New square work underway

Head groundsman Matt Merchant is hoping to be able to produce more great wickets when the new square is laid at Old Trafford

Merchant and his team have already started work on turning the square through 90 degrees after the club’s redevelopment plans were given the go ahead last week.

He believes a best case scenario would see the foundations for eleven new wickets laid within the next two weeks, and it will take between 12 and 18 months for them to bed in and be usable.

The wickets at Old Trafford are generally regarded as some of the best in the world, especially for international cricket. A typical Old Trafford track would provide plenty of pace, help for the spinners later in a game, but also be true to bat on too.

Merchant, who won the ECB’s four day groundsman of the year award in his first season in the top job, said:  “There are going to be eight new wickets laid (on the old Stretford End side of the square). On the other side of the square we are going to have three new wickets. We’ll keep five on the old square which is where the one- day fixtures will be played in 2011, but not on any of the new wickets."

“That means we’ll have eleven new wickets, which makes a total of 16. That is a vast improvement on the eleven we’ve got at the minute. Only ten of them can be used for first-class cricket. But, on the new square, we should be able to use all 16.”

It promises to be a busy 12 months for Merchant and his team, who have also undertaken work on the squares at Liverpool, Blackpool and Southport in preparation for the 2011 summer.

“We’ve already been to Liverpool, Blackpool and Southport and we’ve done the renovation work at those grounds,” he confirmed. “At Liverpool we’ve worked on six of their wickets. We’ve got seven wickets at Liverpool. and we’ve got five or six (Championship) games. It gives us a little bit more flexibility.”

Graham Hardcastle
Photos: Simon Pendrigh, Ken Grime
(c) Lancashire CCC Ltd