0 Start of season cricket maintenance

Cricket Maintenance with Jon Buddington

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Here is the transcript of our latest chat forum, held on 25th April 2003 with North East ECB Pitch Advisor, Jon Buddington.

Editor: Good evening Jon, I hope you're well, thanks for joining us again and welcome to our members.

Jon Buddington: Good evening Dave, I'm very well thank you and good evening everyone.

Editor: Since we last spoke it has remained dry right up until the last couple of days- is that continuing to cause problems?

Jon Buddington: Typically the rain starts as soon as the season starts. Over consolidation has been the major problem for Groundsmen without irrigation facilities, but the same facts remain and we discussed this at length in the previous interview.

Editor: That's true, in fact you can read this in our consultancy section of the magazine.

Editor: Given that the rain has come at this inopportune time what should and could Groundsmen do to ensure the wickets don't get too wet?

Jon Buddington: Cover the pitch, only, that is under preparation with a cover, but a polythene sheet would do, and allow the rest of the square to absorb the rain.

Editor: How long can you leave a sheet or cover on the pitch, before it becomes detrimental to the ground and the grass?

Jon Buddington: Good question Dave, obviously you will need to monitor any changes in the surface, this includes disease, and over moisture. Sometimes it is unavoidable with inclement weather, but you have to weigh up the situation as it happens.

Editor: With sheets or covers presumably there will be a build up of moisture and encouragement of disease-how can you ease this situation without causing more problems?

Jon Buddington: Proper wicket covers although expensive are far better than polythene sheets, because they allow air flow circulation and a degree of light. If you only have sheets at your disposal, try to find some way of lifting them to allow the soil and grass to breathe, when there are breaks in the weather.

Editor: I worked with covers on football fields Jon and found that you needed to be careful of holes in the sheets.

Jon Buddington: Yes, that's very true. holes in the cover will actually be far worse than leaving the pitch totally uncovered, because there will be a congregation of water in a small area and this will cause the whole area to be unplayable.

Editor: A member asks: Good evening Mr. Buddington. What are the most common disease problems that you encounter on covered wickets?

Jon Buddington: Good evening, the most common problem associated with leaving sheets down is fusarium. Personally and maybe luckily I've never had to deal with the problem, because I monitored the use of covers. However the use of a preventative fungicide prior to longer cover use would be beneficial.

Editor: So a damp wicket is ok to play on then Jon?

Jon Buddington: Yes because it's consistent for both sides and while it will make the game slower, it wouldn't necessarily be deemed unfit by the umpire.

Editor: Since the season has started now, what should Groundsmen be doing in terms of repairs?

Jon Buddington: The first thing to do on a used pitch, is hand brush all debris from the foot marks and crease areas. Also use a brush attachment for your scarifying machine on the full length of the pitch to remove grass, roots, fibre, loam and dust. This provides a clean surface to begin repairs.

Editor: Some members have asked about the best way of repairing foot holes, what's your view on this?

Jon Buddington: Clean out all debris as above, hammer a spike into the bottom of the foot hole, soak the foot hole with water, mix a compatible loam with water to a consistency of bread dough. Push this mix into the hole, so it is slightly proud of the surface, then using a mallet or a block of wood, tamp down solid. Finish with some grass clippings over the top.

Editor: Grass clippings, is that to disguise the guilty foot hole?

Jon Buddington: No not really Dave, it's to retain some moisture and avoid the mix cracking. Otherwise it may dry to quickly.

Editor: A member asks: What does the spike do?

Jon Buddington: It provides a hole to key in the new and old loam, if there is no key the loam could kick out in one lump of Tupperware dish proportions!

Editor: Some people just tickle the bottom of the hole, is that not good enough?

Jon Buddington: Not if its the planting foot of a fast bowler, who could quite easily remove the repair.

Editor: Planting foot Jon?

Jon Buddington: It's the last step prior to the delivery of the ball, and invariably a lot of downward force will be involved.

Editor: I think this is a joke, but a member asks: How do you remove all of the spikes at the end of the season for cultivation, or do you just leave them?

Jon Buddington: You could leave them if the ground has an iron deficiency :) but seriously the spike purely creates a hole, it's not left in as a permanent fixture.

Editor: Joking apart would you make more holes than just one to help the keying in?

Jon Buddington: I would work on the basis of one spike hole per golf ball sized foot mark and no more.

Editor: How deep would the spike hole be?

Jon Buddington: About 50mm or two inches for us old 'uns.

Editor: Once the foot holes are repaired what else would you do to the used pitch?

Jon Buddington: The whole area should be watered to saturation point and once it is safe to walk on, Sarrel roll the whole area. Then a light dressing of a balanced fertiliser will help the recovery process.

Editor: When you prepare the square, the grass length is about 15mm, the strip prepared takes the grass down to the bone, how long does it take to recover after a game?

Jon Buddington: It would recover very well within a week, but to play on again would normally be at least ten weeks, depending on the size of square and the strips available.

Editor: A member asks: What about divots on a length e.g. from vandalism

Jon Buddington: The divots on a length obviously need repairing immediately because of Health & Safety!!! Water the divot, gently lift up compacted area with a hand fork, press back the divot from the opposite direction to the way it came out and fill with loam

Editor: and cover with grass clippings?

Jon Buddington: Yessss and stop taking the mick!

Editor: A member asks: Would it be acceptable to cultivate and top dress a strip after a match to try and speed the recovery process (faster than 10 weeks)?

Jon Buddington: Under no circumstance would you disturb a strip to that extent during a season. Even top dressing would not bed in properly in that time. For a start it is too dry, too warm and there are players running all over it during matches.

Editor: Would you play the next game on the next strip down?

