Club land – Kensington District Cricket Club

Ford Oval
Women’s junior and Limited Overs Turf cricket predominately use Ford Oval.

In early January of this year, it was awesome to return to Adelaide and spend a day back rolling the decks at Kensington District Cricket Club (located in the picturesque Kensington Gardens parkland). It surprised me a couple of months ago when the Daily Telegraph released their pick of XI South Australian cricket grounds and the famous club’s old haunt featured ahead of their now home of many years.

Having played at Kensington from 2000 to 2008 and previously worked the wickets as a lackey and as a curator, I do my best to return to the gem that is the Browns. Aptly, the head curator and captain of the Browns is Jake Brown. Brownie runs Adelaide Sports Turf Services and has now been curating KDCC since 2010 with fellow player Scott Aufderheide.

kdccgoogle
Aerial view of the Kensington District Cricket Club

Inside the Browns pavilion are a feature in themselves, with Grimett and Bradman standing out on the honour boards while premierships photos across all grades litter the walls. The pavilion looks out onto the the main and middle ground, Parkinson Oval, while to the left is Ford Oval and to the right, above the creek bed is Colonel Waite. They share the facility with Burnside Rugby Union Club (who take over from April to September with separate club rooms), which they’ve formed a strong relationship with in recent years and ensure that squares get through the winter in as good a nick.

The Parkinson square is a six wicket block with Santa Ana couch grass and in recent years has changed from being a slow wicket favouring the batsmen to a the pitch offering pace, bounce and movement early to become a fair cricket pitch. Besides a period in the mid 90’s the wicket hasn’t had any major work. Ideally the pitch could be a seven wicket block and proud of the outfield. The irrigation that surrounds the square is slightly out and doesn’t provide the most even coverage so sumi soakers do get a fair run.

20690194_1182531895184349_487449860959811165_o
Premier Cricket and Second grade feature on the main ground during the regular season.

On the rise opposite the club rooms, being the far side of Parkinson Oval are their turf training nets while at the duck pond end (where many a ball have been lost) are their hard wicket nets. Their turf training nets are of a great quality, with a strong covering of couch through out bar the block holes which cop a serious pounding due to large number of juniors and seniors training. The net system itself while doing the job, is due an upgrade.

One of the great assets of preparing wickets at Kensington is the grass tennis court and bowls club next door, which at times has an endless supply of clippings to use in the early preparation of training wickets in particular (do not use bowling greens clippings on a pitch due to potential sand on the leaf). Jake has continued to foster a strong relationship with them along with the Burnside City Council who maintain the outfields and irrigation.

24296701_1278551538915717_902656941684190769_n
A 24m wide turf practice wicket, allowing four nets to be prepared and used from Tuesday to Thursday.

The top oval and predominately 3rd/4th grade, Col. Waite is a small ground, with cow generally being the bigger hit. Going straight is rewarding particularly if you can get the new ball into the creek, but early on the five pitch square which has South African couch grass, does offer assistance. However after tea, it flattens out considerably and runs are to be had. Batsmen enjoy jumping on the front foot here and stay there all day, so if the bowling team hasn’t taken early wickets, it can be a long day. The SA couch does present extremely well and comebacks beautiful even after the hottest periods which are frequent in Adelaide during the summer in late January/February before the weather turns in March.

16265587_1016870958417111_1736720722275154457_n
Used by 3rds & 4ths along, this Col. Waite’s square features rarity on Australian wickets, South African Couch.

Ford Oval, most notably for it’s large gum tree on the ground (the Kensington eblem) is a cricket square in it’s prime and would rival most premier cricket pitches in Adelaide for presentation. Less than a decade old, the pitch was dug up several years ago and replaced due to the thrashing it receives in a regular season. Previously it was only 2.5 wickets wide and had a infestation of kikuyu grass while the clay profile had a high level of thatch.

20180104_082251329985319.jpg
Ford Oval in early stages of preparation.

With the amount of junior cricket along with women’s and limited overs turf, the Club made the correct decision to relay the square and increase the size. Now a five wicket block, great coverage with a nice collar of Santa Ana couch, Ford Oval  even with the short straight boundaries, would easily be able to host high grade cricket.

All in all, Jake Brown does a great job preparing and maintaining the turf facilities at Kensington and while not a great deal has changed at face value, a major purchase of a Mowmaster roller a few years ago has definitely made an impact to wickets, with Parkinson Oval definitely enjoying the heavier pressing.

If you’re in South Australia and need an expert turfie, though biased, I highly recommend Jake. Don’t hesitate to get in touch @ Adelaide Sports Turf Services website/Facebook for a renovation and/or regular maintenance of your lawn, tennis court, cricket square or other sports surface.

