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Cricket pitches

Installing pitches in the USA

by Greg Widdicombe (Santa Clara Cricket Club)

Turf wicket
Don't try it! Real turf wickets require people who know what they are doing to look after them. Here in Northern California water restrictions usually prevent you from giving all the tender loving care that you must to such a project. Nothing plays as badly as a bad turf wicket.

Matting wicket
The next best thing. The most important part is a heavy roller. First, select a piece of grass that is level and if possible, evenly grassed. Cut the grass short, real short. We take the back wheels off our lawn mower to cut the old wicket! After mowing, fill in any depressions with a soft filler like sawdust or dirt.

Now the fun part ... Use the heavy roller. We bought one from the local hardware store that was supposed to be filled with wa- ter, but found it wasn't heavy enough. So we cut a hole in the side and filled it with cement! Voila ... instant 300lb roller. Roll the pitch for at least 30 mins ... the longer you roll, the better it plays. If possible, consider renting a two ton roller (the ones you drive) every couple of months to really flatten it down.

Now lay the mat. Mats come in full sizes (66 feet) and half sizes (33 feet). They are usually made of coconut fibre or jute (coir). The advantage of a full size mat is it is all in one piece. The disadvantage is that they stretch more and wear more quickly because the batsmen always stand the same place. The advantage of half mats are that if they stretch they can be over- lapped, if you want to practice you can put down only one half, you can rotate the mats periodically to even the wear from batsmen. The procedure for laying the mat is the same regardless of size:

Unroll the mat over the rolled wicket. Using 7" gutter spikes (get them from a hardware store) nail down one of the short sides. Now get a couple or three guys to walk the length of the mat, scuffing their feet so that they stretch it lengthwise. At the same time a couple of guys should be pulling from the other short end to take up the slack. When the kickers arrive at the end, nail it down too, starting at the center and moving out. Next straighten one long side of the mat and nail it down. Get the kickers to kick across the mat to stretch it width wise and nail down as you go.

Do not paint a crease on the mat ... it stretches differently each time it is used and never is straight again. Use chalk at the start of the game (buy BIG pieces at the hardware store) and as needed.

Astroturf wicket
The best in my opinion to use in the States. This is expensive (~$3000) so I won't post here. Having just installed a 12x100 foot a/turf wicket, believe me ... it plays fantastically. When the ball is pitched short it comes on evenly to the bat and the batsman can go onto the back foot with confidence. It even takes spin! If you want the directions for how to install one of these, email me direct or post a followup here.

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