will be poor, which may affect the pitches performance in the coming weeks. Facilities which do not have pitch covers will particulary have been more vulnerable to the changing weather. june-2006-drt-cracks.jpg

Keeping some additional grass cover will help retain some soil moisture, thus slowing down the soils capacity for drying out. You may want to consider raising the height of cut on the square by 1mm to maintain some additional grass cover.

The wet period will have stimulated the Poa grass species in the square, thus increasing thatch and procumbent growth, regular verticutting will alleviate any thatch build up and stand up the sward prior to mowing.

With the drier weather, expect the bounce and pace of the wickets to start improving. Evaportranspiration rates should begin to rise in the coming months, initiating the need to begin watering your facilities, if permitted to do so. Some areas are still facing a total non-essential water ban, therefore no water can be applied to your wickets from a hose pipe.

Irrigation will be a major consideration with increased evapotranspiration (ET), the combined water loss from both the plant and soil surfaces now rising due to the warmer weather. Watering will be essential for wicket repairs and preparation. Irrigate uniformly and ensure the right amount is applied.

It's important to ensure that the water gets down deep into the rootzone to a minimum of 150mm to encourage deep rooting. Check with a probe. Allowing the surfaces to dry can lead to problems of dry patch, a condition that prevents water infiltration into the soil, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf growth and quality.

Summary of a 14 day wicket preparation:-

Day

Task

Day 14 -12

Cut down to 6mm, hand rake in 2-3 directions to clean out bottom of sward.

Day 12-10

Soak wicket until water is standing on full length of wicket.

Day 10-1

Roll wicket every day if conditions allow in 3 x 20 min spells with 1.5-2 tonne roller to consolidate and release moisture from wicket. Mow as required to keep sward at desired height (6-4mm).

Day 10-5

Keep wicket dry, if possible, with flat sheets.

Day 5-1

Use raised covers, if available, to keep wicket dry but still allow air movement.

Day 3-1

Reduce wicket height to 5mm, mark out using string lines for accuracy.

Day 1

Final mowing at 4mm, overmark, set stump holes.

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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 or scar the soil surface, as these scars will be hard to remove as the square dries out.

After match wicket repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris, soaking the wicket, scarifying, spiking, top dressing and overseeding. Additional work may be required to repair foot hole damage. It is important to carry out good repairs, as you may be required to use this wicket again later on in the season.

Seeding of the ends where the grass is weak, sparse or bare can be continued, and the rise in temperature will help germination. 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.

The wet damp outfields have been easily damaged by both the fielders and bowlers who have had to play in wet conditions. Bowlers run ups have particularly been bad, with strong depressions being made during games. There will be a need to infill and restore levels and overseed.

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.