Additionally if you’re a cricket club that would like The Perfect Pitch to come past review your club in the summer of 2018/19 drop me a line at; theperfectpitch@perfectcricketpitch.com

 

The Fizzer

A lot of critics after the first day of the Boxing Day Test. Arguably the biggest fixture in the calendar of the game. Close to 100k in punters, mostly wanting English blood either through the stroke of the willow or the pace of the leather. It seemed with the toss that one was going to happen with a rampant David Warner but at the end of play, us Aussies were contained to a slow scoring day.

Every time a picture is posted on The Perfect Pitch, of metal box that is a drop in deck, negative comments arise. And as it is with this Boxing Day Deck that we again see these comments capitalise. Lets put it all in perspective though, it’s the first day, and now we obviously have the second completed, England are even and this pitch while docile is offering. Is the pitch to blame, the grounds staff and curator or is it CA and ECB, or just this modern age of T20 and millionaire cricketers?

I have to be tight with my tongue when commenting on but I can tell you this, the curator isn’t paid enough to cop all this shit (salary for the year wouldn’t be 50 cents off everyone who attended this test) and the powers that be that want exciting cricket but for it to last five days are kidding themselves to say the least.

No one is coming to the defence of a new curator, doing the gig for the first time, err on the side of caution cause this might be your last pitch. Not one commentator or pundit will praise the ground staff for whats provided besides a sleek outfield which is their wage per year times 100, and no one is saying they should but where they offer critcism, there is never respite and when a bowler bowls a good ball that gets a wicket or a batsman plays a true stroke that makes a run, the skill isn’t in what was provided.

The pitch today was flat as a tack but then two paced but once you’re in it gets easier to score and on day two and three it’ll be a treat but wait a second here it’s different with the new ball or old ball or something you find in your bathroom sink. The critics of the wickets know more about it than the techniques behind hitting or bowling the ball but when they see a blade of grass they say, aren’t you going to cut that? Like they’re scared of green but in England and New Zealand it’s called seam.

As Aussies I believe we’re tough cricketers and as a Curator, we have to be but at times we let ourselves down by bowing to the skipper or profile of the match that is being played to ensure the result is not as contrived as it seems. This is not to say there shouldn’t be home ground advantage but it is to say that Test Cricket doesn’t have to last five days and that the teams that are good enough don’t give it up and that Curators are artists that have a brush and that if you’re a batsman that doesn’t like green or a quick that can’t move the ball off the seam then maybe you should favour spin but it is unlikely you’ll find reprieve.

Spin Wickets – Australian Test Camp in Darwin

In August of this year, the Australian Test Squad had a pre-tour camp in Darwin, Northern Territory at NT Cricket’s facility, Marrara Cricket Ground.

The site has two ovals, the main ground being the same dimensions as the Melbourne Cricket Ground, along with a number two ground approx. 3/4 the size. Along with two practice net facilities and one located across the road at TIO Stadium.

The videos below are the number two practice wickets and they were each prepared differently to try and reflect different days of the wicket in Bangladesh/Asian conditions in a test match. Three wickets in total, each pitch was 2.5 metres wide and with limited traditional rolling.

Pitch one is based on end of day three to day five. It has extended wear through the bowlers follow through and crease area. There was considerable natural variation and from one of the test hopeful spin bowlers was quoted as saying it was as close to Indian wickets as he had experienced.

Pitch two was sealed half way down and then artificial wear created to resemble the early stages of bowler follow through. This was to fall inline with late day one to day three pitch deterioration.

Pitch three was then prepared to standard of a first day wicket in the subcontinent/Asian conditions. With the added clippings etc. it probably played a little better than it should and the dusting wasn’t quite as effective with the clippings not allowing the clay to dust, rather continue to replicate Australian conditions of little jigsaw style pieces coming out. However the bounce and spin was still represented well.

Fletcher Park

Fletcher Park Vandalism & Recovery

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. 24201185_10215301991207556_1204306440_o.jpg

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.

24271070_10215301991447562_1399216703_o.jpg

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.

Backyard Belters

Welcome to The WCG – Backyard Belters

Welcome to our first edition of Ground’s in Focus supported by Gabba Sporting Goods. We venture to the suburbs of Sydney to the White Cricket Ground where this backyard cricket gem is located and has two main men running the show. We got in touch with one of them, Brendan Scott, to have a chat about how it all came about.

15128976_1683306601981982_7989887524609836542_o

TPP: So Brendan, tell us a bit about the WCG and how long has it been going and how it came about?

