The Perfect Pitch is looking for expressions of interests to assist with acknowledging and encouraging curators across Australia (if we get big enough worldwide).
We are taking feedback on what the award levels should be and would encourage everyone to send in so we can identify the right mix and the level we extend to. We are thinking that the categories should be
Best Young Curator (30 and under)
Best at Major Ground
Best at Premier Cricket
Best at Council
Best at Subdistict
Best at Amateur
Best at Country
Best at Backyard
Ideally we’d like to be able to reward each category with something more than a The Perfect Pitch apparel and acknowledgement and if enough interest is warranted extend it into State & Territory.
If you’re an individual, business, brand or product that is related to cricket and would like to support our wicket artists and assist with getting a national award system for our trade off the ground get in touch email@example.com
We want feedback, inclusion and transparency, so any thoughts, ideas and suggestions that will get the possible result for our trade is the aim.
With the Australian summer starting to kick in, it is paramount that you manage the irrigation on your wicket block to ensure that you can maintain the turf coverage & recovery through the hottest part of the season. While couch is extremely hardy and can recover well from extended days without water it is essential that there is moisture in the lower half of the profile that the turf can live on to push through those hot summer days where it may not get water for three to four days. This article is on keeping the wicket table (resting pitches) in a healthy state during the preparation and use of a match day pitch.
It’s never too late (unless prior to play) to water your turf if you think it is struggling. If it needs water, it needs water. Only issues you’ll generally run into if you’re irrigating on a hot day are;
You setup some irrigation, turn it on and then get stuck into other work, a couple of hours later you remember and your square is flooded.
If the irrigation isn’t running, the item used can heat up extremely quickly, example being a sumi soaker which can leave a nice long burn mark the length of your table.
You over water, get the weather wrong, example, a cool change comes in and suddenly the square or bare areas won’t dry out.
A good indication of where your wicket block should be in the run of a mill preparing for a Saturday fixture is no deep or wide cracking at all on the wickets in rest. The first areas to generally crack open like this are the bare areas around the creases, in practice, it is good to give these spots an extra amount of water. The example shown below is where you should be happy going into a game the day before play. Jigsaw puzzle cracking, small but lots of pieces means that below the surfaces there is still plenty of moisture and the table should hold together nicely for the weekend.
This next picture shows the snake cracking that you don’t want happening before a match. Snake cracks which lead to large plate cracking should never appear on the wicket table unless you’ve had several days of cricket played and you’re unable to replenish the square. A snake crack indicates that moisture from below the 10 to 50mm of the profile is starting to dry out. If extended drying of the clay profile continues, larger deeper snake cracks will form where the moisture trapped in the bottom profile will be lost.
Continually drying and cracking at this level of a clay can cause irreparable damage to your square. It was previously believed that this was the best option to aerate the clay profile but this is no longer recommended. Large wide cracking (over 10mm in width) does significant damage to the turf, snapping root the system as it widens, causing damage to the plant itself but also leaving behind dead organic matter (thatch). If not properly prepared or maintained, low spots will then form where the major cracking has occurred, and significantly the cracking will return along those initially fractures and can be extremely hard to stop appearing once the issue presents.
Large and wide snake cracking should only generally appear on a pitch in use that is for a four or five day fixture as pictured below. If you are finding cracks like this on the your resting wickets, you need to up the watering, either time or add extra intervals.
Key points to remember about maintaining moisture in your wicket table;
Keep an eye on the weather, every day and look ahead into the week and even seasonal forecasts. If you know the week is going to be hot, putting extra water in earlier to prevent damage and keep your turf and clay healthy.
Watering early in the day or late evening is better, when temperatures are at their lowest and ground has cooled, allowing the plant and profile to absorb more. However, you can and should water during the day if your turf is struggling and your clay profile is breaking open.
Deep watering is required with a clay profile. This means pushing the water down with two to three sets of watering each day, before pitch preparation begins. With hot weather, you can lose upwards of 20mm a day in evaporation and transpiration. You want to replace this and then some. Water moving throw compacted clay can be as slow as 2mm an hour.
If you’re hand watering, give the foot holes and bare ends on resting pitches extra, these areas dry out quickest due to the black clay.
Get the water back in after the completion of a match as soon as possible. This will enable better turf recovery and ensure any large cracking is minimal.
