TESTING TIME: Turf wicket curator Craig Goldsmith (right) and groundsman Pat Leadbeatter test out the pitch at Oakes Oval yesterday.
TESTING TIME: Turf wicket curator Craig Goldsmith (right) and groundsman Pat Leadbeatter test out the pitch at Oakes Oval yesterday. Jacklyn Wagner

Curator's pitch for quality

LISMORE City Council turf wicket curator Craig Goldsmith is facing the most challenging two weeks of his career when the Festival of Cricket hits town next week.

Goldsmith, his team and his Oakes Oval pitch will be under intense scrutiny when the NSW, Victorian and Tasmanian State sides square off in a number of one-day and Twenty20 fixtures from next Tuesday.

“You do worry that in the first game maybe a side will be bowled out for under 100 and that could be my fault - we'll just have to see what happens,” Goldsmith said.

“This is the biggest event I've encountered, even on the golf course side of things. I've done pro-ams and that stuff but this is a bit above that.”

The former golf course curator has been in his job four years and has already been involved with some major cricket matches at the ground including a Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and NSW and an Under-19 match between the Blues and Queensland.

The Shield match ended in a draw as the Oakes Oval pitch resembled something that could have been prepared by the Blues' sponsor, the RTA.

It was a vast improvement on the Shield match hosted at the same venue in 1979-80 between NSW and Queensland, when a sub-standard pitch affected play.

“The Pura Cup (Sheffield Shield) match was in my first year and I picked up a lot from that,” Goldsmith said.

“I'm working along the lines of what we did for the Pura Cup with the amount of rolling and what kind of water to apply. That pitch might not look exactly the same because mine will probably be greener.

“Initially it might be a bit more bowler friendly because we need a lot of moisture in it early and it's going to have a bit of green but as the week goes on it will dry out.”

For September, the Oakes Oval outfield looks sensational due in large part to the hot weather late last month.

“The guys who do the oval have done a great job and kept the water up, fertilised it and mowed it regularly,” Goldsmith said.

“We couldn't have asked for better weather considering August is supposed to be near frost at night and low 20s, and we got 30-degree days for nearly two weeks.

“The wicket went from having rugby (league) and soccer played on it with not much grass to full grass cover in five weeks.”

Goldsmith said the whole centre wicket would be prepared, with two pitches used for the eight-day tournament.

The only concern is a halfway mark from the football field that goes across the centre of the wicket.

It is short of a good length at the northern end.

“I suppose the bowlers could have a crack at it but they're going to have to be able to hit it regularly and there is grass underneath, it's just that it's not poking through,” Goldsmith said.



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