April 1st, 2009 | Published in FAQs, Links and Useful Info
Here’s what the Pirates did. There are variations, depending on what local authorities/landlords will let you do, availability of materials, workers, time, cost, drainage, climate, and how you want it to play.
Tools and Machinery
Digger – at a guess, 240$-400$
Skip – 120$
Two-ton drive-on asphalt roller – 240$/day, 420$/weekend
Watering cans/hose with sprinkler head
Two dead straight 8′ x 2” x 4” beams for levelling – 7$
Geo textile flooring for wicket
70′ x 9′ x 10” of clean 3/4 stone – ~750$ (depending on distance of delivery).
70′ x 9′ x 3” of stonedust (heavily compacted) ~200$ (depending on distance of delivery).
Knife for cutting geo textile
Ball of string
Ten 16′ x 2” x 4” treated beams for lining wicket – ~150$ (optional)
Hessian or jute mat (~975$)
Large nails with washers to pin mat
1. Mark out a wicket 70ft long x 9ft wide with string, with a north-south alignment so that the sun doesn’t blind the batsmen.
2. Dig out the wicket area, 1ft deep. You need a proper digger for this, and a skip or a truck close to the wicket to dump the soil. With the right equipment in place, a hard-working team, decent weather, and early start, you can dig the hole in a full day.
3. Lay a geo textile on the floor and sides of the wicket. This stops the stones dissapearing over the years and stops weeds growing through.
4. With the digger, add 4 inches of clean 3/4 stone for drainage into the wicket and compact it with a heavy roller or a plate compactor.
5. Add another 4 inches of clean 3/4 stone and then compact.
6. At this stage you can use the treated wooden beams to box the sides of the wicket, up to ground level. This helps to maintain the level of the wicket each year, prevent weeds creeping in, and keep the shape. This stage is optional.
7. Add the final 2 inches of clean 3/4 stone and compact.
8. Add an inch of stonedust with the digger and as many shovels as you can. Water the stonedust heavily so that as much as possible washes into the gaps between the drainage stone to solidify it.
9. Compact with the heavy roller until there is no obvious movement. If gaps remain between the drainage stones, add some stonedust, water it, and roll again.
10. Add another inch of stonedust. Level it off with rakes and two straight 8′ x 2” x 4” beams, using two people on each beam and a sawing action across the wicket so that it is level.
11. Wet the stonedust thoroughly.
12. Compact the stonedust with the heavy roller, maybe three or four times – twice with the vibrating compaction function, then twice without. The moment you no longer see the gravel compacting, stop. You should see slight water seepage as the roller goes over it. If you over compact it, or don’t use enough water, the stonedust will loosen and crumble. If this happens, stop rolling, sprinkle more water on it and start with the next layer.
13. Add another layer of stonedust until it is 1/4” above ground level, level it, wet it, and compact without the vibration function. After the first roll, look for dents and add a shovel of stonedust and water where necessary.
14. When you’re not compacting the wicket, you can use the heavy roller to flatten the outfield. The best time is when the soil is moist. Don’t do it if the ground is saturated, as this will seal the top, upset the drainage and damage new grass growth.
15. Leave the wicket to set for a week. It should be ready to lay a hessian/jute mat over the top.
Maintenance and Extras
1. Stop your bowlers and batsmen running on the mat! This will cause MASSIVE unseen damage to the wicket underneath, and before long you will see snakes spitting on a length.
2. You can pick up a cheap artificial grass carpet from any hardware store. You can nail these on the gravel at the bowlers’ ends, to stop gravel being kicked onto the mat and cover the footmarks. You can also lay this down the sides if you wish, which helps prevent stones getting on the mat.
3. Have a broom to sweep gravel off the mat mid-innings.
4. Every Wednesday before a weekend match, give the pitch a roll with a light roller (~120$ from Home depot – you can fill it with water or gravel to add weight), and then a light watering with watering cans. If sunshine is forecast, the pitch will harden before the match.
5. If there has been damage to the wicket, from players running on the mat, you may have to re-level the surface, or areas of the surface, with a 2” x 4” beam, before giving it a light roll and then watering. It’s best to carry out this maintenance after a match, too.
6. You can get some plastic plumbing tubing from any hardware store (~16$). Cut it into foot-long pieces and bury them either side of the wicket, up to ground level. Now you have post holes for nets. Four wooden 2” x 4′ x 10′ cost about 12$.
7. If you are pros, and heavy rain is forecast on Thursday/Friday, stick covers over the wicket. You can get three large tarps from Canadian Tyre for ~150$. Take them off when the sun is out, so it can harden, not sweat.
8. Never ever roll up and store your mat if it is wet. It MUST dry out before you do this, otherwise it will rot. If you have a secure field, you can leave it pinned out in the sun. Come and turn it to let the other side dry, then put it away.
9. Note, the mat will stretch over time.
10. Each spring, using the back of a rake, take off the top 1/2” to 1” of gravel. You will see that the finer particles have been washed away during autumn and winter, leaving just loose stones. Using the steps above, key in another layer of new stonedust.
11. Each autumn, the outfield needs to be aerated. An aerator is a machine that takes inch-long soil cores out of the ground. It allows the grass to breathe, mixes the nutrients, improves drainage and levelling. Once the cores have been allowed to dry, they can be broken up and spread around using a drag mat (a very heavy piece of chain mail fencing, approx. 5′ x 10′) attached to a tractor or quad, driving in all directions.
12. An outfield can be greatly improved by adding a mixture of course sand and peat-moss (a 60%-40% ratio) in autumn or spring. Twenty tons will do most of a field. Deposit it in circles using wheelbarrows around the field, particularly where most needed. The infield, bowlers’ run-ups and around the wicket will require most attention. Spread it around the field using a drag mat attached to a tractor or quad, driving in all directions. It will spread the soil evenly and fill cracks very quickly, providing important nutrients for the grass and making a better playing surface.