Mow your square earlier rather than later in the day. Hot weather will shock the plant and mowing will double the damage if done in the heat of the day. You don’t want to stress your plant. Going up in height of the cut can also ease stress on the plant. 10mm is about right but if you have a sparse square, you may want to go slightly higher.
If you have the funds, look at anti-stress fertilisers and foliar application like silica for your turf. These will aid not only with getting the turf through hot conditions but recovery, plant and root strength.
These watering recommendations are recommended for Australian climates and countries that have temperatures continually going over 30 degrees during the summer.
Without moisture underneath the surface of your wicket table, the process of making a good cricket pitch becomes harder. Moisture is required for compaction of clay and without this ingredient in the area 10-200mm below the surface, your ability to prepare a good surface will be compromised.
And while the players might not thank you for it, if you are able to maintain a grass coverage on your square, you’ll have a surface that is less likely to cause grazes and cuts when players are fielding.
When dealing with watering, keep an eye on the weather, adjust to increase watering early in the piece rather than making it up later and don’t be afraid to water on hot days or before game day if you know there is adequate time for surface moisture to dry.
Do you think we’ve covered all the right areas, maybe left anything out or got it wrong? Don’t hesitate to get in touch, leave a comment on facebook, join the discussion so that everyone learns.
This article is directed at heavy clay wickets found in Australia and South Africa which have warm season grasses, however general clean up processes explained in here are still followed across the curating fraternity in Australia and internationally.
Proper care of a cricket pitch post match is vital for it to recover and maintain its integrity for years to come. Failure to do so will result in organic matter build up (thatch), hollowing out of the ends (batting crease/bowlers landing), poor turf recovery, general pitch unevenness, along with affecting pace & bounce. This can also lead to undesirables elements in the pitch such as disease and weeds.
The level of your clean up should revolve around the machinery you have available, when the wicket will next be used and if any issues were identified. The following equipment is commonly used;
Once a match has been completed, the first course of action is the decision of when you will clean begin maintenance on the wicket. It is optimal to clean the wicket up as soon as possible to aid the recovery of the turf with deep watering and return any lost moisture to the clay profile so that the table is in the best possible shape for preparation on the next match.
In club land, you have to accommodate what your timings are and if you are a club/part time/volunteer curator, try to find the best solution for you to ensure the best recovery of the wicket. The general process I follow is;
Match completed on Sunday afternoon
Irrigate the entire square on Sunday night
Inspect pitch in the morning
After lunch if pitch is dry enough begin clean up proccess
Brush out the ends heavily with a thick bristled broom into a dustpan/shovel
When the pitch is dry or only slightly tacky, run the scarifying rake/broom over the entirety of the pitch (helps to lift/dislodge organic matter stuck in the clay)
Use either a yard vacuum or rotary mower on the lowest setting to clean up debris lifted from rake/broom.
Fill areas that have been kicked out during the match with with fresh fine clay (preferably processed to <5mm in thickness). If you identify any small low spots on the pitch you can also fill these areas, ensure that you are not putting the clay over the top of organic matter or turf (fresh clay is going on to the existing clay profile).
Use the lawn leveler to rub the fresh clay in and even up the surface.
Cylinder mow the entire square to finish off (catcher on) at 10mm in height
Irrigate the entire square Monday night
The reason I irrigate the pitch on a Sunday night is because I want to get the turf growing as soon as possible and it also helps to lift any grass clippings out of the clay which are then easier to remove during the clean up process. This also based on my location being in Darwin, NT where cricket is played in the Australian winter. When a match finishes as scheduled at 6pm, you would have 20 to 30 minutes of good light to do the above with cricket played on the pitch on both days of the weekend which leaves you limited time to complete your work. Also a point to consider if it is the first day of a two day match, depending on the dead organic matter on the pitch, you can avoid using the scarifying rake/brooming the wicket for the first week of maintenance. However, if grass snakes are prevalent, I would recommend raking/brooming the pitch regardless. Grass snakes are where grass clippings/matter clump together after flooding the pitch.
