London: In a move bound to make some Englishmen choke over their breakfasts, Lord's owners Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) are to install grass pitches grown in Australia at "the home of cricket".
According to a report published in 'The Times' on Friday, construction work has just begun on the first two portable pitches to be embedded in England. These are currently at the practice Nursery ground, situated just behind the main Lord's square itself, which were originally cultivated in Melbourne. The cost of the operation is 60,000 Pounds ($ 85,200) and at least three more pitches are expected to make a similar journey to North West London. MCC would like more major matches at Lord's which presently stages two Test matches, two domestic cup finals, One-day Internationals as well as some Middlesex home fixtures during the course of the season. Should the new surfaces meet with the approval of MCC head groundsman Mick Hunt, they could be used for minor matches within the next two seasons. Eventually, as already happens at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, top flight fixtures will be staged on drop-in-pitches situated in the centre of the square. That would certainly alter the character of matches at Lord's, a small ground by Australian standards. Pitch positioning often leads to a short square boundary in front of the Tavern stand, which in turn influences field placings and batting approaches alike. Drop-in pitches were first pioneered in Australia over 20 years ago by Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, whose 'rebel' matches were denounced by MCC at the time. English cricket has borrowed much from Australia in recent years. There have been players (Jason Gallian and Craig White, for example), while the man charged with running the new England Academy is none other than former Australia wicket-keeper Rodney Marsh. But MCC insists there are sound reasons for transporting the pitches, which are six to eight inches deep and placed on concrete trays, from one side of the world to the other. "There is a much higher clay content in the soil in Australia and pitches bed down much quicker than they do in England," Tony Dodemaide MCC's head of cricket told 'The Times'. "They can be put into the square when needed and the groundsman can have complete control over their preparation without worrying about fielders running on them." MCC's cricket chief is well qualified to talk about these pitches from 'down-under' - he is the same Tony Dodemaide who as a fast-medium bowler played 10 Tests for Australia during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
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