Brendan: This is our second year at the WCG. The truth is there are two of us behind what has become the WCG. Myself (Brendan) and my good mate Matt. It’s his house that we play at, he is responsible for all the curating and I look after the logistics such as team arrangements, itinerary, advertising etc. We both have loved cricket from a very early age, and always will. we both grew up in the Bankstown area in south western Sydney.

TPP: What is your average week like when preparing the WCG?

Brendan: Matt will cut and maintain the ground and I will be trying to work out the logistics of the day.

13450832_1606052016374108_6338800624192912268_n

With their club cricket days behind them, it hasn’t stopped the backyard cricket from being just as enjoyable. Their most recent test at the WCG is one of their most memorable. Brendan’s XI were rolled for the lowest total ever recorded at the WCG in a test match 19 in the first innings to be dead in the water, only to fight back and knock over Matt’s XI for 36.

Setting the home team 91 to win, Brendan’s XI shone with the ball to win by 41 runs. They had great inaugural T20 Competition Final where the match went down to the last ball. The beauty of the commitment to their backyard setup is all these matches can be viewed on their YouTube channel, WCG Backyard Cricket.

TPP: What are the key ingredients for making a wicket for you, do you experiment with your wicket and what is your ideal backyard pitch?

Brendan: Fertilizer and water straight after a match to begin the process, then constant water to allow the grass to grow, with light rolling on match day. We take the better safe than sorry approach to wicket preparation, looking for even surface & bounce but also has its own unique characteristics.

TPP: What’s your best piece of machinery and is there apiece equipment that you’d like to get to improve the quality of your surface and preparation?

Brendan: Our little push mower, trims the pitch nicely and maintains a good level. A heavier roller would be ideal.

wcg2

TPP: What are issues you face currently such equipment or resources?

Brendan: Time. Work obviously takes up most of our time and it’s hard to get motivated after a 10 hour day.

TPP: How do you see backyard cricket progressing in the future, as it has previously had quite a following in places like New Zealand with proper competitions?

Brendan: I certainly hope so. everyone has their own unique backyard with unique rules, scoring areas, dismissals etc. would be great to form some sort of competition.

TPP: What type of balls are allowed in your match, are swing balls allowed to be re-taped, any special conditions with your venue?

Brendan: We use full and half taped tennis balls. Can’t be given out LBW if playing a stroke. If you hit the ball over the fence you’re just out, not 6 and out. Apart from that it’s pretty standard cricket.

THEWCG

TPP: Any tips for young fella that might that is looking to get his backyard cricket game up to your level?

Brendan: Our level? Thanks. Haha. I would say to express yourself. It’s your unique set up and that’s what makes this so exciting, seeing people’s different ideas and possibly implementing them as you go along. Would also highly encourage creating a YouTube channel to showcase your venue.

TPP: What’s the banter and environment like before, during and after? Does everyone pitch in to get things done, i.e. rain interruptions and the covers out?

Brendan: Yeah, the banter gets intense in the group chat which builds it up nicely. We have quite a multicultural group of friends so we have different dishes per event (Lebanese, Greek etc.) always a BBQ of some sort. Thankfully we haven’t had to rush out with the covers yet. touch wood.

13450030_1606054576373852_6766837495867578681_n

TPP: Is the sponsorship for show or are they legitimate?

Brendan: For show. The companies belong to some of the boys. More advertisement than anything else but gives the backyard that real life arena feel which is what we are going for.

TPP: Do you feel any pressure build up to the big day, expectations are high?

Brendan: Ummm, more an anxiousness to get out and beat your mate on the day, but when you’re in the middle and its game on it gets serious. Very serious. We are all super competitive but it always remains good natured. We don’t hold back with the ball either, a few blokes bowl serious heat which is great for those who used to play decent level cricket and miss the competitive side, the contest.

TPP: What’s the off season hold for you?

Brendan: Depression, haha. I coach a football (soccer) team and Matt loves his motorsport. If we’re not doing that, you’ll find us up the pub watching the Rugby league.

15202504_1683297031982939_8735679827713603137_n

TPP: Anything else that you might like to add, classic stories or innings?

Brendan: I’d actually like to congratulate and thank yourself on what you are doing to promote backyard cricket and cricket as a whole. Keep up the good work. also, anyone in the Sydney area keen to give us a run, get in contact with us.

Our pleasure Brendan and Matt, thanks for sharing your brilliant backyard venue with us. If you’d like to see more of the WCG or take them up on their offer of a backyard test match, check out their social media accounts;

YouTube – The WCG Backyard Cricket

Facebook – @TheWCGBackyardCricket

Instagram – @TheWCGBackyardCricket