How to Prepare an Australian Cricket Pitch , preparation of cricket wickets in Australia and the UK have similar processes, with the obvious use of mowers and roller, but there is a different approach to them.
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The key processes in wicket preparation in Australia are:
1 –Grooming out (thinning)
Like verti-cutting, the wicket is thinned out to reduce the grass levels.
2-Cutting out the wicket
Reducing the height of cut down to 8-10mm.
Always check on the weather conditions this time of year. It is still springtime in Western Australia and even though the temperatures look hot for us here in the UK, they are on the lower side for WA. Precautions therefore need to be taken when applying water, so that the profile will firm up for the junior games that start at 8am on Saturday mornings.
4-Working up (blackening)
After applying water evenly across the profile, the processes of working up starts. If it is too wet you will more than likely get the roller stuck, so once the pitch is at a plasticine consistency you can start rolling the wicket. Rolling brings up moisture and the black clay to the surface, whilst pushing the grass into the surface. This can take up to 45 minutes to achieve.
Modern day methods see that curators seem not to over work up wickets to help reduce the stress to the grass encouraging good recovery so that the pitch can be used again later in the season.
After allowing the surface to dry for around an hour the next stage is to seal up the wicket. The surface will go from a dark look becoming lighter in colour the grass will be sealed into the surface, but not completely buried.
6- Finished Wicket
After continued rolling the pitch will become hard and ready to play on. Rolling times can vary from the time of the year you are playing. The Australian season runs from October to April with weather conditions cool in the early part, rising to 45°c from December to March.
With this in mind, pitch preparation for a club match on a Saturday could easily be started on Thursday morning, or even Thursday afternoon. I have even lightly watered a wicket on a Friday morning with high temperatures due for the weekend’s matches.
There are a few issues when working on pitches in Australia and one is humidity. If the forecast changes to a higher humidity, then the normal process to firm the pitch up will struggle as the clay will not dry. You need to keep an eye on the humidity levels as well as the temperature.
The clay used in Western Australia is anywhere from 55% to 70% clay and is very susceptible to cracking due to the high temperatures it must withstand. Watering the square (referred to in Australia as the block) is done at the end of a day’s play with the permission from either the ICC or Cricket Australia, so the moisture levels can be kept up during Shield (4 day domestic cricket) and Test Match games. Obviously, the wicket cannot be watered, so after 3-4 days cracks appear.
The WACA clay is known around the world for its pace and bounce. It’s cracks have also been the topic of conversation for many years.
Watering after games can be done via hose pipes and soaker hoses but also through sprinklers. Most pitches in Australia have pop up irrigation, not just around the square but also all over the outfield. These systems are run using bore water. It’s the quickest way of watering as you can run up to 8 pop-ups around a square at one time.
Fresh/scheme water is also available.
Big Thanks to Mark Wakefield for passing on this excellent guide, source unknown but thanks .
This is a really helpful guide also from Cricket Australia