Monday, 25 May 2015

Monday 25th May

As a groundsman you want to prepare pitches that give a good game of cricket. Pitches that allow batsmen to play their shots with confidence and pitches that give a little to the bowler (but not too much as I am a batsman at heart!). In a 45 over game I hope that a team will score 180 or more runs and no batsman will leave the field cursing the pitch.

Pitch number 3 on Saturday did just what I was hoping from it. The game was decided by the by just one run with the visitors not quite matching the home side's 193. Early on there was something in it for the bowlers but they toiled as the day went on. If the opposition don't score the pitch highly I will be very disappointed.

The grass is growing rapidly now and starting to push up its seed heads. If I don't keep on top of the mowing the seed heads get so long that the cylinder mower won't cut them and the only way to get rid of them is to use a rotary mower.

So this morning, after a session on the allotment planting main crop carrots, I gave the pitch we used on Saturday and the square a good cut. It looked good when finished.

Saturday's pitch had some foot hole damage and also some damage where the batsmen insisted in gouging out their batting marks.

The amount of damage usually reflects how much loam I have used in previous years to repair pitches. The opposition had a lot of left hand bowlers so they were creating foot holes where there had not been damage before and so the loam content was low.

So, for the first time this season, I set about some repair work.

Firstly the holes were swept of any loose soil, then the holes moistened to act as a glue for the new loam. The new loam was then moistened until it stuck together when squeezed in the hand - the washing-up bowl is ideal for this.

The loam is then added to the hole, as high above the surface as the hole is deep to allow for compaction as I tamper it. 

An old plastic bag is used to stop the damp loam sticking to the tamper.

With some good tampering the job is a good one.

All that remains is to cover the repairs with some grass cuttings to stop the repair drying out too quickly and cracking.

I noticed as I was doing the repair that the contractor who did the end of season work, used a different loam, Super Essex, when we have used Ongar over the years. Ideally you should use the same loam year after year or you run the risk of building up layers of different loam. This is something that I will need to talk to the contractor about before he does the work at the end of the current season.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday 22nd May

A busy week away from cricket meant that I haven't put in the time this week that was perhaps needed. One consequence is that the 'stripes' on the square had disappeared which meant the markers had to come out again.

However my efforts elsewhere were productive:

If you like baking bread then I can recommend Side Oven Bakery near Driffield. All of the above were made on their one day course.

On Tuesday Joel and I put in an hour on the new pitch for Saturday just hand scarifying and cutting, only dropping the blades fractionally lower, yet still taking off a large amount of grass. Having assistance really helped as we took it in turn to scarify, firstly along the pitch, then across the pitch and whilst one was scarifying the other was cutting. 

Roy cut the outfield on Tuesday. The grass was last cut the previous Thursday and it had grown a lot in between.

John managed to get a couple of rolling sessions in after work.

Today saw a sight never been seen at the Rec before. Six club members were working on the pitch and outfield at the same time!

Roy was cutting the outfield, Joel the square, Dave Martin was mowing the the reseeded football goalmouths, John was putting in the new creases, I was making sure all was going as it should and Ali was lending a hand where he could, although the picture might suggest otherwise!

Three hours later and we were finished. Tomorrow morning we just need to give the pitch a trim and quick roll. The weather forecast is good so hopefully we won't all freeze as we have done for the past four weeks.

The club has been grateful to Acaster Steel for the sight screens that we have been using for the last 10 years or so, but now we have 2 new roll up mesh screens, the old screens are off to their new home at The Retreat. Our thanks go to Dave Purdy for all that he has done for the club and we hope that he will join us at the Rec for a drink in the near future.

Our thanks also go to James Wyatt who has supplied us with new fascia boards and guttering for the scorebox. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sunday 17th May

It is time to say goodbye to an old friend. Just like a true friend that is always there for you, never lets you down and asks for nothing in return - well except for some food and the occasional water. Yes, pitch number 1 needs putting to bed!

It has had 3 games played on it with over 600 runs scored and 200 overs bowled. It has held up well and there is not a great deal of repair work to be done.

Over the years you get to know your pitches: how much water to give them and when, how many games to play on them, what repair work is likely to be needed. Number 1 is my favourite pitch and the one I will always turn to when in need.

Machinery is just the same. You know the feel and sounds of a machine: it tells you when all is well and when its not. A machine is almost human: its talks to you - you just have to learn its language.

Talking of friends it was really good to see friends from Rugby at the game on Saturday. I will be thinking of you both over the next few weeks but was glad to hear the good news so far. 

