ECB to trial hybrid grass pitches in bid to improve quality of playing surfaces in English cricket

Two new pitches at Loughborough will combine a majority of natural turf grass with around 5 per cent of twisted artificial yarn

The technology is being put to test at the national performance centre in Loughborough
The technology is being put to test at the national performance centre in Loughborough

The ECB will trial hybrid artificial pitches at their national performance centre in Loughborough as they look to improve the quality of playing surfaces in English cricket.

Two new pitches at Loughborough will combine a majority of natural turf grass with around 5 per cent of twisted artificial yarn, as used in football, to improve stability and prevent pitches breaking up.

The same technology is being used in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium for the 2018 World Cup Final in Russia, and now the ECB are able to investigate whether there could be equivalent advantages for cricket.

“This goes back several years to a conversation I had with Darren Baldwin, the Head Groundsman of Tottenham Hotspur," said Chris Wood, the ECB’s dedicated pitches consultant.

“The majority of Premier League venues now use hybrid pitches, and even to the casual observer of football, I think it’s obvious that those pitches have been of a far more consistently high quality, around all clubs and throughout the season.

“That is because introducing a relatively small amount of artificial twisted yarn greatly improves the stability of the surface underfoot, and allows the sward to endure the long football season with a consistent playing performance.

“We have had to wait to apply this technique to cricket – there have been semi-hybrid pitches, but using artificial turf with cricket loam infill rather than natural grass. There is now a new, more compact stitching unit than has been used for football. We took the machine to Loughborough last week and have laid one pitch on the square and another in the outdoor nets.

The technology is being used at Russia's Luzhniki Stadium

“We’ve used a straw-coloured yarn, rather than the brighter green in use in football, to make it look as authentic as possible. They still need to be seeded and enhanced, but we hope they will be playable in the near future.

“Possible advantages are increased durability of pitches for match play and practice, with prolonged uniformity of grass cover.

“It is fitting that we have installed the pitches at Loughborough, as our centre for innovation around cricket.”

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