Lucky find dishes the dirt to maintain slow-bowling paradise October 16, 2006

SCG keeps its spin as soil crisis solved

Cricinfo staff

Stuart MacGill is so comfortable at the SCG he calls it "my house" © Getty Images

A soil shortage at the SCG threatened to end the pitch's reputation as a spinner's paradise, but the discovery of a new source of dirt will preserve the surface's distinct characteristics. With the groundsman's stores of Bulli soil dwindling and development covering over the previous hotspots, Tom Parker, the curator, learned the Wollongong Golf Club was reconfiguring its layout and had found two seams of the treasured product.

The SCG Trust was able to remove about 2000 tonnes of the dirt, which will be enough to satisfy the nine pitches at the ground through to the next century. "Bulli soil has been in use at the SCG since day one and we're talking of more than 150 years," Parker said in The Australian. "It's volcanic in nature with 65 percent clay content.

"The soil is normally found at the base of the Illawarra escarpment [south of Sydney], but sadly a lot of the area is now built out. The high clay content in the soil makes the pitch set hard and provides true bounce." It also lights up the eyes of the spinners and Shane Warne, Stuart MacGill, Bob Holland, Allan Border and Murray Bennett have starred in Sydney Tests. MacGill, who plays for New South Wales, even refers to the ground as "my house".

"This new stockpile of Bulli soil will certainly see me out in the job, good and proper," Parker, 39, said. "We had originally acquired a very small quantity of Bulli soil from the same club not long after I first started here ten years ago. But that was only one-tenth of the soil we've managed to recover this time from the original 7000 tonnes of earth removed from the site."

The pitch for the fifth Ashes Test, which starts on January 2, is expected to be a typical Sydney wicket and the news is not good for the English batsmen who have struggled to play Warne and MacGill. "By the fourth, and certainly on the fifth day, it will break up and take spin," Parker said. "It will take maximum spin for the likes of both Warne and MacGill to bowl in tandem against the Englishmen."