All eyes were on Birmingham this summer, as the XXII Commonwealth Games took over the second city. The legacy of the Games isn't only evident through investment in international sporting venues, but in grassroots clubs too - and Moseley Cricket Club is a prime example.
Lying in leafy Solihull, just five miles from Edgbaston's hallowed turf, Moseley Cricket Club is one of Birmingham's oldest. Founded in 1855, it is among the founding members of Birmingham and District Cricket League - the oldest in the world - in which it is still active.
But this is a historic club with its sights set firmly on the future. So when, in 2018, the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) approached the club about its picture-perfect ground becoming an Official Training Partner for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, the opportunity was welcomed by a forward-thinking committee, with Head Groundsman Peter Day and Chairman Malcolm Eustace heading up the project.
Investing in the future
From the ECB's perspective, Mosely CC was not only ideally placed as a training ground for the Commonwealth Games but was a strong candidate for its substantial investment in women's and girl's cricket. The long-term aim was to provide a high-class training venue for women cricketers at Moseley CC, in Warwickshire and across the West Midlands through a project supported by Warwickshire Cricket and Central Sparks women's regional cricket team. Dr Iain James, Head of Facilities Services at the ECB, explained:
Head Groundsman Peter Day Right: The area to be transformed into a new natural turf practice facility before work commenced
"The ECB wanted a venue that could be a training venue for the Commonwealth Games but also provide a legacy of great facilities for women's and girls' cricket in the region, long after the Games have finished. To help deliver a successful training venue, we funded improvement in facilities through our 'ECB Transforming Women's and Girls Cricket' grant fund."
With funding secured, the ECB Facilities Team oversaw the drawing up of plans to bring the club's facilities up to the required standard - including the installation of new hybrid pitches, upgrading the club's existing non-turf practice nets and the creation of a new, natural turf practice facility. However, no-one could have predicted the impact of the forthcoming COVID-19 pandemic and, with international sporting events on hold for almost two years, the question over whether the Games would be able to go ahead loomed large.
Following the success of the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics and further easing of restrictions, work began in earnest on the project in autumn 2021, at the end of the cricket season. Six SISGrass hybrid wickets were installed on the square by SIS Pitches, and cricket pitch specialist total-play Ltd was approached in early September to provide a design-and-build solution for the new natural turf practice nets facility, as the international players would need to practice on grass rather than a synthetic surface.
'Profile Construction' works commenced in October 2021 to create a new natural playing surface for the new training facility
From vision to reality…
To meet the brief from the ECB Facilities Team, total-play MD David Bates drew on his years of experience as a first-class groundsman to propose a retractable netting solution that could be fitted over a prepared area of turf; creating a facility that could be easily maintained and of use not only for the duration of the games but by the club in future. However, with less than a year to transform a regular turfed area into a high-performance natural turf cricket surface, time was of the essence.
Work started on the natural turf area in the second week of October 2021, using the process of Profile Construction; creating a new playing surface using imported loam directly on the existing soil base - less deep than the construction of a new table, but a better solution given the time constraints at play. With surface construction underway, David's attention turned to the design of the netting system that would enable the nets to be retracted when not in use as a practice facility - offering a space saving and flexible solution, now christened 'Pro Netting'.
A rigorous maintenance schedule was prescribed for the newly constructed playing surface, which was followed through to May when the new netting system and perimeter barrier were installed to ensure it would be play-ready by summer.
Left: The new 'Pro Netting' natural turf practice facility designed and installed by total-play Ltd Right: A Climate Cover SystemTM with inflation tube was provided to protect the new natrual nets facility, with further covers supplied to protect the entire square
Elsewhere, total-play's non-turf expertise was drawn on to replace an ageing artificial match pitch on the club's second ground, with a new ECB approved match pitch built to the flagship tp365 system design - and to refurbish the club's existing practice nets facility; stripping the system back and replacing shock pads, carpets and netting. David also worked in a consultancy capacity alongside contractor DW Shotton to resolve historic flooding issues on the ground by amending the irrigation system to the new natural practice area and installing new perimeter drainage.
Made-to-measure pitch protection
With significant investment in its surfaces, the club's need for robust ground protection systems both on its square and new natural turf practice facility was apparent - and again total-play presented the solution.
For the main square, David worked with the club to prescribe a bespoke covering system made up of several individual covers - including its Climate Cover System and several Rain Cover Flat Sheets, offering different benefits to individual areas, to protect the entire square and provide all the protection the club would need in a game situation.
Before and after
Over on the new natural practice facility, another bespoke covering system was designed - this time a Climate Cover System with integrated inflation tube for quick and easy deployment across the whole area, and a neat storage system to the side of the facility ensuring the cover is always in place ready to deploy. This meant that, whatever the great British summer threw our way, the international teams would be able to practise on a dry natural surface as soon as any inclement weather passed.
With project works completed by early summer and the new facilities ready for use, cricketers from the international Commonwealth teams arrived in July and trained intensively at the ground for the two-week duration of the competition. For the first time in Commonwealth Games history, it was short format Women's cricket that took centre stage with Australia, Barbados, India, Pakistan, England, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka all represented.
With the new facilities having been thoroughly tested by some of the world's best players over the course of the games, the club is now looking forward to a bright future boasting some of the finest infrastructure of any grassroots club. The prevalence of Women's cricket at the Games was especially poignant as one of Moseley's key aims for the future is to grow its Women's Cricketing presence - attracting and retaining female members alongside its strong youth and male contingent, in-line with the ECB's legacy plans.
Leading West Midlands women's cricket side, Central Sparks, now use the club as a training base and it is hoped that their presence, alongside an energetic recruitment campaign, will help inspire more women to join the club and enjoy this fast-growing element of the sport. Dr Iain James said: "We worked closely with Birmingham 2022, Moseley CC, and our delivery partners throughout the project to help make T20 cricket at the 2022 Commonwealth Games a success. We look forward to working with Moseley CC, Warwickshire Cricket and the Central Sparks to build on that legacy going forward."
The future is certainly looking bright from the club's perspective, too - Club Chairman, Malcolm Eustace, commented: "We are beyond delighted with the new facilities - so, in addition to the honour of hosting some of the finest international players in the women's game, we now have a sound foundation to build on for the future. We'd like to say a huge thanks to everyone involved in the project - to the ECB - especially Iain James and Andy McKay - to SIS, TGMS, Shottons - and to David Bates and the team at total-play."
"In addition, special thanks must also go to my predecessor Dick Chase, who oversaw and managed the Commonwealth Games ground project on behalf of the club, and especially to Gary Barwell, Head Groundsman at Warwickshire County Cricket Club, for his invaluable support, advice and encouragement that gave us the confidence in our ability to complete and deliver some of the preparation work crucial to the successful delivery of the project."
Left: An aeriel view of the new natural turf training facility with nets retracted, and the refurbished non turf practice nets in the background Right: total-play also installed a new, ECB approved non-turf match pitch on the club's second ground