With number 1 'put to bed', it was time to prepare 'number 3' today. The weather for the week is not that good and with 3 days out for me this week, I needed to crack on.

First thing was to mark out the width of the pitch so that I cut to the correct width. There are markers in the ground but you can't easily see them from a distance and it is easy to cut too wide.

A few passes with the mower and the pitch started to appear.

Before we could afford to buy a SISIS Combirake we made our own diy hand pushed scarifier. The problem with the SISIS scarifier is that the handle is quite long and I find it hard to get the pressure on the tines.

The diy one was made by welding together a metal frame, fixing a couple of lawn rakes to the frame, adding wheels and a handle from an old lawnmower. The handles are lower so it is a lot easier to push and get the right pressure on it. The disadvantage is that the tines are further apart, but that is not a big issue. 

The one piece of essential equipment as far as I am concerned is a pushed scarifier. If you can't afford to buy one, make one. It makes a world of difference when preparing a pitch.

The tines lift up the long stands of grass and really thin out the grass.

The next picture shows the amount of grass that was removed after scarifying just once and keeping the mower blades at the same height.

With a little more scarifying and lowering the blades a little, the pitch is as I want it to be 6 days before the next game.

Over the next few days the pitch will be rolled and cut regularly. It may need covering if the weather turns out to be as wet as predicted.

Roy is back from Australia so welcome home to him and no longer will I need to cut the outfield twice a week. That is a great relief!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Saturday 9th May

Torrential rain last night has left standing water on and off the square. The cover looks to have done its job, but not had a good look underneath. Even if the standing water drains, which it won't, there is no chance of any play today. Very disappointing when the work has been done!

Covers removed at 10am:

Friday, 8 May 2015

Friday 8th May

It was depressing to have to put the cover on in good sunshine, but the weather forecast is poor.

The pitch is already very soft: in places I can cause an impression just using my thumb. The lowest part of the square is also very soft. My concern will be that the pitch will be OK to play on when the rain stops and the cover comes off, but the square will not be. I hope common sense prevails and the captains consider the damage likely to be caused to the square in only the third game of the season.

The only good thing about the rain is that it will wash in the fertilizer that I applied today. There is always something positive in everything.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Thursday 7th May

With Roy in Australia it is important to keep the outfield up to his usual standard, so the first job this afternoon was to cut the outfield. The grass is now growing quickly and it was quite long even though the grass had been cut on Monday. Unfortunately I had a little accident with the mower on Monday which resulted in a very bent pivot shaft. Thankfully it was repairable and not only did the mower start first time, it cut well. The result was quite good.

After that it was time to get onto the square. It has taken all of the rain well, but will not take much more and rain is forecast for tomorrow evening. The covers will go on tomorrow afternoon.. I just hope the rain doesn't get under them.

The pitch and square look good after a good cut.

There wasn't a great deal of damage after last week's game so I didn't need to repair the block and foot holes.

The Tuesday Group helped me out spreading another ton of topsoil, this time where damage was done after the firework display.

And the grass seed has started to germinate, particularly where I have had the sprinkler on for a couple of weeks.

Nothing more to do until Saturday morning when the pitch will have its final cut after removing the water off the layflat covers. More how that will be done later!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Sunday 3rd May

At last, some decent rain! Perhaps the grass seed on the outfield will now germinate and I won't have to put the sprinkler on each day.

No work on the square today, but instead I can reflect on the state of the pitch during yesterday's game.

Batting first the home side made 167 which should have been higher, but was a decent target to defend. The pitch seemed to have good carry and bounce and it was the home side's struggle against spin bowling which kept the score down. Copmanthorpe pitches don't usually give much bounce to spin bowlers, but yesterday this was not the case and they even got some turn.

Woodhouse Grange openers found the pitch and bowling to their liking as they raced away to 30 without loss. They were then bowled out for 46 with Paul Wynn taking all 10 wickets for just 11 runs. As a groundsman you wonder if the pitch had deteriorated but none of the 8 'bowled' dismissals hit the stumps less than half of the way up with several hitting the top of off stump. The odd ball kept a little low and the odd one got up a little, so all in all not a bad pitch with 'something in it for the batsmen and something for the bowlers' as one player said.

3 p.m.:

The sun has now come out and it is really quite hot. The pitch has taken the rain well and there is not a lot of damage from yesterday, so I will need to make the decision to repair the foot holes and block holes, or not.