This article is a step by step guide to building a synthetic grass cricket pitch, By Dr Softfall, aka playground builder Nick Warren.
So you have a hankering to build a cricket pitch? You may be a cricket enthusiast wanting a proper pitch for the backyard, or a country cricket club that has no local sports builders. So what do you do? Keep playing on the road? Throw your hands up in despair? No siree you follow this guide by Dr Softfall, and build your own.
Step 1: Budget
Building a full size cricket wicket takes considerable time and effort and the materials are not cheap. You will need the following (note prices are in Aussie dollars).
• Labour – hopefully free with the promise of free beer and a good game of cricket.
• Black waterproofing plastic
• Excavation hire $80 per hour allow around
• Disposal of soil. Again this is variable. Local tips may charge up to $40 per tonne so ask around to see if anyone needs fill for building or landscaping purposes.
• Outdoor Synthetic Grass Adhesive Available from www.playcover.com.au
• You will require 20 litre drum will do 10m2. Cost $190 + Freight per drum.
• Synthetic cricket grass comes in widths of 1.8 m or 3.6m. Cost per lineal metre is around $70 per LM for 1.8 wide or $120 per lineal metre for 3.6 wide.
(available from www.playcover.com.au from $70 per lineal metre. Available in widths of 1.82 or 3.62m See below for tips on choosing the best synthetic grass for your application. Softfall safety surfacing is not required or nessesary because this would adversely impact on the bounce of the cricket ball.
Step 2: Design
The actual width and length of synthetic cricket pitches are very varied according to site conditions and budget. Of course a fenced off practise pitch will differ from a full size pitch used for first grade games. And whilst the stump to stump measurement is always 20.12m (22 yards), the width and run-up is often varied according to intended use.
Remember that synthetic grass comes in 1.8m or 3.6m widths. It is sometimes possible to get an in between measurement but check with your supplier to ensure you do not end up paying for excess grass that will be wasted.
If budget allows it is advisable to have the pitch 3.6m wide to encourage the batsman to use their feet and go for their shots. If budget is important (as it usually is) you may elect to go for the smaller 1.8m width.
The length of run-up will also be a factor in determining the final measurement, and again consideration should be given to whether it will primarily be used by juniors, adults, or for practise or competitive games. A good size would be 30m in overall length, which allows 5m at either end for bowlers run up.
Step 3: Location
When choosing a location there a number of factors to consider. Ideally your pitch should be facing North/South so that the batsman will not be looking directly into the sun. It should also be positioned so that batsman will not be hitting cricket balls into the local playground, or through neighbouring windows. Think carefully before you decide on your final location as once it is down it will be permanent. Once you have decided carefully mark out the position using pegs, string line and marking paint.
Step 4: Excavation
You may wish to use a laser level to ensure your cricket pitch is perfectly flat. Do not be surprised if you find that what looked to be a flat field or oval actually has a slope to it. If this is the case you may wish to follow the existing slope of the ground rather than building up one end of the pitch. Again this will be determined by what type of games will be played on it. For a junior or local grade game this may not be a problem, whereas if it is to be used for high grade competitive matches then it may be worth excavating the field to minimise the slope.
It really is a lot of work to try and excavate a cricket pitch by hand. This is where your local excavator guy comes in handy. The photo shows our operator digging to the correct depth using a 2 tonne excavator. It is a good idea to leave some piles of dirt around the excavated perimeter which will be used for backfilling once it is installed.
Once the area is excavated you should compact the base with a mechanical plate compactor. You can use this time to ensure the base is solid and neat, so that you will not be wasting excess concrete.
Step 5: Formwork and Reinforcement
Timber formwork should be 90-100m high and made from long lengths of timber. When positioning the formwork use a level to ensure a soft fall across the width of the pitch of 3-5%. This will allow water to drain off quickly during wet weather and will reduce time spent waiting for the pitch to dry. Use hardwood pegs to ensure the formwork will not move during the concreting process. Do not forget to carefully measure and install two stump boxes. These may simply be made from hardwood formwork timber nailed together to form a box with overall dimensions of the sandpit. Once the formwork is completed you should cover the entire area with waterproof plastic to ensure the concrete will not loose moisture as it is curing. You can now cut your reo to size using bolt cutters or a grinder, and carefully position it in place ensuring it is held off the ground by plastic chairs (small reo holding devices). You do not want the reo to be exposed to the ground as this exposes it to moisture which in turn can lead to concrete cancer. Concrete cancer is caused by exposed reo rusting which causes it to contract and result in excess cracking of the concrete- a common problem where the concreting process has not been through enough. Remember that carefully prepared formwork is fundamental, and your time spent here will be repaid many times over with a neat and professional finish.
