THE GRAVESEND PROJECT
The Gravesend Project
The Bat and Ball Ground (est. 1848) which is a former Kent County Ground and home of Gravesend Cricket Club since 1880), has hosted players such as WG Grace (record Score 257 Gloucester v Kent 1895), Tich Freeman (record wickets 15 v 142 Kent v Essex 1931), and many other first class players. Whilst being acknowledged to be have a good pitch which primarily favored the batsmen and then spin bowling in the late season, the table was typical of many surfaces that have been in play for several decades that had annual cricket loam dressings applied and subsequently suffered from a variety of issues.
- 75-100mm Saddle ends creating huge water runoff and mid pitch saturation, channeling water flow under wheel on or flat sheet covers and aided extra bounce when pitching on the incline just short of a length.
- Buried thatch sandwiched in Surrey loam dressing layers.
- Different Surrey loam batch supplies from year to year resulting in fluctuating clay content layers.
- 2 Root breaks at 40mm and 75-100mm.
- High thatch producing Poa Annua content.
Whilst routine end of season renovations were completed every year, even with the implementation of Graden Verticutter linear aeration since 2005 to maintain thatch levels in the top 12mm as low as possible, there was still plenty room for further improvements.
Stage 1 – Soil Analysis. Particle Size Distribution (PSD), Organic Content and Contour Surveying.
Before any decision could be made it was vitally important to find out exactly what we were working with to indicate what could or could not be done in the future. Cores were extracted from several sections of the site area to be renovated and sent to an independent laboratory for analysis. Contours and levels at and below surface level were surveyed to determine possible excavation depths.
Stage 2 – Options available which all had an ascending budget requirements.
Fraise Mow. Remove weak vegetation (typically all Poa Annua) and 100% of thatch at the height that the blades were set to result in a thatch free 100% perennial rye grass sward after over sowing.
KoroCap. Fraise top removing saddled ends and all vegetation. Relay top 25mm by importing loam, blending with exiting Surrey Loam whilst ameliorating the 40mm root break and finish with a laser guided screed to result in a thatch free top 25mm with 100% perennial rye grass.
Recycled Blend Construction. The PSD test identified the historic dressings to be a clay loam which averaged at 21% sand, 53% silt and 26% clay, and the organic content was 8%. These numbers were virtually within all parameters of the ECBs recommended loam analysis to be used at club level. By Fraise Topping all vegetation, cultivating the existing clay loam and mixing a correct quantity of a carefully selected imported compatible cricket loam, all analysis data should give a good quality blended product to build new pitches from at a reduced cost of constructing from a 100% imported loam due to a smaller volume of new material being required.
This would result in in a root break free 100mm laser guided construction with 100% perennial ryegrass, and whilst technically having the same average PSD and organic content analysis as the KoroCap would be more uniform through the 100mm depth so the pitches should have more bounce.
ImportedLoam Construction. Excavate existing pitches and construct from imported loam using laser guided technology.
Stage 3 –Selecting a cricket loam.
Generally speaking it is conceived that the loam that has been used historically or from which a pitch has been constructed should be your choice of loam for your future. In the past loam batches have seen different PSD contents even though they are marketed as the same. Currently with independent and in house soil analysis regularly undertaken for and by various suppliers, including the progression of blended manufactured loams, batch variances should now be at a minimum. Making loam changes had always been seen as the wrong thing to do but with better equipment giving the ability to blend the two different loams at any horizon change providing that the 2 materials were compatible, root breaks caused by different shrink rates should be avoided. The age old debate of which loam is best will continue, but the question should really be which loam is the best for the club and specific team requirements? Saturday Premier league matches will require a completely different performance standard than a Junior U11 match and most clubs have teams at many different levels. Building a 31% clay loam table and watching 13 year old spin bowlers bowl head high bouncers would be a waste of resources, and a village club would find it difficult to maintain such wickets.
Gravesend CC had performed at 1st XI Premier level but were currently a couple of divisions lower and even with the current drive for promotion, 2nd XI, midweek, Junior and practice are equally a big part of the Bat and Ball facility. By mid – late season the table was heavily worn with such a timetable so extending the square for adult practice and junior matches would be a good thing to do, limiting the extensive wear to the pitches. Whilst loam options were plentiful, three different choices were on the short list. Bourne’s Surrey Loam which had a similar analysis to the soil tested and had been used historically as a dressing, Ongar Loam as this the main supplier blends themselves with a similar Surrey product to form Ongar Plus and GOSTD 125 which again should have good compatibility. All three loams had big differences in their performance characteristics and maintenance requirements, so with the option to extend the table by a further three pitches by blending imported loam with the existing recycled indigenous pitch material, different pitches could be constructed.
Stage 4 – Option selection.
All four options were selected.
Pitches 1-9. 2012 Fraise mow.
Removing all Poa Annua and 100% surface thatch. Resulted in better paced wickets with 5-7 matches being played on a less wearing pitch commencing in 2013.
Pitches 10-12. 2013 ImportedLoam Construction 100mm.
Ongar (10), GOSTD125 (11), Bourne’s Surrey Loam (12). Pitches to be used commencing 2015.
Pitches 13-15. 2012 KoroCap.
Ongar (13), GOSTD125 (14), Bourne’s Surrey Loam (15). All pitches used in 2014 for 5-7 matches. All consistent but had different pace and bounce qualities to each other. Water run off was not an issue anymore. Umpires marked the pitches very highly in 2014.
Pitches 16-18. 2013 RecycledBlend Construction 100mm.
Ongar (16), GOSTD125 (17), Bourne’s Surrey Loam (18). All pitches were prepped for practice and used for some midweek matches. Whilst all pitches cracked, pace and bounce was excellent when not pitching in the cracks. Pitches should be more consistent in 2015.
3 Loams x 3 Construction Techniques = 9 Pitch Options.
The rest of the saddled ended table (pitches 1 -9), will be renovated in the future and the club will chose from the options of pitches 10-18 for each playing area that suits both the performance standard and budget level.
Need help with your wicket renovation or construction project
From U11 hardball to 1st XI, Village to Premier Club Cricket, which Pitch(es) would you like and should you have? That will come down to budget, maintenance resources, performance requirements and most importantly the choices that suit you best.
The Gravesend Project Gallery