Anecdotal evidence from my observation is the turf recovers quicker through this method than potentially waiting another 12 hours, with the bare areas only taking a couple of weeks to fill in. Darwin also experiences heavy dew all year round and cleaning up on a Monday morning can get a little messy, so leaving it to the afternoon would be a further couple of hours without water. From my position in Darwin, I would recommend the above method as a part time curator would need to only attend the ground for approximately an hour or so on Monday afternoon before returning for preparation on a Wednesday or Thursday morning.
However, in different areas of the Australia, weather conditions vary, along with the opportunity to do this on a Sunday if there is no cricket on your ground. You should be full aware of what is going to ensure you can adequately clean up a pitch after the match. If you are in the position to follow best practice, the steps I would take are as follows;
Inspect pitch to identify what is required
Yard vacuum pitch/rotary mow on lowest setting
Lightly irrigate pitch only to lift stuck clippings.
Let dry or to a slightly tacky state before proceeding.
Run the scarifying rake/broom over the entirety of the pitch (helps to lift/dislodge organic matter stuck in the clay)
Yard vacuum/rotary mow on lowest setting
Fill areas that have been kicked out during the match with with fresh fine clay (preferably processed to <5mm in thickness). If you identify any small low spots on the pitch you can also fill these areas, ensure that you are putting the clay over the top of organic matter (fresh clay is going on the existing clay profile).
Rub clay in with lawn leveler to even up surface
Cylinder mow the entire used pitch and square to finish off (catcher on) at 10mm in height
Irrigate entire square
In the instance that you are putting a pitch to bed (not using it for several months or its use for the season maybe completed), these are the steps that one can take;
Scarify entire wicket
Yard vacuum/rotary mow pitch (do a couple of runs up and down the wicket on either side)
Lightly top dress entire wicket (extra in the kicked out areas as well as any areas on the side wickets which batsmen/bowlers run up/down)
Use large lawn leveller/screed (ideally 2.5m to 4m in width and requires at least two people to use) to go up and down the wicket
Use normal lawn leveller to even out areas and do side to side/diagonal directions across the pitch, this also helps to rub the soil in
You can do the 5 and 6 process as much as you want to get the most even surface possible.
Run light roller over the pitch
Fertilise (and seed if it is your preference/apply seed prior to top dressing)
A couple of tips with your clay, if you can’t get it in finely processed option, so it is coarse greater than 5mm in size. Top dress the pitch as per step five but also run the heavy roller or light roller over it up and then repeat step five again. If your clay still doesn’t break down to a workable size, the next option is to give it a light water, the clay will absorb the moisture. Let dry, this may mean coming back the next day, from here you can either run the heavy or light roller over it again and then repeat step five. If you don’t have a light roller, you can use your cylinder mower (do not have the blades running and either lift the cutting height so the bedknife doesn’t hit any bits of clay and/or lean the machine back while moving so that the front roller is lifted).
Fresh clay will tend to swell more than the existing clay profile, so be careful filling the kicked out areas on the crease and bowlers follow through especially if you are using the wicket the following week as you might have little hills that could end up being stuck to the barrel when you do your first roll.
To finish, clean up is important and for you to get the best out of your pitch, you need to ensure you remove detrimental elements to the wicket after use along with your normal pre-season renovation and top dress. I would also recommend giving the square a light scarify and vacuum mid season along with an end of season clean up. Unless there are any major lows in the pitch, I would not top dress at the end of the season because you’ll be wasting time, resources and money. As per all the articles that I’m writing, you have got to do what is best for your situation and if you can’t clean up a wicket until later in the week or the next week, it is still better than not doing it all. If there are any points, suggestions or tips that you use to help with you wicket clean up, fire away!
Great to see the recovery only a few days later from Brett Fraser at Fletcher Park. Home to the Perth Cricket Club in Western Australia, Brett is a regular contributor to The Perfect Pitch.
Vandals attacked the square on Saturday night on November 25th, doing circle work with a bike. The pitch still being rock hard has limited the damage however it does cause some distress for the curator regardless.
Brett was able to make a full recovery for the weekend just gone presenting a belter where the runs flowed.
Cricket pitches are an easy target for reckless vandalism, with costs generally never recovered. Last year Brett also had a similar experience with the pitch being attacked with the star pickets that are used to rope off the square.
Again, he was able to rectify the damage and ensure the game goes on.
