Question and Answer : Pitches

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Q: We have the physical skills to construct a new square but not the finance to employ a contractor - we want about eight strips. Where can we find information that will give us a specification that takes account of existing sub-soil conditions and new soil mixes? Bearing in mind cost we wish to carry out minimum excavations but do not want the finished surface to be overly adversely compromised.

A: There is every possibility that you could construct a square yourselves at minimum costs provided the designated site criteria is favourable and that you have the expertise to achieve the correct final levels within the confines of the localised levels of the surrounding outfield.

Very briefly for example, we have had documented success whereby what was a farmer’s pasture field was identified as a perfect base clay loam by analysis, an area of the centre of the square was removed of turf by use of a turf cutter to 25mm (1 inch depth) to accommodate 10 pitches (100 x 75ft), the area generally cleaned to give as even a base level as possible and consolidated by a farmer’s tracked machine.

Levels were set using 2x2inch wooden rails in increments of 75 x 20 ft (2 pitches at a time) and a proprietary cricket loam was chosen with similar compatibility rating to the indigenous soil (shrinkage value) and following scoring of the base to ensure the new loam blended well, heeling to consolidate and a final screeding (similar to laying a concrete path) to final level 1inch above the surrounds (important). The procedure was repeated until all the area was complete then seeded and fertilised.

The main outlay was the cricket loam (36 cubic metres would be required for an 8 pitch square).

The following year 240 for 0 wkts was recorded in an early game. Hopefully a more detailed account will be featured in an article later this summer.

Your first recourse would be to seek the assistance of your County Board Pitch Advisor to visit the site and specify the suitability of the site’s indigenous soil that will determine the minimum costs regarding depths of excavation and further specification details.

Q: Does it matter what kind of pitch you play on, like concrete?

A: Not if you're just having a fun game; if you are planning to play in any organised competition there may be restrictions under that competition's rules - so you'll have to find out. Ultimately cricket is a game played at the highest level on the best quality grass surfaces. But all over the world people play the game on a variety of surfaces, whether it's the beach, a muddy back garden, a concrete track or rough grass.

Q: Our rather ancient wicket mower has finally given up the ghost and we are having trouble locating a good reconditioned replacement. Are you aware of any resources that can help us find one?

A: There are many outlets that specialise in second hand & reconditioned pitch mowers. With a little bit of tenacity & patience you can try asking turf company reps who get around many venues often hearing if a bargain is being offered. Mower manufacturers sometimes have ex demo machines at reduced prices. Some golf clubs buy in a number of leased equipment and it is possible to “get in first” before a changeover with the machine’s history documented and very often, well looked after.

Try Pitchcare.com whose website contains second hand equipment for sale.

Also these companies:-
Phil Clarke Sports Ground Maintenance
Tel: 01732 822528 mob: 07956 343570

E.T.C. Grass Machinery
Tel/fax 01829 733432 mob: 07778 063418

Tees Turf Machinery
Tel/fax 01833 627452 Mob: 07850 789759

Greensward Direct
Sales 0113 2676000
Hope this helps and good luck.

Q: We are experiencing "panning" on our newly-laid outfield. Although we have tried to remedy this in the winter, we continue to have the problem. Is there anything we should be doing now, as the season starts, or should we plan for the autumn? Our ground is entirely new, having been built up by infill over two years.

A: Dear Bill,

What you are currently experiencing is quite a common feature of newly-laid outfield during the formative first years of settlement. You didn’t stipulate exactly what form of remedial work that has been undertaken.

Even esteemed new grounds such as Hampshire’s Rose Bowl suffered from initial panning. They had a company run a machine called “The Earthquaker” over it to very good effect. It allowed for greater surface water perculation from rainwater and sprinklers and helped to prevent a hard playing surface that players dislike to run over and leap about on. There is a similar device called “The Groundbreaker” that some contractors use to the same effect.

A Verti-Drain can also be utilised. However it needs to be established what the construction specification was in terms of in-fill, depth of loam over the in-fill and indeed the status of the top-soil with regard to clay/silt/sand ratio that has an inpact on the hardness and water perculation rates.

In time the grass sward will develop a “cushion” to lessen the effect. The Head Groundsman at Durham’s Chester-le-Street ground encouraged this by letting the clipping “fly” during the first couple of years. A watchful eye has to be taken to discourage the build-up of thatch though, other wise another detrimental future problem will be developing.

Hope this helps.

Q: Our club has been threatened to be kicked out of our league next season as we have "substandard facilities," and also as we gain low pitch marks. We do agree with this but our hands are tied as we play at a privately owned manor house, (with a brilliant view and setting in the countryside) and the owners will not allow us to improve on what is already there. We have had a pitch specialist to help gain better pitch marks but this only improved them slightly. Is there anything we can do to help the situation and stay in our league?

