Accrington Cricket Club

Accrington Groundsman Ian McCrae gives an update on the 2008 season

Monday 15th July
A few ground thoughts on the Worsley Cup final. after beating  Burnley in the semi all thoughts went  toward who we would play in the final and perhaps more importantly where. We had to wait a week for the answers. in the interim I, and no doubt many others associated with A.C.C.  milled over several lines of thought. Mine were these from a ground angle but also with cash in mind -  I want a home tie. Yes it's more work, more worry, more responsibility, but also more cash.

Anyway I selected wicket 11, a central wicket with a decent 'track' record, also it's not been used this season. I cut, scarified then cut the wicket again before waiting for the forecasted heavy rain to come. It came. A few hours later I rolled the wicket to compact the surface. I don't want to leave the wicket a fortnight before the final then start it only to get adverse weather. however neither do I want to over prepare the wicket and it's ready two weeks before the final. Regardless my mind sails many seas whilst in automatic pilot sat on the roller or outfield mower.

For instance consider the following;
Access to the ground. Accy is an open ground, Can we secure at least two access ends of the ground at the railway/Coppice side. What about our declining seating. Yes I know we have made arrangements to improve and increase seating at the end of the season, but that is in the future. Can we satisfy the Lancashire League committee that our ground is suitable to house the final. We don't want to spend any profit on temporary seating. We can accommodate quite a few cars on the grass areas by the entrance, can we re-use the banking on the railway/Coppice side by allowing cars to travel on the track on the Highams end of the ground? Perhaps we need to display some suitable disclaimers of responsibility, (contact club solicitor for advice). What about using the outfield at the railway/Coppice side of the ground as we will be reducing the boundary at that side of the ground. Dryish ground is a must if this occurs.

What about toilets? Behind the old scorebox there is an old dilapidated urinal. just one loo in the tearoom and those in the clubhouse. Do we need a portaloo? If so at what cost?  Again don't want to spend too much money on extra facilities  espectially as we don't know, weather dependant, if they will be needed.

Now thinking about more potential goldmines or minefields, food and drink. The tea room is regularly a busy venue for several hours during a normal Lancs League game. How do we cope with a Worsley Cup final. There are more people better qualified than me to work this out, but can't help wondering about extra staff, what if the weather is poor? Would a simpler menu be easier? What about 'cold' sales? e.g. sandwiches, could they be sold elsewhere, e.g. the old rugby room?, if so the players would have to have their teas in the changing rooms. Next what about sweets, pop, etc?. Back to drink, the stronger type. Bertie and Kim will be busy in dry or wet weather in the clubroom. Should an outside tent/marquee be erected for extra sales? If so, at what cost?. Where to position it? Who mans it? Will it be can sales only? Who will collect the empty glasses, cups etc?  Will a barbeque be needed?

We have a home game on Sat 2nd August v Bacup, the day before the final. I must ensure that the wicket for that game is a few wickets away from the Worsley Cup final one. Bert and Marion are away on holiday. Who will do the raffle,(a real earner). Who will litter pick in Bert's absence?  Bert will continue to tidy up the perimeter up to his holiday, I can rely on that. Although, outside the playing area, as a part time worker I can't afford to worry unduly. No need to. On Sat 5th July I receive a phone call from Peter, Todmorden beat Ramsbottom and won the toss for a home tie against us.

First emotion, disappointment, £.s.d. dominate. I then reason that many 'genuine' Accy workers for the club can enjoy not only a day out, but a month free from worry about the final. Yes less £.s.d. but more thoughts about silverware. Back to £.s.d. perhaps we can still earn a few bob on the morning of the match with food and a liquid lunch at the ground before a celebratory do back at the clubhouse after the game. Regardless, whatever we are in a final!


Matchdays at The Club

Work on the day of a first team matchas an example let's look at last weekend's two home matches, Saturday 31st May v Enfield in the Worsley Cup and Sunday 1st June v Rishton in the league.

Sunday 18th May  

Pick the bones out of this. Form your own opinions, if you haven't already. Let the facts influence you if you like. What am I talking about? The weather and its effects on cricket wickets. So far this season we have experienced what I think is a normal start weatherwise to a cricket season in the Lancashire League. therefore we have had wet wickets, damp wickets and a couple of dry ones, resulting in plenty of discussion, disagreements etc as to the fitness of play and condition of the wickets.