Jon Buddington: Maybe Dave, dependent on the square size again. Normally you have your premier fixtures nearest the centre of the square and work the other games around these. The planning of strip use is always determined pre-season, usually during pre-season rolling when you can monitor the standards you are producing.

Editor: A member asks: What does Jon think about teams wanting a new strip every game, I have nine matches a week on my 20 wickets?

Jon Buddington: I can understand this from both points of view, from the Groundsmens point of view, a small amount of strips would be used for maybe four or five fixtures on the trot. From a players point of view the wicket is always best first time around.

Editor: What can you do in this situation though Jon?

Jon Buddington: Management need to understand, as do the players, that you cant fit a pint in a quart. There has to be compromise. Ultimately the first team takes priority on as many of the new strips as is possible.

Editor: On an average sized square how many games would you expect to host during a reasonable season, subject to weather?

Jon Buddington: I would expect an average square to consist of about fifteen strips, and each strip to host about four matches during the season. Probably 60-70 games would be the rule of thumb.

Editor: In the last few days the message boards have talked about marl and it's use, what is marl and what's its use?

Jon Buddington: Marl is calcium carbonate and calcium sulphate and also iron, it's heavy in its volume and contains about 30% clay. Marl was used traditionally as a dressing on the old clay artificial tennis courts and running tracks. It should under no circumstances be used for cricket wicket repairs because it is unstable when dry, and extremely sticky and unworkable when wet.

Editor: A member asks: I was once told at the age of 16 by a Groundsman that as well as marl the next best thing to use in foot holes was cement please comment Jon?

Jon Buddington: Again definitely not recommended. You wont get grass to grow, and you'll soon forget where the foot holes were as the season progresses. If you mix the loam properly as we talked about at the start tonight, it will set rock hard and be far stronger and there will be no headaches later.

Editor: What about silt then as a dressing?

Jon Buddington: Silt is a bit of a trickster, unless you have an analysis taken it will most certainly disguise itself as clay. You will wonder why you have a rock hard, good looking strip that plays terribly. The first days play on a new silt strip that has been prepared correctly, would be a wonderful game, and then severe dangers occur.

Editor: Why is that then Jon?

Jon Buddington: The ball will quickly go through the top and either pop up on a length or explode over the wicket keepers head towards the boundary. In more gentle circumstances, simply roll along the floor. The cause of this is that silt doesn't bind well together when there is a higher percentage of silt to clay and sand.

Editor: A member asks: My square floods twice a year from the river Severn and therefore has a lot of silt on the square would this make a great difference?

Jon Buddington: It would depending on how much silt was laying on the surface, in early season I would suggest trying to remove some of this with a powered brush. Otherwise the constant river floods, would dress the square in silt and create layering.

Editor: Presumably you'd want to get as much of the silt and debris off the square, after the water had subsided?

Jon Buddington: I assume that the river tends to flood in mid winter, so if conditions allow, a heavy brushing, followed by seeding and a light dressing in early March would avoid the silt build up.

Editor: What about fertilisers, how often and what types would you apply to the square and outfield?

Jon Buddington: I would use a temperature released fertiliser on the outfield and a mini gran fertiliser on the square.

Editor: How often though Jon, and what fertiliser balance would you use?

Jon Buddington: During the season on the square, I would personally use something like a 12:7:7 spring summer fertiliser, every four to six weeks. On the outfield, I may use a controlled release fertiliser like a 20:10:10, to give me an initial burst of colour and growth followed by a steady release through the season. The good thing about clay soils as many of you would know is that the grass tends to hold it's colour for longer. The most important thing about the fertiliser regime is to obtain a soil analysis first to make sure that the nutrient levels are acceptable.

Editor: Is it common for there to be nutrient deficiencies on cricket squares?

Jon Buddington: In general no, due to the fact that the smaller particle size of clay will reduce leaching of nutrients from the soil. Although during wet periods as with other soil types, leaching will take place and diseases such as red thread can become a problem. This is a sign of nutrient deficiency.

Editor: A member asks: Jon, do you advocate fertilisers with Iron?

Jon Buddington: I would not use fertilisers with an iron content during the playing season due to the fact that it reduces the binding quality of the soil. Obviously it is a much needed nutrient, but keep it away from the square until the end of the season. Iron is an important requirement for root growth, so use of iron based fertiliser in autumn is a must.

Editor: Staying on fertiliser, many Groundsmen like to get a good dose of nitrogen on early, do you recommend this?

Jon Buddington: After the winter, the square can look yellow and weary, and Groundsmen tend to want to get some colour back in the square quickly. I wouldn't panic, because too much early nitrogen will only encourage top growth which can be a danger to players, being lush and slippery.

Editor: A member asks: Do you think it is a good idea to back-off the iron in late fall (autumn) to winter in order to prevent leaching during the heavier winter rains?

Jon Buddington: No, I would never recommend holding back on an application on the basis that something may happen, the plant will still be accessing nutrients into the winter months-certainly in the UK anyway.

Editor: Another member asks: Is sulphate of iron suitable as a way of controlling moss during the winter on cricket squares ?

Jon Buddington: If the sulphate of iron is used in the correct amounts out of season, then its ok. The reason why Iron is not used during the season, is because the clay particles are given opposite electrical charges by the iron which force them apart and reduces their binding qualities. I would never use an iron based feed after February.

Editor: I think that we need to wind this up, because its Friday, its way past five a clock and I'm Crackerjacked!! Thank you very much Jon for another entertaining evening, and thank you to all the members for the questions.

Jon Buddington: Thank you Dave and to everyone, it's been a pleasure as usual, and good luck for the forthcoming season.

Editor: Goodnight

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