Step 4: The Concreting Process
It is advisable to have a professional concreter onsite when the concrete is poured. He can also check that the formwork is adequate and properly prepared as well as having knowledge of the best sources of local concrete. There is no need to put in an expansion joint in the middle of the concrete pitch as this creates a potentially dangerous erratic bouncing spot for cricket balls travelling at high speed, and it can also lead to greater disparity between the separated slabs due to ground movement. The reo in the concrete will hold the concrete together when it cracks over time, spreading the cracks over a greater area, and hence having less effect. When concreting ensure the edges are rounded and concrete is finished off leaving a smooth surface.
Ideally you should pour the slab early in the day so that it can start to set whilst there is less heat from the midday sun. It also allows you time to duck off to the pub for a well earned lunch break. You can come back later in the day to remove formwork, including the stump boxes.
Step 6: Installing the Synthetic Grass
Once the concrete is poured you should wait at least 21 days before applying the synthetic surface. This time delay is important because if the concrete has not cured properly, the excess moisture will come to the surface preventing any chance of the adhesive sticking to the surface.
Position the grass in the centre of the pitch and roll it out so that it is in place. Ensure there is a good overlap at both ends as well as at least 200mm overlap in the centre.?You should now cut it and turn it around so that the pile of the carpet is facing the same direction at both ends. This will ensure that there is no discrepancy at either end due to carpet pile direction, which may otherwise give a batsman a greater advantage. In the photo below you can see that when you do so, the synthetic grass appears to be two different colours. Of course its not, its just appears that way due to the different angles light is refracted from. This visual effect will become less apparent over time.?Once you have carefully positioned the grass, carefully roll it up into a neat roll, ensuring that it remains in perfect alignment with the edge of the concrete. Ensure that the grass overlaps equally on both edges. Do not cut off the excess on the sides. This will be tucked over the sides to cover the corners of the concrete.
You are now ready to pour the synthetic grass glue onto the concrete and using a 3mm notched trowel distribute it evenly across the surface. It is a good idea to wear disposable gloves, which will keep your hands clean yet not hinder dexterity.
Shown below is the author Dr Softfall, aka Nick Warren, applying synthetic grass glue.
You should cover 47.5% of the pitch starting from one end and working towards the middle. The middle 5% should be left dry until the end. Don’t forget to cover the sides of the concrete as well as the sides of the stump boxes.
Once the glue is sufficiently tacky (approximately 15-20 mins) the synthetic grass carpet is ready to be rolled out. At least 2 people should be used to carefully roll the grass into place. You will not get a second chance, so ensure the grass is correctly positioned as you do so. After it is rolled out you will need to work out any creases or air bubbles that can be seen. You can use a heavy water filled roller to ensure that creases are removed and the grass is correctly adhered to the concrete surface. Don’t forget to neatly fold the grass over the sides of the concrete and trim off any excess.
Repeat the process at the other end. If you have followed these directions correctly you will have 95% of the surface correctly glued in place with the 5% gap in the middle. Remember the overlap you left in the middle. Now is your time to try your skills at carpet laying. You will use a sharp bladed stanley knife to carefully cut the overlap so that the carpet lengths are neatly butted together in the middle. This requires patience, as well as a steady hand and a good eye. Ideally you should get a carpet layer to ensure the join is as neat as can be. Once it is cut flop the two ends of the synthetic grass back and carefully glue the remaining middle 5% . Once the glue is tacky you can carefully lay the carpet in place butting the seams together.
Now all that is left to do is to locate the stump boxes and carefully cut an x from corner to corner in each box. Fold the synthetic grass neatly against the inside of the stump box and fill it up with soil.
Now you can use the piles of soil around the pitch to backfill the edges to ensure that there is no potential trip hazards.
Painting The Popping Crease?The crease should be marked with an acrylic paint which is carefully painted on, as per official cricket measurements.
And that’s it. All that’s left is for you to score that dream hundred or take that hat-trick, and how you do that is entirely up to you. Thanks for reading and remember that we sell and freight all types of synthetic cricket wicket grasses. You can find out more at www.playcover.com.au, Dr Softfall website which provides sports and softfall rubber surfaces.
About the Author
Dr Softfall, aka Nick Warren is a professional sports and playground builder located in NSW, Australia. He has over 8 years experience in sports and playground construction, including all aspects of synthetic grass and rubber soft fall. He also holds degrees in Arts, law and English from Sydney University and The University of Macquarie. He is the director of Playcover, a business that provides synthetic sports & rubber playground surfacing which can be found at www.playcover.com.au.
Nick is widely known as Dr Softfall due to his numerous writings and internet postings on the subject of playground safety and rubber soft fall surfacing. This article is for information purposes only and the authors take no responsibility for reliance on the information contained within.