I live almost throwing distance from a football field (100 meters). Over the last few months I've acquired a roller and a lawnmower and I've been trying to nurture a section of the football field into a usable wicket! This is one of two fields I use for my bowling practice, this particular field is very lumpy, but it's right outside my house so close enough to drag a roller to and attempt to flatten out a wicket! In the diagram below I've drawn out the area of the wicket and at the moment I'm attempting to get the area right in front of the post flat (6 yards in front of the stumps) so that it's flat enough to bowl into.
The area is marked discreetly so I can go back to it and check it out after football matches and do little repairs. I did have an area just to the left of it, but it has recently been damaged badly by footballers, so this is my new area which does look flatter. Because of the recent snow the ground is saturated so in the next few days I hope to get over there with the roller and give it a going over, but as tomorrow is Sunday it'll probably be used for football, so I'll wait to see what kind of damage it sustains.
My old wicket area possibly because I’ve rolled it twice since November is flooded, so it does look like I may have compacted the earth so much the rain-water is now unable to drain away? Thinking about it, that may be a good thing though, because that’ll mean the grass will have trouble growing because of the compacted earth, so if I’m looking to encourage a nice dry grass free Aussie style wicket rolling may be the way to go?
Update 13th Feb
Since last writing it's rained almost every day, so the pitch is going to be saturated and because of the rain I've not been able to get over there to see if I can roll it. I've also been thinking that once the football season has finished I'll probably go so far as to encouraging the area in which the ball pitches to remain drier than the surrounding area by covering it with plastic if rain is imminent or threatens to be heavy over night prior to the weekends when we get to use it.
It hasn't rained for 24hrs so tonight I went out and had a bit of a roll. Very wet underfoot and no doubt walking back and forth with the roller I've probably inflicted some damage to the grass and compressed the earth to the point where it might be detrimental to the roots and ultimately the grass? On a positive note it is quite flat the area in front of the stumps as indicated by the white lines in the photo above. I've flattened the area about 6 yards in front. Down the legside it's very flat, in the middle it's lumpy especially about 2 yards in front of stumps and then fairly good down the offside. Decided I'm not going to do it again now till the next rains after mid to late April. I'm pretty certain that it's going to get trashed again by footballers. what with it being Thursday it's only 2 days and it's likely that the pitch will get used although it is exceptionally wet and muddy, so hopefully whatever matches are scheduled they'll be cancelled.
I think if anything my next strategy should be to drain it to now encourage the water to drain away, so that the wicket dries out. There's a technique where you can bore small holes and fill them up with sand, but to be honest I don't think I can be bothered. I think I'll just keep my fingers crossed that we have some dry weather and all the football takes place away from my wicket.
One last thing, the markers down the leg side all looked as though they'd been pulled out partially, so I pulled them out and got rid of them to reduce the risk of drawing attention to the fact that this bit of grass was getting it's own private treatment.
Had a look today at the wicket in daylight. On a positive note it does look very flat and if it doesn't get mangled by the footballers it looks promising for the summer. On a more negative front it looks mangled from a football groundsmans perspective. It's been flattened, it looks like someone has pitched a tent on it for a week, so it stands out from the rest of the pitch as being different. Also where I rolled it from the sides inwards so as to not walk all over it all around the edges it looks worn as well. If they use it on Sunday someone might notice it, but then whether the groundsman will be told I don't know? Even if he is told - what's he going to do camp out at the pitch over the next few months waiting to see how his pitch is getting damaged? (That's if I am damaging it)?
I suppose I'm slightly worried in that if they are noticing it and the groundsman is aware of it he might remember it later in the year. If as I suspect what I am doing is stressing the roots, it might mean that come the summer this patch that is 6 yards x 8' in front of the stumps may all but die or at least be really poor quality grass - especially once we start playing on it and mowing it twice a week, maybe even covering it when we know it's going to rain overnight, it's going to be pretty obvious that I/we are the culprits and if while we're playing the groundsman turns up he may have something to say about it?
Gutted! Despite the fact that there was no football played on the pitch today there was a group of about 4 young blokes over there this afternoon for a couple of hours. Once they'd gone I went and had a look to see if the wicket had sustained any damage. Strewth was there some damage, it looked as though because the wicket area had been rolled flat they'd chosen to have one of them play from that position. So what with the damage the rolling does and then combined with the fact that some berk in a pair of football boots has chosen to stand there and shoot from that position (That's what it looks like) it is well and truly knackered and uneven again. Now I don't know what to do - do I go over there again asap e.g. tonight and roll it - which then means that it'll have 7 full days to recover and if this is combined with dry weather for the rest of the week that means the surface may dry off and hold up better to any damage next week? Or do I leave it till the next bout of rain? Chances are we could be heading for another incredible drought and the last bit of rain we've just had may be the last bit of substantial rain till next autumn?
I've just had a look at the Atlantic weather chart (See image) and there's still plenty of weather about, this low is on it's way for Wednesday with an occluded front which almost certainly means rain. It's preceded by a smaller low on Monday so it looks like there's plenty of potential for rain and more opportunities to roll the wicket? Although I am still tempted to get out there tonight - I'll see how I feel as the night wears on?
The month ends with more record breaking weather - the last 12 month period being the warmest 12 months in something like 350 years. As far as the pitch is concerned what with it raining for the last week or so it's still saturated as too will be Great Berry Space. Fortunately no football is being played on it cos it's so wet where we've had 80% more rain than average for February. I'm not going to bother looking at it again till Sunday, lets hope that the rain stops and it dries out a bit.
We've now had almost a week of back to back subshine and dry weather with very little rain over the same period. At the weekend the pitch was played on but doesn't seem to have sustained any major damage, so tonight knowing that we're scheduled at least another few days of warm weather (Today has been 16 celcius) I went and did half hours worth of rolling. This time I've concentrated on a 5' wide strip in front of the stumps extending out in front of them by about 5 yards. So tomorrow either on the way to work or coming back tomorrow evening I'll have another look and see how much affect the rolling has made. The impression i got (It's dark when I do this) was that it's pretty flat, so it seems promising. I'm now hoping that between now and this Sunday it doesn't rain and the grass recovers a bit and so is less conspicuous and dries out even more and sustains little damage.
At last we get to throw some balls on the wicket! Badger, Alex and myself spent a couple of hours after net practice bowling, wicket keeping and batting and man was it good! So much better playing on grass and so different. The wicket was pretty consistent with regards the ball turning/jinking left or right in that it hardly did so, but the difference and inconsistency in the upwards bounce was really challenging and fun. Alex and Badger bowled amazingly straight and consistent and I was able to have them both pinned down with my variations in length, flight and ball variations. I even managed to throw leg breaks having realised what I've been doing wrong so now I'm back to five different variations!
After we played I went back over to the wicket with Joe having set my lawnmower to a high setting and gave it a going over and with the grass being so short was able to see how flat it actually is and it is pretty flat considering a month or two back it was 4 x 4 country.
Tonight I had a look after the pitch had been played on all day by footballers and because the sun has been out and the wicket is pretty dry it's stood up to the wear. Over the next few days we're due some rain and sleet, so I'll be watching to see how it copes. But as soon as the weather clears I'll be out there with a mower keeping it nice and short. The way it's looking is that by August it's going to be a patch of dirt!