Let's have a recap on the last three weeks at Accy. 3 weeks ago was our first home match v Haslingden. Heavy overnight rain and during the morning resulted in water getting under the sheet and on the wicket. By 1pm, despite trying to remove water all morning with the impressive new waterhog, the square was under water. Haslingden's captain said it was impossible to cut a wicket anywhere else on the square. However Dibber promised to get an army of squeegee workers and try to get the game played even though further rain was forecast. In fairness although water had got on the wicket from under the sheet, the wicket was the "driest" on the square. My main concern was the fitness of the rest of the square. The outfield doesn't concern me. Last season the match would have been called off there and then. This season I think that Dibber didn't want other teams to steal ground on us by playing or he wanted to steal ground on them by playing. Regardless play eventually started before rain finished the match.


2 weeks ago complaints were made by the captain of the visiting second X1 about the wicket at ACC.  In the week prior to the game the square had been flooded. All attempts were made to prepare the wicket which was obviously going to be wet resulting in the " top going", ( i.e. the ball taking divets off the pitch)  with inevitable irregular bounce. Fortunately the umpires aware of the fact that wet conditions result in bowler friendly conditions turned a deaf ear to the complaint of the captain of the DEFEATED team.  I could understand a complaint if there had been no attempt to prepare a wicket or it wasn't cut or marked out or off the square, but in wet weather what do you expect. Incidentally ACC played on the same wicket and won!.


Next day Lloydy's home "debut" v Burnley. Again rain all morning. I spent 3 hours removing water from the square. Still rain continued during the afternoon. All other matches were called off. Burnley didn't want to play. It was out of the umpires hands at this stage. I can understand that with Lloydy playing, Sky Sports filming etc. we would try our best to play, (which we did), but after seven hours continual rain it was farcical to think that with water lying on the square we could wait till 3p.m. Then in one hour we could mop up and be ready to play by 4p.m. Lloydy or no Lloydy, Sky Sports or  no Sky Sports, top of the league or elsewhere the ground is either fit or unfit. Commonsense  prevailed or had to because of the continual rain and the match was called off. I might add that when a first team match is called off all the groundsman's work has been of no use and has to be redone for the rearranged fixture. In short more work.
1 week ago, following a dry week we had two home matches. Both wickets received the same attention during preparation, i.e. scarifying, mowing, brushing and rolling. By weekend both wickets were dry. Dibber and me agreed that the barer wicket, (it had been played on for 16 overs against  Haslingden),  would be used again against Haslingden on Saturday and the new one with a good grass coverage should be used on Sunday against Rawtenstall. Why? Well as I said both wickets received the same amount of rolling and were cut at the same height, however Rawtenstall's pro is a spinner and  they also have the best amateur spinner in the league, so  let's use the wicket with more grass coverage for their visit. Nothing underhand, no late watering of one end, no wirebrushing of grass areas to rough them up, just commonsense in taking advantage of playing at home.


Saturday's wicket produced a good game, nearly 450 runs, top score in the league over the weekend with no irregular bounce. So all's well on the ground? Well no. The boundaries are too long, can they be reduced for tomorrow's match? I can understand the comments as Accy have a few 40 year olds and a couple with no throwing arms. Lengthways there is no problem, but widthway the boundaries are 70 yards from the middle wicket!, (county size). I don't agree to reducing the boundaries on the tea room side, but remeasure and remark the boundary on the railway side by a good ten yards.

Next day Rawtenstall at home. It seemed a 200 plus wicket. Rawtenstall won the toss and batted. 48 all out! Explain that? I'd say the pro and Dibber both bowled well and they batted poorly. The ball swung alot in the heavy atmosphere and with thunder around we lost a few wickets in the chase against the weather. Groundsmen can't control the rain, neither can they control the atmospheric conditions. If it sounds an excuse so be it but can you argue against it?


A comment on greenish wickets. It is usual to use a superfine bottom blade on your wicket machine. This will, say, cut your wickets about 1/16 inch shorter than a normal bottom blade. However the superfine blade is easily damaged, especially in dry weather, needs replacing sooner and therefore for financial reasons at ACC we use the more robust thicker bottom blade. Hence, even in dry weather our wickets have a green tinge to them, (even if the wicket is starting to crack).

A final word on the captain/groundsman working relationship. Previous captain Matt was an acceptor of what he got. I appreciated that he accepted my work and didn't interfere with the ground. Dibber is a different kettle of fish. Much more hands on in all matters primarily because of his appetite and enthusiam for the game. His enthusiam for ACC together with Graham Lloyds commitment is tremendous for the club but will no doubt lead to some disagreements in opinion concerning the ground. no problem there providing we communicate.