A: Have viewed your club’s dilemma with the deepest sympathy. It appears that you have appeased the league authority by enlisting the assistance of an experienced person to advise with a very disappointing overview that you may still be penalised because of the owners intransigent stance which overall, does appear puzzling.

However, progress may be forthcoming by opening lines of communication and instigating a meeting with all interested parties in order that the owners fully understand the implications of improving the facilities on their land with minimal disturbance and actually enhancing the reputation of the countryside delights of the manor.
In order to facilitate this an advisory visit will be necessary to document the facts, quantify the situation and conduct a dialogue that is fully understood by all. At the very least you can prove to the league officials that every possible avenue is being investigated to resolve the situation.

Please contact help@ecb.co.uk with your contact details to arrange for an advisory visit.

Q: We used to have a cricket pitch on our farm. It has not been played in years, and has been left for best part of 40 years. I want to start my own 'club'. I would like to know where I can find information on building/reclaiming a cricket square. I cannot afford to spend much money (if any). I have tractors and a mowers and a roller ( all very much agricultural equipment ). I plan to buy some old gang mowers at some stage.... when I find some a resonable cost. I have to plans to create a super - county cricket level ground... certainly more of a 'village' type pitch. I hope to have game this year.... I imagine we will use a wind-ball or similar... this year round. Any pointers would be most welcome.

A: Dear Charlie,

Glad to hear of your ambitious plan to restore an existing 40-year-old pitch to a high standard whilst occurring little or no expense!

We can certainly assist your quest by passing on guidance of contemporary methods that could be undertaken by yourself utilising farm-based implements that you might have at your disposal supplemented by hiring in possible specialist items.

Although information can be provided, it would be more favourable to have a qualified County Pitch Advisor meet you on site in order to quantify the most cost effective methodology and identify the indigenous qualities of the base soil from the current status. Experience has proved that realistically you are looking at 2006 for a serious game given the correct aftercare and maintenance procedures.

Please contact help@ecb.co.uk with your contact details to arrange for an advisory visit and further information.

Q: Launceston CC have taken part in "Cricketforce 2005" - we arranged a weekend's work, registered with our CDO, and arranged a visit from a NatWest representative. We got a lot of work done towards improving our grounds and buildings, and will return today. However, we discover we are not officially registered - what can you do to help please?

A: Even though it's after the event, you can registere your participation here - and to help us, complete the post-event evaluation form too here. We'ce added you to the published list of registered clubs too

Q: We are creating a new U12 pitch. Can you advise on optimal overall playing area - ie distance from boudary to boudary from the centre of the square. I assume there is at least some loose guildeline. Thx - Drew

A: Hello Drew - we do have some guidelines on this - click here for our recommendations for junior cricket. Hope this helps.

Q: I would like to know where I can purchase a second hand steam roller for rolling the cricket pitch? Can you please email me back ASAP. Cheers.

A: I hope that you refer to a “steam” roller in a generic term as these are rare and valuable items used in the early 1900’s!

There are companies in the UK that do sell re-conditioned heavy rollers for turf - but even so be prepared to pay from £3500 upwards.

Try contacting one of the following: Swillington Rollers Tel. 01132 875318; G.E. Adamson – Grass Machinery Tel. 01995 640180; Poweroll Tel. 01882 832608; Ralph Spring Tel. 0208 428 5919; Greensward Engineering Tel. 01132 676000

Q: Our ground is situated in a very rural setting. As a consequence we suffer badly from damage to our square and outfield from rabbits and lately badgers. Can you advise of the best ways in dealing with these 'offenders'?

A: One can sympathise with your rural predicament as rabbits nibble the sward down to the base of the plant, weakening and leaving the surface open to disease, moss & algae invasion not to mention the droppings which if not gathered, will flatten on pitch preparation leaving a disc of crusting organic matter detrimental towards predictable ball bounce.

Badgers & foxes tend to scrape at the surface in search of insect food, often causing considerable damage to newly repaired bowling ends and stump holes

There is available a chemical repellent that can be sprayed around the square but its effectiveness is often dissipated by heavy rainfall and therefore not very cost effective either.(Info from Bayer Environmental Science Tel. 01992 784261)

Probably the best deterrent would be an electric fence around the square that delivers a small shock (similar to that from a spark plug). There are systems specially designed that can be wired to a car battery with an energy transformer that would last the winter months and small mammals soon become aware not to encroach.

Details can be obtained from Electric Fencing Direct or email info@electricfencing.co.uk

If such a course of action is considered, please ensure if on public open space or council owned land, that signed approval is obtained before going ahead. Hope this helps.