Marino Nugter has contributed regularly over this season and his wickets continue to improve. Curating in QLD, here’s a little about the wicket he maintains;
Marburg Mustangs and Mt Crosby Sharks were two separate clubs but officially merged three years ago. Since the merger, they left grounds at Marburg and we now use two council fields at Tivoli Sporting Complex and one field at Mt Crosby Weir. Marino Nugter, Kel Janke and Peter Johansson look after the wickets at Tivoli, which is shared with St Edmunds College. St Edmunds only use them for cricket for about 8 weeks on Saturday at the start of the school year and then Thunder seniors play on them rest of time.
The juniors then play on the Sunday. To keep wickets/blocks in good nick, Marino and Peter look after them as they don’t have a cricket groundsman at Edmunds. Before these three came along, the squares were uneven and sparse. In their first season, the wickets were still inconsistent bounce, low balls shooting through but with a lot of work going into them, they’re now close to flat. Bounce and carry has improved with the extra attention and rolling. Unfortunately no play on this belter with the matches called off on the Saturday and Sunday with temperatures in Ipswich reaching 40 and 43 degrees.
Prince Alfred College, Adelaide SA
Daimon Jones sent in this quality school wicket from Adelaide. Along with Phil Penn, they look after the 1st XI wicket for Prince Alfred College. Daimon recently made the move to PAC a month ago to take up the position of Manager Grounds. This wicket saw an uneven contest against close rivals. Dismissing Pembroke for 90, it was easily chased down by PAC with loss of only two down. Coaches were happy with the pitch, commenting that it played well and offered turn to the spinners.
Trinity College, Gawler SA
Wilson Otto shared this beauty of a pitch is located at Trinity College, Gawler SA where Trinity College First XI took on Sacred Heart College First XI in a T20. SHC batted first posting 5/137 and then bowled Trinity out for 88 much to a surprise as it was a batsmen’s paradise. This match was a tussle between two private schools looking to win the One Day State Knockout Tournament later this season.
Merrylands Oval, Parramatta NSW
Brad Horn is the curator at Merrylands Oval which is one of the leading and most well kept decks in the Sydney Premier Cricket Competition. This pitch in particular was prepared for a Parramatta 1st XI match against Blacktown but was canceled due to the heat wave on the weekend. Brad will get the same pitch up for this weekend, with the match being reduced to a One Day game. Should be even better this week having a good base on it from last weeks preparation with scores in the high 200’s expected if the weather doesn’t intervene.
Fletcher Park, Perth WA
Brett Fraser did a cracking job to get Fletcher Park up and about for the recent two day fixture between Perth and Melville in 2nd XI WACA Grade Cricket. Last Saturday the pitch was vandalised with star pickets but was rectified and play commenced with Meville batting first to make a competitive 5 for 318.
The second week of play saw the weather intervene, Thursday and Friday copping 122mm of rain fall. Fletcher Park and one other were the only two grounds not abandoned, with second day starting three hours late. There were some delaying tactics from Perth with concerned raised about with a wet area in the outfield. Needing 319 off 55 overs but were bowled out with three overs left in the day.
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MowMaster Turf Equipment sent us a Scarifying Rake to trial for use.
The rake is simple to use and the resistance when pushing is up to the user. It is no harder than when brooming a pitch. It is has an adjustment for operator to set at a height suitable.
We used the rake to clean up two recent practice wickets and a centre wicket that was a couple weeks old.
The theory behind the rake is it opens up the turf surface, but leaves the grass stolons intact. By leaving more stolons, wickets should recover quicker than if you remove them by de-thatching or grooming.
From using the rake only once, it does a great job in the clean up of a wicket. While a scarifier will dislodge more organic matter, these pictures are of one run over and medium resistance on a very hard surface. Running the rotary mower over after, we picked up a full bag of matter from the two pitches.
We believe better results would be achieved if the wicket was not in such a hard state and will follow up with another review when the 2017 season turns around (as we’re based in Darwin).
In essence though, this is a great, non-expensive tool, that does an effective job at preparing a wicket prior to use or a quick alternative to recovering a pitch.
A trial and error approach to find the best time to use is needed. It is also great for standing grass up and will definitely use in lead up prep on full coverage decks.
If you are considering a purcahse, contact Mowmaster via their FB page, their
or alternatively through us here at the Perfect Pitch