Basic guidelines on early season cricket pitch/net preparation.
Very hard to give a preparation period in preparing a cricket pitch, but most clubs work with a 1/2-week period to prepare a cricket pitch/net, but longer may be needed.
The below is just an example, to give you some idea of what sort of preparation l carry out myself, although l am getting rusty at present.
Assessing the Forecast
10-14 days prior to the game, access the forecast for the next two weeks and the moisture level within the pitch you plan to use. There is no point watering out a wicket, if a lot of unsettled weather is ahead and you have no way of covering, don’t put in more water than the weather via evaporation will be able to remove.
Based on a generally dry forecast and a dry soil profile, please see my 5 steps in how to Prepare a Cricket Pitch/Net.
1.Start to Reduce Height of Cut and Thin out The Canopy of Grass
Cut the pitch out at around 10 mm in height of cut and then thin out the grass surface as required. The aim is a surface evenly grassed, with some soil apparent. Avoiding a pure carpet/matting of grass.
Avoid impacting the soil with the lawnman tool below, easier said that done l know.
You may need to cut, rake, cut and repeat as many times as you deem fit.
2.Access the Moisture Level of the Soil Profile
You are looking for moisture of depth, so a minimum of 4 inches of moisture, for the roller to consolidate, if so onto stage 3.
If not you need to try to water down to 4 inches. The ideal is watering over a day or so building up the moisture level gradually.
The use of covers/matt/sheets, between watering to prevent evaporated from the sun.
Many clubs are limited for time and water pressure is poor, so often have to go for a heavy watering a day prior and just get in as much water a resources allow.
If this is the case then ideally water in the evening, to limit evaporation and avoid surface flooding with possible surface runoff. Instead, opt for a little and often allowing water time to soak in before the next water.
If possible use something like a sprinkler/soaker hose.
Once the soil has been allowed to dry but is still moist(1/2 days after watering )but never wet too touch , then the rolling process can start .20/30 mins a day of rolling, gradually reducing as the soil dries out.
As the soil gently dries out, you also reduce the height of cut (hoc).
A pitch should be cut 2/3 times and week during preparation and the use of brushes/rakes, prior to cutting will assist withstanding the grass. This will courage an evenly covered cricket pitch.
Reduce the hoc by ,2/4 mm a week ,aiming for a final cut of around 6/8 mm playing height.
4.Final Preparation (2/3 days Prior to The Game)
Hoc should be around 7/8 mm, if the surface is still soft and grass cover still thick, reduce hoc,6 mm, this will at least help dry off the top. Thin out the grass cover, as required.
Remember the aim is to see a surface with an upright grass plant, with some soil showing rather than a surface of matted grass.
If the surface is dry/hard at this stage a brush and cut at 6/8 mm.
A good test is the ball bounce on the edge of a pitch, if it bounces nicely, then reduce rolling and possibly use roll on covers during hot spells to stop the pitch drying out too much. This is more likely on week two after the first game/use of the pitch.
5.Final Cut and Mark Out
1/2 days prior to the game the grass should be brushed and cut at around 6/8 mm, possible rolled and then marked out.
The below pitch being marked out with string and pegs, but nothing wrong with a marking frame if its not bent!
3 Top Tips
1-Gradually build up moisture, gradually reduce the grass cover, gradually reduce the hoc and gradually decrease the amount of rolling you do (easy for me being full time l know)
2-keep moisture levels up in the square, less to try and add during stage 2 of pitch preparation.
3-If the surface is hard and dry, try leaving a bit of length of the wicket,7/8 mm.
There is a big difference between leaving to thick a canopy of grass on a pitch, that may seam about, compared to just leaving a evenly grassed surface with some soil showing and a leaf at 7/8 mm.
It’s a balance but a hard and dry surface, with a little length(bit of color) on it will assist in carrying compared to a wicket cut down to 4/5 mm.
I have also just comes across this how to video, which is really helpful.
I hope you found how to Prepare a Cricket Pitch/Net helpful.
No ground dries the same, all loam dries out at different rates, the above thoughts are just a basic guide.
At club level, due to lack of resources your probably be looking at just getting in as much moist as time allow, coming back once/twice a week so the above would be a challenge. l just encourage you to do what you can within your means.
No one knows your square as you do, so while l am encouraging good practice, l also encourage a flexible approach to cricket pitch preparation based on your knowledge of your own square.
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