Pre-Season Rolling a Cricket Table- Guide, is some thoughts and experiences and some research to help get the most out of our rolling this spring. In the blog we look at what is the aim of pre-season rolling along with how often and for how long and much more!
What is the aim of Pre-Season Rolling and When to Start?
- Once the grass is actively growing, if the grass plant is growing it will pull out moisture which can only be removed by actively growing roots in a process called transpiration.
- PSR usually starts in and around early/mid-March, as rolling becomes less effective once soils have dried out in part or fully.
- The aim is to compact (build up bulk density of the soil) in the top 100mm.
- Aim also is to squeeze soil particles closer together, but these spaces must not be filled with water only air, so the soil needs to be in a moist but not wet state.
- Rolling will compact the profile evenly, if done correctly should make for harder pitches.
- Don’t start until the soil is ready, this is often when the cricket table has had at least two rain free/windy drying days, with a temperature of 10 c or more. Some cricket tables could take longer to dry out, if on a wet site or use a higher clay content loam. Thatch/organic material on a cricket square, will also mean it will take longer to dry out, so very site specific.
- Rolling is recommended to be done in a union jack pattern. To ensure the cricket table is evenly compacted. A maximum of 4-5 passes in any one day, with 1-3 more passes more preferable, to allow for the soil to dry for a few days.
How to test soil conditions and compaction?
The soil should not ridge or crease on the rollers imprint, there may be the odd end that is low and sits soft, but anywhere the ball bounces you need to prevent imprinting of the soil.
Using the end of your thumb lightly pushed into the soil can be used to test soil moisture levels. Is there any water present on your thumb if so, it could be too wet to roll!
Don’t roll if the soil caps, buries grass, soil smears, seals or ridges.
Is water and mud coming up and appearing on the rollers if so, it’s probably too wet to roll. Don’t get confused with a surface dew, if in doubt try drying off the grass leaf or roll in the afternoons.
At the start of your pre-season rolling use a metal sheeting pin, push 100mm into the soil and feel for resistance, do this every now and then as a simple way to gauge and get a feel for how the process of rolling is compacting the soil profile.
You can use a soil profiler, or an apple corer to take a look at the soil profiles, this will help you gauge the level of compaction visually.
How much to roll, how many passes?
- Start with your cylinder mower, it’s not been used over winter for a couple of cuts, then progress onto your square mower which is often a 36-inch-wide mower. Then you progress to a unballasted motorised roller and finally onto a fully ballasted roller.
- Pre-season rolling should be done over a number of weeks to allow for soil drying between weights. It should be a gradual process of rolling, then allowing the soil to dry for a few days, then looking at increasing your weight. I usually do this over 3/5 weeks allowing for a couple of wet periods, when l have to keep off for a few days to allow for drying.
- Cranfield University rolling trials, recommend limiting rolling per weight to 4-5 passes, so around a total of fifteen passes in total over three weights of roller/mower used. A pass is up and down the same line.
- Every ground is site specific as is the range of equipment so rolling recommendation is a just a guide, personally it sounds about right to me based on my experience.
- Ideally get a feed on and washed in a week or two prior to pre season rolling, to help the grass plant to handle the stress of rolling.
- If the grass plant becomes to stressed and goes yellow, give it a break from rolling and possibly an application of a liquid/granular feed (avoid iron/fe) allowing rain or irrigation to break down granular before continuing rolling.
- Motorised rollers typically range from 1.5 – 2.5 ton in weight as a guide and are seen as the ideal weight class for recreational cricket.
Is it Worth doing and if so, why?
- Winter rain and frosts soften up the square, this is an opportunity to squeeze back some air spaces in the soil again to re compact, while the soil is moist (not wet or too dry). In the top 100mm of the soil profile.
- As pointed out above rolling evens out and compacts the soil profile and in turn should make for better performing pitches.
Link to ECB Cranfield rolling trials, some of the above was taken or inspired by – https://foundation.lancashirecricket.co.uk/media/1653/guidelines-for-rolling-in-cricket.pdf
Just cut mine with a 36-inch mower (start of psr) has just really re affirmed how differently even on the same site, three squares can retain moisture. I have one square that’s is two inches higher than the others, with a lot of grass and dries out quickly but is softer. Then there is the hybrid net area this area is semi shaded and thinner in grass cover and as a result sits that bit wetter on top. My main square is somewhere between the two.
No squares are equal, even on the same site so some touch and feel is needed allowing each area to be ready when it is ready, not just when l get the roller out! Note to self.
Three key points
- The right soil conditions are key.
- Build rolling weights up gradually.
- Know what you’re looking to achieve.
What have l missed, is there any burning questions that remains, if so please leave a comment in the reply box below.
Brian (Fellow Learner)
Have you seen a video on did on pre season rolling.