On the Front Foot: Scientists on a roll with findings but could face a pitch battle

One of the enduring images of cricket wherever it is played, and to whatever standard, is of an old boy sitting on a roller. He rolls and rolls, letting the world go by, until he has produced the perfect pitch.

Turns out that this is complete tosh (the practice, not the image). Excessive rolling makes no difference at all, and groundsmen have wasted millions of hours. Cranfield University last week produced the findings of a four-year study into the practice of rolling and have debunked several myths.

These include: the more a pitch is rolled, the better it will play; and that any pitch can become better by rolling it more. Peter Shipton and Dr Iain James, whose research was commissioned by the England and Wales Cricket Board, obviously support rolling. But, as with many things in life, too much of it can ruin a good thing. Controlling thatch and moisture are quite as important. They recommend three lots of four to five passes in pre-season rolling and a maximum of 10 passes 36 to 56 hours after pitch saturation when the surface is to be used.

They also recommend rolling across the square. One of the more bizarre findings of a deeply scientific survey, available in internet and booklet form, is the amount of rolling done. In club cricket, the average number of passes per pitch was 83, in first-class cricket 53. But the range in both cases was remarkable, going from five to 540 in club cricket and five to 280 at first-class level. The scientists hope to reduce the number of rolls by 766,000 and the cost in petrol by £459,000. Tradition may be harder to dislodge.

Gospel spreads in Windies

Good to note that the ECB have been fulfilling their pledge to help cricket in the Caribbean (and no, not just by losing the Test series). Their special projects manager, Maria O'Donoghue, was in Trinidad last week checking the progress of the Sport for Life programme.

This is based on the educational resource called Howzat, which in helping to spread the cricket gospel in schools is also intended to change the lives of children who are not reaching their potential at school or in the community. Cricket offers an alternative, enjoyable method of instruction to help in maths, language, spelling and, in the case of Trinidad, St Lucia and Barbados, a history of West Indies players – the team who won the series last week will become an important part.



Critical date for Cardiff?

Lord Morris of Handsworth is to continue as an independent member of the ECB board, having accepted the invitation of the chairman, Giles Clarke. The former general secretary of the TGWU will carry on in his role as chairman of the major match group. It was this group which controversially awarded the First Test of this summer's Ashes to Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, which has never staged a Test before. Lord Morris will now still be in office to field any criticism should it be necessary come 8 July.



Thanks a million, Brendan

When Brendan Nash delivered the first ball of the 32nd over in England's first innings in the Fifth Test at Queen's Park Oval, it was the four millionth legal delivery in the history of Test cricket. The first ball was bowled in 1877 by Alfred Shaw and it took until 1959 before the millionth, according to the meticulous research of Sky's prodigious scorer, Benedict Bermange.



s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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