Marquee Cricket Nets is a Q+A type blog in which we ask Loughborough University Head Grounds Person Willam Relf all things netting under marquees in winter.
Please tell us a little about you and your staff and where you work?
I’m William Relf and have worked at Loughborough University for 30 years. I manage a team of twelve staff who are divided into three teams, cricket, football and athletics/sports turf, we also maintain sports pitches over a 500-acre estate. The pitches are predominantly used by students, but also the ECB, Premier League, FA, British Athletics to name a few.
How come you have a marquee for nets in November/December, are these pitches being used the same ones that would have been renovated during normal end of season renovations?
We manage the England Cricket National Performance Centre on campus and have facilities for players to train indoors, plus the use of swimming pools and gyms. This means players can come here to practice and get match fit, we have developed a grass net area next to the indoor facilities and this is the tenth year we have had the marquee for winter grass practice.
It goes up in September, so that our international squads can practice and maintain fitness levels before they go on any winter tours. This has been especially useful during the last couple of years as test squads haven’t been able to travel abroad to train for as long before a series. The marquee area is renovated in May/June, fitting in with fixture schedules and then prepared up during September ready for the marquee.
When is your main marquee periods and who are the end users?
The marquee goes up after the last fixture of the season and stays up at least until mid-December. Last year the England test squad trained on the 27th of December, with the rest of the ground covered in snow before they flew out to Sri Lanka the next day. This year the red ball players and Lions trained while the rest of the squad were at the 20/20 world cup. The Women’s team also practice extensively before their winter tours.
The pitches used now, what is the plan for them in terms of renovations and usage for next season?
We try to keep the marquee up for a few weeks after training has finished, we do a mini renovation trying to get some grass growing using grow covers and lights before the marquee comes down in January. Pitches will be renovated again in the summer, but won’t be used as they are kept exclusively for the winter use.
How do you prevent disease and dry out pitches under the marquee in winter?
We try to dry the pitches in the weeks leading up to the winter season by covering with large sheets. I spray with a preventative fungicide prior to the erection of the marquee. There is also the use of dehumidifiers, heaters and two lighting rigs to manage the moisture content. Keeping a dry atmosphere is the best way to prevent fusarium outbreaks, which we experienced in the first few years operating without dehumidifiers.
Are the pitches in the marquee hybrid and if so, has this helped?
This year was the first time we’ve had hybrid pitches in the marquee. We have two that are stitched and two without. We have also stitched 10 meters of all the run ups. Twelve weeks of use does take its toll on this area of grass…. imagine what it would be like using one pitch for three months of the season!
The hybrids have helped hold therun ups and pitches together, but there is also a unique damp atmosphere even with the technology that means pitches roll out each morning without getting over dry. Temperatures in the marquee vary and change with the sun. Reaching 35 degrees early October with the sun out, but then can drop back down very quickly to 6-8 degrees on a cloudy December day.
Heaters are available to boost the temperature for the players on cold days. I’m hoping this year that the stitched areas will recover quickly, we can see how this goes and if there is any difference in recovery of the two areas.
Marquee Cricket Nets by
Will and Team
If you want to know more about what hybrid cricket pitches are, check out this blog – https://turfcareblog.com/help-from-a-hybrid/
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