Hybrid cricket pitches are still relatively new to club cricket but they’re catching on fast as word spreads.
For this content collaboration with SIS Pitches, I went along to Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club to find out how they are using theirs.
It was so good to return to this Halifax League ground, tucked away beyond an industrial estate. You emerge into a striking leafy bowl, by the River Calder; both feature and foe to the cricket club.
They have been flooded over and over again but are cheerily optimistic that because of the tireless work that’s been done on the ground and to the clubhouse, Sowerby Bridge CC are as prepared as they can be.
A wooden plaque at the left-hand corner of the clubhouse shows the different depths that major floods reached over the last decade. It is a chilling reminder.
Sowerby Bridge were selected to be part of an ECB trial to assess the benefits of hybrid cricket pitches in the recreational game. Of particular interest was how hybrid grass would respond to pitches that flooded and how they might improve the chances of play.
At this point, a quick recap on what hybrid cricket pitches are, if you’re wondering.
It is still a 95% natural grass surface with the remaining 5% made up of polyethylene yarn that is repeatedly punched into the ground up and down in rows, using a nifty SIS Pitches machine.
What are the key benefits of hybrids?
Hybrid cricket pitches behave less erratically than grass; a consistent bounce that you can trust.
The artificial element to these cricket pitches means that your cricket club can use them more often than a grass alternative. That’s great for participation and less work for the volunteers doing your ground.
Hybrids help your other grass strips within a cricket square recover for when they’re needed again. Many clubs host dozens of games and it can be tricky to rotate, particularly on smaller grounds.
Less wear and tear
The 2022 British summer has been unusually dry and at times, freakishly hot. A grass cricket pitch will always get damaged as bowlers pound in and batters dart off for a sneaky single.
Extreme weather will amplify this. A soggy surface sees spikes tear it up and divots galore while the very dry spells bake the ground and it can crack.
Hybrid pitches in cricket stand up much better to this punishment from sliding cricketers and spikes. You notice this particularly at both ends where the foot holes are.
On grass pitches, you’ll often get craters formed as the earth gets worn away.
Enables much more cricket
This is the game-changer for recreational cricket. Hybrids are a resilient alternative. They’re still very much a grass surface but with added benefits.
It’s been shown that a hybrid can get double the usage because it doesn’t degrade as quickly. That’s scope for many more games held at your club in future. Or just better management of the fixture list you already have.
I meet Steve Jordan, Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club Chairman, who can barely disguise his excitement at re-telling the installation last year.
Apparently, the SIS Pitches laser-guided technology arrives on a lorry and rolls off like something out of Dr Who.
It’s a similar size to a cricket roller and resembles a giant sewing machine with spools of yarn. The process takes just a few hours to slowly work its magic on one cricket pitch.
You don’t have to treat hybrids any differently than you would a grass wicket; it can still be cut, rolled and scarified.
Pitch inspection at Sowerby Bridge
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I went out with Steve to take a closer look at their hybrid pitch.
It wasn’t newly prepared. Steve reckoned it had been used for the Halifax League’s T20 Finals (that was split over 2 weekends) and a total of 150 overs in the last month.
It didn’t have any noticeable damage. The colour was also striking in the way it completely blended in with the grass. Clubs can choose between a green or straw-coloured yarn (Sowerby Bridge went with the latter).
There was also a clear contrast with the grass strip next to it that was looking worse for wear after a busy summer.
What do Sowerby Bridge think themselves?
Talking to Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club, they use the hybrid to help them with the volume of games there are across the summer. Talking to Steve, it came into its own when the club hosted the league’s T20 Finals Day.
‘It’s extremely consistent and carries through well. Everyone who played in the T20 Finals Day, win or lose, said it played perfectly. Had that been on a grass track over two weekends, we might have had to move it to a different track.’
He went on to say: ‘It was a no-brainer for us. We wanted to do this. Everything we do is to invest back into the club or surrounding area. The pitch is the bread and butter. That’s what needs to be right.’
The game itself saw Booth win comfortably by 63 runs after scoring 236 for 6. They dismissed Sowerby Bridge for 173 runs to claim the 12 points in the Premier Division for 2nd XIs.
The hybrid cricket pitch looked a belter to bat on and played very true. There weren’t the inconsistencies you often get in league cricket. No ankle biters or balls rearing up.
Many thanks to Steve at Sowerby Bridge and the rest of the club who welcomed us so warmly on the day. It’s a special place both for its people and location.
From the care taken with the ground to the balcony offering an elevated view, it was clear that Sowerby Bridge are thriving, despite the adversities they’ve faced.
It will be interesting to see how many other cricket clubs in Yorkshire and beyond consider SISGrass in future.
Get in touch with SIS Pitches
If you’re a cricket club interested in hybrid cricket pitches and want to know more, just book a free consultation with SIS.
Thomas Alcock is the person to talk through your club’s pitch requirements and how to get the best from what you need.
His email is [email protected] or 07398 111423.
**This is a sponsored article for SIS Pitches – if the mood takes you, click to read Cricket Yorkshire’s policy on sponsored content**
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