That reminds me the subject of practice wickets is very much still high on my agenda. I located the two flix or twix or kwik fit or whatever wickets they are called, by the old roller shed by the mast. I've cut the grass down. They need further regular mowing and rolling. Additionally I've started a new wicket at the tea room side. Obviously this needs to be  worked on.  Time is always against you when you only work part-time, still it's enjoyable challenge regardless of whatever.


old roller shed
The remains of the old roller shed
©Nigel Stockley

Friday 15th February 2008
A few thoughts on the groundwork done or about to be done prior to the start of the season. Having in the past extensively covered work on the ground during and after the season I thought I might as well complete the groundsman’s hat-trick by detailing pre-season work. Normally this starts in early March, I’ve started already because of the great weather in the last two weeks. On Monday I first cut the square with a rotary mower to just top the grass at about 1 inch.

I took off about five full box loads. Then to settle the square after the frosts, worm activity and winter rains I rolled the square opposite playway with the 32inch atco square mower with the cutting blades disengaged. (weight about 5 cwt.) On Tuesday with the large ransomes mastiff outfield mower with seat attachment and 16 stone me as ballast I rolled and cut the square at about ¾ inch. I took off one full box load. I then checked the corners of the square were at right angles using the 3;4;5 triangle at each corner. You can check that it is squared off accurately by measuring the corners diagonally, they should measure the same. I then measured and marked each wicket at 10 feet intervals. The wickets are always in the same position otherwise bowlers’ follow-throughs will end up on a good length. Incidentally Arthur had changed the oil on the machines and roller the previous week. Thanks mate.

Pre-season rolling is usually done lengthways, (i.e. opposite the run of play). The reasoning for this is that in case of ridging it is better across rather than in line with the wicket. I’ll leave the reader to think about that. The aim of pre-season rolling is to consolidate the square to a depth of 3-4 inches whilst there is moisture in it. Therefore less watering and rolling needs to be done in wicket preparation during the summer months. Well that’s the theory. Rolling is done as slow as possible and not until the season is about to start does the rolling commence in the direction of play. Arthur after completing slitting the outfield is to start rolling the square on Friday with the 1.25 motorised roller. It will take about four hours to complete with a single pass only on the square. Subsequent rollings will overlap by half so it will take longer. pre-season rolling is a slow cold job. I aim for about 20-30 hours pre-season rolling. No rolling is done on the outfield. The weight of the outfield mower is sufficient to smooth out the outfield. Rolling is good and necessary for cricket but bad for the grass.

On Thursday I mowed about 80% of the outfield and took off about ten box loads it tidied the outfield up which is uneven with plenty of wormcasts which even in dry weather still  stick to the roller of the mower thus increasing the height of cut unless you stop and clean the soil off the roller at regular intervals. Incidentally March/ April is a good time to control worms as they are breeding and work close to the surface. At ACC although unsightly and messy we leave the worms be. Ideally they shouldn’t be on the square. I cut the panels in the outfield in the opposite direction to last season to avoid the grass developing a nap with the grass being cut on the same direction. The outfield is a poorish colour as expected this time of year, but smoother after mowing. Junior football has caused little damage. The square is quite green and healthy looking.

Whilst at the ground and assessing any new practice wickets I made a mental note that all wickets should face north/south, (as the square is). This must be the case for practice wickets because play is usually in the evening when the sun is setting in the west and this could  create a problem if positioned east/west.

Having covered pre-season work let me just say that in my opinion nowhere near enough aeration is done on ACC ’s square in the winter months. Except when frost is around the square should be aerated at least monthly up to January. As it is just one good aeration at the end of the season is hopelessly short of alleviating the hundred or so hours of rolling. Regular aeration relieves compaction, opens up the soil letting in air and light, (which helps breakdown thatch), stops water logging and helps roots develop to hold the surface together. And before having a pop at the groundsman may I add that we have no suitable aerator for the square and have to loan one at the end of the season.

Back to the ground, I wonder what work is to be done where the old roller shed has been demolished. There’s plenty of rubbish plus a gap in the wall. I heard that the wall at the Huncoat  end is to be painted. Whilst appreciating that a coat of paint brightens things up I personally find the grey wall not unattractive. It’s a long wall, will need plenty of paint  and  of course will need repainting.

I understand that there is money from a grant for new nets, a waterhog and new sheeting for the wicket. No doubt Peter arranged that. I stand to be corrected.

