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The Old Traffords and Leigh Sports Village


Jeff Lenihan

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I was on the road with Ian again today and we drove into Manchester and to Old Trafford, the cricket grounds that is, not football just yet. There we met Matthew Merchant, the head groundskeeper. They had just finished up with a four day long cricket match, and Matthew was doing some work on the pitch.

 

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Old Trafford cricket grounds

 

If you have never seen a cricket match before, they have a different way of managing their pitch than at a football or rugby stadium. Instead of growing on a primarily sandy soil, they grow on a mostly clay soil, and roll it constantly. This allows them to have a hard pitch, which is what the players want.

 

Another interesting thing about cricket pitches is the area where the bowler (like a pitcher in baseball) delivers the ball to the batsman --- it's called the pitch area. For this area, the grounds crew scalps the grass down to almost nothing. We got to see them repairing holes in this area using a clay mixture to fill in the spaces at Old Trafford.

 

Maintaining a cricket pitch really goes against everything you learn about normal turf management, but it is what must be done in order to have the field playing correctly for this particular sport.

 

Maintaining a cricket pitch really goes against everything you learn about normal turf management...

 

After visiting the Old Trafford cricket grounds, we visited the football grounds that Manchester United plays their games on. We didn't go on the pitch, however, because the head groundsman, Tony, was busy. So, we took some pictures outside, visited the store, and grabbed some sausage and chips with gravy at a cafe on Sir Matt Busby Way.

 

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Next up was a visit to Leigh Sports Village, a multi-sport complex that is home to five different clubs including a rugby team, Manchester United and Blackpool's under-21 football teams. The head groundskeeper, Keith Porter, works there along with his son Martin. Keith was the head man at Manchester United's training grounds at Carrington, before going into business for himself doing contract work.

 

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Leigh Sports Village pitch

 

683df2dfb29f854a4d7a1ef30ea9e656-.jpgThe rugby/football pitch at Leigh was made with Desso Grassmaster hybrid grass, which was my first time seeing a Desso pitch in person. Desso is a Netherlands based company who have supplied these hybrid grass fields to just about all the top clubs in Europe.

 

Installing a Desso pitch takes about two weeks. About two million individual strands of Desso artificial grass are sewn into the ground about 17cm down. As the natural grass grows, it's roots wrap themselves around the artificial strands, giving the pitch a lot of strength.

 

Instead of normal divoting you would usually see on a field, where the whole plant comes out, there is scarring with only slight lines taken out of the turf. This is a big benefit both aesthetically and for the smooth roll of the ball.

 

When looking at a Desso pitch, it is hard to tell that it is one, unless there is an area that is torn up. Only then can you see the artificial strands poking through.

 

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"Scarring" of the Desso pitch. This is a lot less damage than divots in a regular pitch

 

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"Scarring" of the Desso pitch. This is a lot less damage than divots in a regular pitch

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Jeff - I was on location at Trinity College Dublin with their Grounds Manager and learned quite a bit about cricket pitch maintenance. Fascinating that in an industry where we are used to maintaining the turf that practically killing it prevails in this case. Keep the great info coming! -Jon

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