Keith Boyce (10/05/02)
By David Markham
Rain is often a grounds man's greatest enemy but not this spring as Yorkshire Academy Groundsman Keith Boyce explains.
"The problems of excessive rain and wet grounds are obvious, but the dry weather brings its own problems", says the former Headingley Groundsman.
Keith, now based at New Rover CC north of Leeds, which is the also the headquarters of the highly acclaimed Academy, said: "The ground is very dry. Although we had a lot of water last week the ground is drying out all the time.
Apart from that brief period about ten days ago when we had some storms we have not had any rain and now the season has begun it doesn't make it easy to irrigate but it is something we have got work around.
The dry ground doesn't make pitch preparation easy. The problem is my square has dried out too quickly. Even at this stage of the season I don't expect to get as much use out of the wickets as I was getting last year.
I don't think the wickets will last as long first time around this season. Last year I would expect a minimum of 350 overs from the pitches before I took them out of use. Then, when the pitches come back into use again six to seven weeks later you would expect to get another 180 to 200 overs out of them, but this time I would expect only 150 overs.
One obvious solution is artificial watering, but, although the water goes into the spike holes, you don't get that uniform moisture in the soil that rain provides and that's what you need to prepare the wickets. You look forward to that uniform moisture in spring when you roll down the pitches.
It may be that the spinners will enjoy themselves on the dry pitches, but I fear there won't be the amount of pace in them that we are used to. With the pitches being so dry I will be surprised if we get sustained pace, but I think the bounce will be very good.
I don't think pitch preparation will be easy this year but I am still enjoying it.
I have got problems with the spike holes in my various pitches because I can't close them. To try to solve these problems, I am going to try to brush top dressing into those spike holes.
Also, when the pitch has been used and I take it out of play, I will keep all the sweepings from the wicket ends. They will end up as fine dust and I will try to brush it in.
With New Rover and Yorkshire Academy both playing regularly at the ground that makes for a busy season. We have 25 days of cricket out of 31 in May, which doesn't give us a lot of chance to water the pitches. I water at night, and then I roll first thing in the morning. On these occasions I used a White's two-ton auto roller, which is recognised as one of the best rollers.
The outfield could certainly do with a good feed, but I can't guarantee getting four or five hours of steady rain to wash it in and I can't risk fertilising because the ground is too dry. If the dry weather continues it is going to be very serious especially for the outfield. It is certainly not going to be in its normal pristine state."
It's an ill wind that blows no one any good, however. For, although the dry weather causes some problems, there are some advantages".
As Keith says: "We have had problems of moss in the past, but the moss doesn't like these dry conditions nor do the worms. The moss disappears because of the dry surface so that is a plus for dry weather".