May Cricket Diary

By Laurence Gale MSc

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I am sure this year will be a busy one for most cricket groundsmen as the popularity of cricket since last year's winning England Ashes Test Series will have encouraged an increase in participation, particularly in the youth sections. Therefore it will be essential that the groundsman has a strategy in place to accommodate all these fixtures. Ideally he will restrict the amount of play on the early wickets to enable then enough time to recover and be used again later in the season.diary-2006-repaires.jpg

With the cricket season finally underway, many groundstaff will be glad that the previous months' poor weather is hopefully behind them. No doubt many pitches will be low and slow for the first few games but, as temperatures rise, coupled with some decent sunshine, pitch performances will improve.

You may need to take more time in preparing the wickets to get some additional rolling completed; instead of allowing 10-14 days preparation you may need to extend the period up to 15 -20 days while the weather remains cool and damp.

Many of the pitches will be very slow, the cool, damp weather will have influenced the condition of the playing surfaces. The clay loams will still be quite wet, lacking the sunshine and air temperatures to raise the evaporation rates of the grass plants to help dry out the soil profiles.

The key to achieving the required pace is in the preparation of the pitch, particularly in the timing, weight and type of rolling undertaken. Many clubs have to make do with what they have. In some cases they may not have the right roller weight, thus never being able to achieve the desired level of play. The speed and pace of the bounce can be improved if rolling is carried out during the right conditions. Rolling when too wet or too dry will not maximise the use of the roller. It is essential to roll when the soil is at it's optimum moisture state.

Thisdiary-2006-rolling.jpg (click on link to see details of carrying out a proctor test). 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, and is useful in evaluating the effects of soil amendments on density and porosity.

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 of a wicket in preparation for a match should start and finish in line with the direction of play.

Rolling of the entire square should be carried out on three separate occasions during May, evenly spaced out between one another, with a roller weight between 1000-2500 kg. The first pass should be across the line of play, returning along the same path until the whole square is rolled.

Choosing and using the correct weight of roller is also critical for preparing cricket surfaces. See link for Article by Alex Vickers on Rolling cricket surfaces

Air temperatures should begin to rise in May, hopefully, thus increasing the growth rate of your sward. Regular grass cutting is essential to maintain a desired presentation of the sward, both on the outfield and square. Mowing of the square (2-3 times per week) and outfield (1-2 times per week) are usually the average mowing regimes at this time of the year for most cricket facilities. 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.

A spring/summer fertiliser should now be applied to encourage top growth, use at the manufacturer's recommended rates.diary-2006-crease-damage.jpg

Care should be taken when fertilising the square, initiating green lush growth on a wicket you are about to prepare is the last thing you want to achieve, as it will have an affect on the performance of the wicket.

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 rootzone 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, thus forming areas of non-uniform turf quality.

Below are typical wicket preparations starting 14 days prior to the match. Marking out the crease should be done with care, using frames or string lines to help achieve clear, straight lines.

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.

After match wicket repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris, soaking the wicket, scarifying, spike, top dress and overseed. Additional work may be required to repair foot hole damage.

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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.

Weed infestation can be prolific during May, when most weeds are actively producing flower and seed heads as part of the reproduction life cycle. These flower stalks can affect the appearance and performance of the outfield. A timely application of a broad leaf weed killer will control these weeds.

Apply selective broadleaf herbicides when plant growth is active. There are a number of products available for controlling broad leaf weeds in established turf.

These chemicals are best used when the weeds are actively growing, usually between April-October.

  • Tritox (Contains 178g/L (16.2%w/w) MCPA 54.g/L(4.9%w/w) mecoprop-p and 15g/L (1.4%w/w) dicamba and potassium salts. Scotts.
  • Intrepid 2. (Contains 20.8g/L dicamba,166g/L dichlorprop-p ans 166.5g/L MCPA). Scotts.
  • Greenor. (Contains: 40g/L fluroxypyr, 20g/L clopyralid and 200g/L MCPA). Rigby Taylor.
  • Bastion T. (Contains: 72g/L fluroxypyr and 300g/L mecoprop-p ). Rigby Taylor.
  • Dormone (Contains 465g/L2,4-D(38.1%w/w) as the diethanolamine salt). A herbicide which can be used near water. Bayer Environmental Science.
  • Supertox 30 (Contains 95g/L (8.8%w/w) mecoprop-p and 93.5g/L(8.7%w/w) as the diethanolamine salts). Bayer Environmental Science.

These herbicides are usually applied as a liquid using knapsack sprayers and vehicle mounted sprayers.

Ensure you follow manufacturer's directions, health & safety and product data sheets, and comply with COSHH regulations, when using these chemicals.

Herbicides are an effective tool where high quality turf is desired. However, they must be applied with care and accuracy and in the context of a good overall turf management programme. Before using any herbicide, carefully review the label for conditions of use including rates, methods of application, and precautions. Never use a herbicide in any manner contrary to its label and be sure that the herbicide will not injure the turfgrass species