Properly Maintaining Your Cricket Pitch: A Step-By-Step Guide
To the casual observer, cricket is magically played on an idyllic green landscape, with the gentle thwack of leather on willow accompanied by ripples of warm applause and the clink of china teacups. The reality is somewhat different!
Producing the ideal cricket pitch is a mixture of science, engineering, and hard graft. Whilst the level of resources available may vary from club to club, the aim remains the same; to produce cricket pitches throughout the season that are fair for bowler and batter alike. Here is our step-by-step guide on what needs to be done to make the magic happen.
Preparation ten days to one week before the match
1. Select the pitch to be used
Where there is a choice, avoid playing consecutive matches on adjacent pitches. This gives the pitch surface longer to recover, especially the areas worst affected by the bowler’s spike marks and scuffs. Whilst pitch plans are often drawn up at the start of a season, local factors and issues may require this to be revised.
2. Mow the selected pitch
This should ideally be carried out with the minimum of an 8 bladed cylinder mower. The mow height should be around 5-6mm (slightly lower than the rest of the square). This is best done in stripes, with two passes up and down the pitch, before moving to the next stripe. For pitches with longer grass, a second pass may be required, but avoid lowering the mow height.
3. Scarify between the popping creases
Either using a brush-rake machine or the more traditional hand-rake and brush method, lightly scarify the area between the popping creases to reduce the density of the grass and allow the surface soil to be clearly seen between individual blades of grass. Take care not to disturb the soil itself.
4. Repair any indentations
In a similar manner to repairing pitch marks on a golf green, small indentations in the pitch are best dealt with by levering up the depression, rather than trying to fill it from above. This is particularly important around the ‘length’ where there may be more ball impact activity during the game.
5. Water the pitch
Watering is vital to protect the grass root structure and ensure the correct firmness of the pitch. The aim of watering is to allow soil down to a depth of 80-100cm to access the moisture. Rain is the ideal solution, with irrigation being used as required. Captured rainwater is better than using tap water, if possible.
6. Rolling the pitch
As soon as surface water has disappeared, a light roller should be used for the initial roll. As the pitch continues to dry, heavier rollers can be used to help remove moisture and improve the surface. Roll frequently whilst moisture remains and always use a good quality roller! In periods of very dry weather, it may be necessary to flash the pitch with water, before rolling. Rolling is the key to preparing a flat and fair cricket pitch.
Preparation two to four days before the match
Mowing should be carried out at least every other day, depending on the grass condition. Continue to lightly scarify and brush the surface. As match day approaches, the mow height can be lowered, with care being taken not to scalp the pitch surface. The typical cutting height for safety is usually 3-5mm. Continue to roll the pitch, lightly watering if required.
Preparation on match day
There is always a lot to do on match day and an early start is usually required! The day starts with the final brush, mow, and roll. The pitch should not be excessively green and should be completely dry (UK weather conditions may require the judicial use of covers to make this possible.) Mark out the creases neatly, using a suitable marking compound. Lines should be between 12mm and 25mm in width. Always use a marking frame. Depending on the duration of the match, parts of this process may need to be repeated, within the framework of the laws of cricket.
Post-match pitch recovery
The pitch will become significantly stressed during both the period of the match and from the rolling and mowing beforehand. Carefully aerating the pitch will help the root structure recover from both. Repair footmarks using a fork, lifting the surface if possible. Deeper marks may need to be filled. A light dressing of fertiliser can then be applied.
For bare areas of soil, overseeding may be needed. Pre-germinated seeds (chitting) should be used to increase the speed and effectiveness of root establishment. This can be easily achieved by mixing the seeds with damp soil prior to use. Make sure you mix the seeds and sand every day, to ensure root separation. The mixture can then be spread or pressed into the surface, as required.
With hard work, the right tools, and lots of love and care, your pitches will provide you with a full season of cricket. We may be biased, but a great roller is the foundation of making this happen. Since the 1920s, when the Auto-Roller was first designed, our range of rollers has been continuously developed, retaining all the features that have made the Auto-Roller so successful around the world. This continuous improvement is relied upon to keep the finest cricket wickets in world-class condition.
We hope this guide has been of use. If there is anything that we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact us. Good luck and we hope you have a great season!