Not such a tricky wicket
There was a time when preparing the wicket at Ardingly Cricket Club’s tree-fringed ground in mid Sussex involved an approach that was strong on enthusiasm but less so when it came to the knowledge and machinery employed.
But all that has changed thanks to an online course from the Groundsman’s Association and the availability of funding that has allowed the club to invest in equipment that includes the market leading Dennis FT510 mower from Lister Wilder. It’s purchase was the result of research by club Chairman Bill Swaffield who also performs the role of joint groundsman and took the trouble to get advice from other groundsmen in the wider area. He also had valuable input from Paul Meader who was his co-groundsman at that time was and closely involved in the decision making.
The club is known not just for its social warmth but (in normal times) for its post-match barbecues. The first XI plays in division 9 the Sussex Cricket League, while the 2nd XI plays in division 12 Central North. On Sundays, it plays friendly fixtures. The club’s junior side has been dormant for a while but there are hopes of reviving it in the months ahead, so the demands on the cricket square and the little groundsman team could increase.
“For years, we had really clapped-out and fast deteriorating equipment, and the job was becoming a real chore,” says Bill, a club veteran who still plays in the second XI ‘when my knees permit’. “We spent as much time coaxing the machines into life as we did cutting the pitch. But fortunately last year, with some grants and the generosity of a former member, we were able to afford new machinery.”
In addition to the Dennis FT510, the club has also invested in a large sit-on mower, a roller and a further mower specifically for winter work. The Dennis does the final cut but also performs other key functions thanks to its easily changeable cassettes for verti-cutting and scarifying. The club opted for the 20-inch cutting width – the FT510 is also available with 17 and 24-inch options.
“The cassettes are great because they take minutes to change and mean that you don’t need so many machines,” says Bill. “One thing you learn when you study it properly is that preparing a decent wicket involves a two or three-week cycle – you don’t just go out there and cut the grass the day before a match. We have a cycle that starts with a cut followed a few days later by scarifying and verti-cutting, with a final cut a day or so before a match.”
In total, the FT has the option to fit 12 different heads including spikers and slitters as well as five or nine-blade cutter cassettes. Adjustments, cleaning and maintenance of the cassettes is easy and the full variable drive gives the operator total control. The three-part steel geared differential roller makes for easy turning without turf damage. A simple click system adjustment quickly sorts changes in cutting height.
“We are very happy with it,” says Bill. “The Dennis cuts the grass really cleanly where our old mower just used to chew it off. It is razor sharp so you get a better finish in half the time.”