March 24, 2003

Substantial improvements made to Bert Sutcliffe Oval

Bert Sutcliffe Oval has been dug up and re-sown in a bid to help the ground withstand the heavy use it is subjected to during summer months.

The showpiece ground at New Zealand Cricket's High Performance Centre at Lincoln University had been originally developed with a brown top type of grass which proved incapable of handling the heavy workload.

Turf manager at the complex Karl Johnson said brown top is the type of grass used on golf greens but it didn't handle the sort of wear it was subjected to on cricket grounds.

The work on the ground started two weeks ago and the opportunity has also been taken to level the ground because it also hadn't been properly levelled when first developed.

A stronger rye grass will be sown over the entire outfield.

When the top soil was taken off the 1.6 hectares, much of it was sold, a fair percentage of it to the Terrace Downs golf complex near Mt Hutt.

"It had a good irrigation system but we had to pull all the sprinklers out of the ground, but we have better levels there now and there will be a better cover of grass," he said.

All the pitches at the three grounds at the complex were sown in rye grass and they have all been renovated.

Johnson was unaware of the call by Auckland cricket coach Mark O'Donnell for the Lincoln complex to be used for the first few rounds of the State Championship series in order that players should get onto better quality pitches earlier in the summer than has been the case.

The only problem was that at the moment Johnson has 17 match strips available to him, and all but one have been allocated for next summer.

The New Zealand Cricket Academy has a programme of games against the major cricket associations at the start of next season while it is likely the national Under-19 tournament and the Provincial A series will also be played there again next summer.

Over the past season, the ground usage had been saved by the players' strike which meant the scheduled games between the Academy side and the provincial associations did not take place. That avoided an over-use problem as the result of the staging of the World Series of Women's Cricket quadrangular tournament at the complex in January.

There were 94 days of play at the complex over the past summer.

"I think it would be great if we could have State Championship cricket out here, if that is the way New Zealand Cricket want to go.

"It is great that people are saying that. We pride ourselves on what we have achieved here," he said.