All hands to the pump
By Steve Rouse
With our last game finishing on Tuesday, we now have a little bit of a break, before the four-day Championship game against Hampshire that starts next Wednesday. This game is then followed directly by the 'Sunday slog' with Nottinghamshire. The trouble is we then have the small matter of a test match ten days after the Sunday game.
Weather permitting we should be okay with the Test wicket, but the contractors are working hard to complete the new stand that we have had built.
At the moment we are in the middle of reinstating the outfield; which has been the 'roadway' for the builders to move materials around in front of the new stand. I can tell you that JCB's don't leave anything but mess behind them, so we have been re levelling and now turfing with Rolawn's big roll turf. These turfs are 70' long by 2' wide and we have used about seventeen rolls so far.
Our more routine work has seen us scarify the square three ways, cleaning out the sward, allowing the ground to breathe and keeping the annual meadow grass at bay.
The dry weather has meant that we have had to irrigate the square quite a lot. The players want a hard bouncing track and so the wicket needs to be dry for the games, however once it dries out it tends to start cracking. With the game finishing Tuesday, the first thing we have done is get as much water into the square as possible to moisten it up and iron out the cracks.
We have had to cover the wicket that we are preparing for the Hampshire game, because we don't want to get that one wet- it all gets a bit awkward at times!
Unfortunately with the next few days forecasted with rain, it looks like we will have to sheet up the whole square to avoid the square becoming to wet. I want to get as much natural water onto the test wicket as possible so that we can bring up the bounce with the subsequent rolling. Games are starting to come thick and fast, and the Hampshire track is very close to the test wicket, so I can't afford to compromise it, by leaving the Test wicket exposed.
If the Test wicket was soft during the Hampshire game than it would be damaged by the players causing scuffs and heel marks, because of its close proximity.
The Hampshire wicket has had nine hours or so of rolling so far, and I plan to do about two and half hours a day up until next Wednesday so it will have had about twenty five hours by the time the players start.
We will start our main rolling for the Test wicket about eight days before the game.
The outfield is cut at half an inch (11mm), at the moment, but we will shorten this for the test match to three eighths of an inch (8mm) for the test match, to add some speed.
The square is being maintained at just under a quarter of an inch (4mm).
Our biggest problem is working around these games; while players are out there we can't be preparing another wicket for the next game. When the test finishes on the Monday, we have two one-day games booked in for the Tuesday and then the Friday, we will be very much dependent on the weather, because we will work through the night to get these tracks prepared.