August 16, 2000

Burdett's baby safely delivered

After five months of preparation and extensive work, the baby of Strath-Ayr and Adelaide Oval ground manager Les Burdett has finally come to fruition.

As the Michael Bevan and Stephen Waugh partnership gathered momentum following a shaky start from Australia with the bat, Burdett couldn't have been more happy with the result of many months of toil into the unknown.

"I am pleasantly surprised at the result of the all the work that we've put in. It has been a real team effort".

By name, the "team" that Burdett refers to is Colonial Stadium head groundsman Gavin Read, Adelaide Oval second-in-charge Michael Box, the ACB contracted company Strath-Ayr, Burdett and a group of groundstaff who have put in some incredible hours during the last three weeks in preparation for today's game.

"Everyday in the last three weeks or so, we've been up with the sparrows and been lucky some days to have been in bed by eleven pm," Box said as he and Burdett started to relax over a beer in one of the crowded bars at the Colonial Stadium.

Early on, one could have been concerned at the use of sawdust in the bowlers' foot-holes but, as Burdett explained, this was of no real worry to him.

"Given that it is August, the outfield is a little damp and consequently the dampness is transported onto the pitch as a result of the bowlers' run ups. Needless to say we need some sawdust there and in any event it will be swept out at the end of tonight's play".

Burdett said the pitch offered far more bounce than he had originally anticipated and that, in his heart, he couldn't have done anything more in its preparation.

"I spoke with third umpire Daryl Harper at drinks and he said that both umpires and players were delighted with the conditions and that the white ball, which is prone to get scruffy and dirty, was holding up better than normal".

Even the practice wickets have been highly praised, with Aussie skipper Stephen Waugh saying that they are the best such wickets he has played on in the last two years.

"That in itself is gratifying given the practice tracks were my second choice for the centre," Burdett said.

The pitches themselves are only 8" (200mm) deep and, underneath that, there is only a further 300mm between the concrete and the Stadium Car park at the very base of the stadium.

Surprisingly, little will be done to the centre pitch at the close of play even though there are still two more games over the next four days.

"We'll give it a rolling with 'Puffer' (the heavy roller) and won't give it a drop of water".

The story of 'Puffer the green roller' in itself is a good one. The 1951 model heavy roller has been brought over to Melbourne, and Burdett has so much faith in it that 'Puffer' is "on top of the invite list to my 50th birthday party".

Burdett has brought with him a lot of other tools of his trade that he uses in Adelaide. It's all familiarity really for Burdett, and is an extra thing he has been actually able to control throughout the preparation process.

"Basically it's more comforting to have your own tools and gear especially in the final three weeks of preparation".

Interestingly, the track hasn't seen a drop of water in two and a half weeks - an unusual development given the normal process of preparing a pitch.

"I basically prepared the track to be ready to play on and my main concern was whether it would crack when transported rather than when it was sunken in the centre of the stadium".

Mind you, it hasn't been a case of complete sweet sailing. The truck carrying the wicket from the Strath-Ayr base to the Stadium even got bogged as it set off! Once it reached Colonial, though, the lowering process was completed without any major hassles.

The outfield, which has been a chestnut of football critics throughout the winter, is something that Burdett says should solve itself.

"Five months of sun will allow the 'Legend' variety of grass the grow and bind together and given that little activity will take place on the surface between next week and February the ground will be in great shape for next winters footy".

The winter grass is made up of a rye variety which has been oversown over the 'Legend' couch which thrives in the summer.

All in all, the pitch has come up trumps and now we can all await the future of a new venture of indoor cricket here in Melbourne for potential many years to come.