England Cricket Board debuts hybrid cricket pitch

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The England Cricket Board, in conjunction with SIS Pitches, has taken steps to install two SISGrass wickets at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough. The ECB becomes the first cricket authority to install a trial wicket using SIS Pitches’ hybrid surface, SISGrass Universal.

The pitches combine a majority of natural turf grass with around 5% of twisted yarn. In soccer, this has led to considerable improvements in stability and durability and is being used in the Luzhniki Stadium for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final in Russia. The ECB is now able to investigate whether there could be equivalent advantages for cricket, especially for the recreational game.

Chris Wood, the ECB’s pitches consultant, explained, “This goes back several years to a conversation I had with Darren Baldwin, the head groundsman of [English soccer club] Tottenham Hotspur. The majority of Premier League venues now use hybrid pitches, and even to the casual observer of soccer, 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. But now SISGrass has developed a new, more compact stitching unit than has been used for soccer. We took the machine to Loughborough last week and have laid one pitch on the square and another in the outdoor nets.

“We’ve used a straw-colored yarn, rather than the brighter green in use in soccer, 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 matchplay and practice, with prolonged uniformity of grass cover.

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

Phil Blackwell, SISGrass director in the UK, added, “It is very exciting to be partnering with the ECB on this project.

“SISGrass Universal has already made a big impact on the industry across all sports that haven’t been able to access the benefits of hybrid pitch systems in the past. We have managed to combine all of the qualities of our flagship SISGrass product and make them accessible to all.”

SISGrass Universal is an advanced reinforced turf system featuring patented fiber injection technology, utilizing yarn that is tested to FIFA recommendations, which offers increased surface stability, more playing hours and faster recovery than 100% natural grass surfaces.

June 28, 2017

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