Preparing a Cricket Wicket

This year’s ICC world cup starts on the 30th May and finishes on the 14th of July, no doubt a very busy year for our county cricket groundsmen, especially those, who will be hosting some of the World Cup matches at their grounds. Spare a thought for Karl Mcdermott who only this year took up his new post at Lords. Knowing Karl as I do, he like many cricket groundmen are very well organised and plan to the ninth degree the work that will be required to prepare a pitch for a cricket match, let alone an international world cup fixture. Those pitches have usually been identified a couple of years in advance. However, the recipe for preparing a good wicket is purely down to the effort and skill of the groundsman. As with all pitches, it is the work done in the Autumn that starts the process, followed by the effectiveness of the preseason rolling programme in February/March and finally the work completed during a 10-14 day wicket preparation. Every Groundsman's preparations will be different. No two pitches are ever the same and neither is the equipment, time and resources that the clubs may have at his disposal. Some clubs have covering and watering systems whilst others don't- these factors will have a major bearing on the outcome of the pitch preparations along with what resources and time the groundstaff have to undertake these preparations. Once you have acquired your fixture list, it is then a case of planning your pitch allocation for the whole season. You should aim to produce equal usage of each pitch. It will be necessary to place the more important fixtures towards the centre of the square and then work out accordingly. Consecutive matches should not follow on adjacent pitches as this could mean using a strip which may be damaged from the bowlers run-off from the previous match. The two outside pitches are often reserved for junior games or practice/artificial pitches. For the remaining pre-match days during the course of preparation, mow every day, or at least every other day, between the popping creases and, in cricket verticut combination with light scarification/brushing, progressively lower the cylinder to the desired height of cut (typically between 3-5mm), or as low as possible without scalping and ensuring the surface is not scarred or disturbed in any way. For first-class pitches, this should, ideally, commence at least 10-14 days prior to the match or, in the case of clubs, schools etc a minimum of five days before the match. Generally, most squares are maintained at a height of cut ranging between 12-15mm all year round
A well-prepared wicket will usually facilitate three to four matches before needing to be repaired, after match wicket repairs begin with the brushing and sweeping up of any surface debris, soaking the wicket, scarifying, spiking, topdressing and overseeding. Additional work may be required to repair damage to foot holes. It is important to carry out good repairs, as you may be required to use this wicket again later on in the season. Written by Lawrence Gale
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