The trees at the Highams end of the ground, (growing on council land, but overhanging ours), are to be pruned on Monday. Peter has seen councillor Malcolm Pritchard and council officer Trevor Dean. Despite all the filling in of the holes that Bert has done on the road down to the gate both the weather and perhaps heavy traffic have left the road bumpy to say the least. Also we have yet to sort out the mowing and strimming of all the perimeter grass areas. On a cricketing note I’ve heard that two friendly matches are being arranged, both at home!. (I notice that East Lancs have arranged two friendlies, both away, surprise, surprise).


A final thought, with all this ongoing debate about Lancashire League cricket, I can’t remember one comment on the state of the grounds, the squares, the outfields, the nets or the facilities. Hopefully that’s a good sign.

Friday 11th January 2008

Report on practice wickets at Accrington Cricket Club   

the square
The square in winter
©Nigel Stockley

Firstly the square has 21 wickets.

From the tea room side :-

wicket  -          1 used by the      under 9’s is 18 yards.

                         2                                11’s “  20  

                         3                                13’s “  21  

                         4                                15’s “  22  

                  5 & 6                                17’s  &  3rds     

                        7-16 are senior wickets used by the first & seconds.

                        17 like  wickets 5 & 6 has one short sided boundary and is used for the thirds

                        18-21 are the existing practice wickets


It is not possible to extend the square further at the railway end as the ground undulates noticeably and grading work would be necessary.

The tearoom side has better surface levels but  practice could affect junior matches on this side of the ground. It is neither  fair or practical to re-site junior matches to the outfield without some form of maintenance programme and, of course, some form of previous preparation.

Therefore, as has been the case in previous seasons only 3 practice wickets have to last for senior cricket from April to September!

These wickets receive the same attention as the rest of the square. Loving!  In view of this should the practice wickets be damp or wet the artificial wickets should be used. Consideration should be given to the use of mats at the bowling ends of the grass practice wickets and the frames and nets should be returned to the artificial wickets from the practice wickets on the square after each practice.

Only senior practice should use these wickets on the square.

I have extended the square at the railway side by 3 wickets and at the tearoom side by 2 wickets in the last five years.

Primarily because the surface levels were good, ( although wicket 21 is a bit uneven). The work involved in improving these grass areas into wickets was to severely scarify all the coarse grasses, thatch  and moss out of the surface, resulting in an awful looking, brown finish! , which certainly didn’t look an improvement. This was followed with weed killing, fertilizing, and reseeding before topdressing and rolling. Ideally it would be best to extend the practice area on the railway side, but, I reiterate major grading work would be necessary. I might add that each wicket worked on was only used the season later.

What of the outfield? Previously grass practice wickets have been at the railway side of the ground. The Huncoat and Highams sides have problems.

The Highams end is the wettest area on the ground. The Huncoat end is the shortest side of the ground, undulates and has junior football played on it during the winter.

Neither side, nor the other two sides of the outfield receive any ground maintenance, save mowing.  In fact the entire outfield is weed infested, contains considerable thatch and moss and worm activity. In short it needs attention, although with regular clean mowing it looks acceptable.

Additionally  the soil on top is quite silty and not ideal for cricket. Topdressing with a clay soil would  be necessary together with regular over-seeding to encourage finer grasses with weeding and  feeding after heavy initial scarification. This work can only be done during the playing season.

On the outfield I suggest that  the railway side , where the practice wickets were formerly situated is probably the best area , (save the tearoom side which is not practical). Immediately next to the mast, on the railway side, and by the boundary edge two flix wickets were inserted in the ground. Between these wickets and the artificial ones is probably the best area to provide additional practice wickets.

The surface levels are reasonable. Starting with flattish levels is a necessary start. Perhaps an area covering, say three wickets, should be selected and treated as outlined before. A heavy duty scarifier would be needed, I could probably arrange this. The materials needed would cost say no more than £250, mainly on the topsoil. However time is the problem as well  as the weather. Whether sufficient time would be available or man power is another matter.

In time the new wickets which would not be fit for use in the first season would be treated as the three practice wickets on the square with the potential to add either side say one wicket each succeeding year. Whichever area designated for practice, wickets should not be affected by winter sports, (regardless of what Lloydy says!)

There is always the early season problem of players wanting to get used to the slow, damp grass wickets  as opposed to the dry indoor faster net wickets and the problem that wet weather can ruin these wickets early days, especially as A.C.C. only have three practice wickets at the moment. Additionally I feel that better communication from the groundsman to the players as regards fitness of grass practice wickets

During the season is a big work on area. Finally I hope we follow East Lancs policy of arranging pre season friendlies away from home! 

 Fat chance. We’ll see.


The Club