No County games but still busy
By David Markham
It's seven years since Yorkshire played a county championship match at Park Avenue, yet Bradford's premier cricket ground remains one of the busiest, hosting more than 60 matches as well as other sports.
I remember watching Len Hutton score a century there and Fred Trueman bowling from the pavilion end with the handsome and distinctive Edwardian edifice some 50 years ago. In those days it was the favourite ground for Yorkshire members but, in 1986, the decline set in when the old Bradford cricket club abandoned the ground, demolished the pavilion and Yorkshire ceased to play there.
The county returned in 1992 for five seasons before cutting down on all their out grounds apart from Scarborough and they also abandoned Park Avenue as the headquarters for their famed academy. Fortunately, Park Avenue was chosen as the headquarters of the Bradford-Leeds universities centre of excellence partly funded with money provided by the ECB while Chris Cay and his co-Groundsman Richard Robinson have been gradually restoring the square to something like its former standard.
Besides the university matches and practice sessions, Park Avenue is being used this season by Bradford League club Brighouse, who are playing there in 2003 while their new ground is being created.
There have also been lots of schools matches, Chris and Richard have had to mark out four rounders pitches for use by the schools for tournaments, there is a five week Enjoy Cricket junior coaching course for all ages, and locally based England ladies cricketers regularly use the pitch for practice. The local Asian community use it for Kabadi and other sports which need special markings.
Chris said: "We had a mild spring and we had to prepare practice wickets for the university's centre of excellence in March because their matches start during the first week in April. The university team played Yorkshire at Park Avenue and we got good marks and positive reports from the first class umpires who were officiating at the match as well as from the feedback from senior players and the Yorkshire players who played here in that match.
The pitch was fine for that match - and the best I have known it since I started here in 1995 - but we know there is still some work to be done. We have been scarifying until we are pretty satisfied with the way the square was playing and there is also a satisfactory grass covering. The wickets are preparing well and they also dry quicker which is synonymous with a clean surface.
We have been watering non-stop all day every day when the weather has been dry, but the outfield is becoming parched. We have used some fertiliser and this gives a nice tinge to the outfield. We have 16 strips on the square, we are halfway through the season and we have used just over half the strips. We won't use any old ones again.
The old strips that we are renovating won't be used again until next season. We are scarifying using graded scarifiers and removing all the dead grass. We are also aerating the soil to allow the seed to drop into the holes. We have applied a light top dressing, covered the square with germination sheets for weeks and we have watered thoroughly.
We have repaired seven pitches which is nearly half our square. We haven't done it to that extent before so early in the season. We are happy with the square and we have enough strips to get us through the rest of the season. We will scarify in the autumn but not as heavily as we have done.
We have the time and the machinery to enable us to do the work, including a White's 1.75 ton auto roller which can increase to 2.5 tons when it is filled with water. The pitches are still a bit slow, but they have never been overly quick. On occasions we have tried to leave on some extra grass to increase the pace of the square.
If there is any criticism the pitches are a bit slow, but a lot of pitches are. However, we have found the bounce is a bit more consistent now and there is an even cover of grass on our wickets. The marks have been really positive. The pace is consistent and the bounce is good. That comes from the feed back from the players."