Sweating on the Test match weather
By Steve Rouse, Head Groundsman Warwickshire CCC
All in all, we've had an excellent start to the season here at Warwickshire. We've had some good dry weather, but it does mean we have been pumping gallons of water onto the square and the outfield. We've got pop up sprinklers around the square, but we have to use the hosepipe on the outfield. Ideally, I would like a full irrigation system around the ground but, at the moment, the club can't afford it.
With all the dry weather we have had no alternative but to keep flooding the square and it has performed really well. We have had one below average report all season which I was very disappointed about. I knew both umpires from my playing days and, on the fourth day, they both said it had been a very good cricket wicket - a bit in it for the quicker bowlers, and a bit in it for the spinners.
The next day I went to see the report and it said below average because the ball kept low on the last day. I did wonder what they expected, but I think a lot of it had to do with Chris Adams, the Sussex captain, who spouted off in the umpires room about one or two balls keeping low. Obviously, it had nothing to do with the fact that they had been stuffed out of sight!
We've got a big day ahead tomorrow with the start of the test match between England and South Africa. The weather forecast isn't very good with one or two showers expected during this afternoon and more rain expected on each of the other days. It looks as if it is going to be a busy test match, on and off with the covers. The lads are going to be getting wet, but its part of the job - if it needs doing it has to be done.
I reckon it is going to be quite humid for the start, so the ball should be moving around quite a bit.
We have had 10 days preparing the ground for the test. We had our last game here against Surrey a week last Sunday. We flooded the square immediately after the game, so much so that the water was lying on the top by the time I went home.
On the following day we long rolled and cross rolled the square and got a great surface. It took about 2 hours but the surface was magnificent, like a billiard table. The weather was very good so we just let it dry out slowly for a few days, then rolled it again on the Thursday. Since then we have been using the light roller, for a total of around 9 or 10 hours. The wicket is now nice and hard.
We left it uncovered on Monday and Tuesday this week because no rain was forecast. We covered last night (Wednesday) because some rain was expected. The wicket is looking good, so we'll give it a last brush and cut tomorrow morning before the start at 10.45am. I'll give it a final light roll - not even ¼ tonne roller - which just takes all the colour out of the wicket.
The outfield has been cut down from 10mm to 7mm just for the test match. We will let it grow back up to 10mm afterwards because, at the moment, it is so dry. Also, we've got a bit of a problem with the drainage we put in last winter. It has sunk and we had to fill the depressions with sand and seed. It's not a major problem, it just means this winter we will have to seed them all again.
All being well the test will be on until Monday and then we have a match here on Wednesday against India.
Recently, I've been trying some of these new Earthmate products. I've used them on the square and they really do seem to give the pitch a hell of kick. The sward is thicker and I'm sure they have helped the roots go down. The cores we have taken out show the white roots going down 6 to 8 inches. We had a 2 inch pan here some 3 years ago. I've done a lot of vertidraining but I also believe this stuff has helped pull the band together. I'm having some good results.
On Tuesday I'll get the wicket ready and then put a covering of the Earthmate plus on the wicket and wash it in.