Pitch perfect

At Play People of Adelaide

UPDATE: 21 JULY 2020

Please note the following update on the content referenced in the below article.

The T20 World Cup matches scheduled to take place throughout Adelaide and Australia in October and November of this year have been officially postponed. International Cricket Council has confirmed that the postponement is due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and to protect the health and safety of everyone involved in the sport.

Further information available here.

The screams of “howzat”, the whirling of ‘the willow’ across playing fields and back yards: cricket is the cornerstone of the Australian summer sporting experience. In a thrilling addition to the local cricket calendar, Adelaide will host a stack of the action at this year’s historic ICC T20 World Cup, starting 16 February with women’s warm-up matches at Karen Rolton Oval inside Gladys Elphick Park / Narnungga (Park 25) in the city’s West Park Lands.

Karen rolton oval facilities
photo-icon Skye Murtagh

2020 marks the first time the women’s and men’s ICC T20 World Cup competitions have been staged as standalone events in the same host country and in the same year. With Australia the host nation, Adelaide cricket fans have February’s warm-up matches to look forward to as well as seven men’s matches at Adelaide Oval from 1 November.

Six teams will play five women’s warm-up matches at Karen Rolton Oval between 16 and 19 February 2020. The oval tips its cap in name to one of South Australia’s trailblazers in women’s cricket: Karen Rolton – a former South Australian and Australian captain, and the only woman to score a century in a World Cup final.

Leading the charge to ensure the turf and playing surface at Karen Rolton Oval is ‘just right’ is Trent Kelly, Grounds Manager for the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA).

Trent kelly on karen rolton oval pitch
photo-icon Skye Murtagh

Trent Kelly on the Karen Rolton Oval inside Gladys Elphick Park / Narnungga.

The son-in-law of legendary Les Burdett, Trent admits to picking up some tips from the ‘King curator’, but as a former South Australian and West Aussie first-class paceman himself – he’s been sharpening his pitch skills and his own game since he was a youngster.

“I was watching cricket on the TV from an early age and impersonating all my heroes – especially Merv Hughes, Craig McDermott and David Boon – in the front driveway or down the nets."
Trent Kelly, Grounds Manager, South Australian Cricket Association

After playing cricket all through school, Trent was contracted by the Redbacks for four years before a stint for the WACA. After retiring from the game, Trent launched his own business, TK Turf Services, in 2009 and became SACA Grounds Manager in 2017.

We caught up with Trent at Karen Rolton Oval for some serious T20 ‘turf talk’.

How did you get into the grounds keeping side of cricket?

“I initially had a real interest in gardening as a kid. I developed this love from my Pop and next-door neighbour Bob. I’d follow them around and try and help where I could. This evolved to a lawn mowing round at about the age of 12 which my dad, Peter, helped me set up. I continued to look for opportunities to be involved in turf and cricket pitches through school and then while playing cricket professionally. I was lucky enough to have Kevin Lewis, a West Torrens cricket legend, first teach me the art of preparing cricket pitches.”

Did Les share any ‘family secrets’ about preparing the perfect cricket pitch?

“Be true to yourself, back yourself and never compromise when it comes to preparing a fair sporting cricket pitch. Although coaches and captains will have an opinion on how the pitch should be prepared, listen, absorb the comments, but then make sure it is an honest, fair and safe surface. As I played cricket at a high level, Les suggested I would have credibility within the cricket fraternity because I’d played the game and understood what is required for good cricket.”

What's the best tale Les has told you about his time as curator at Adelaide Oval?

“During the 2006 Ashes Test Match between Australia and England, Les was criticised in the media for the pitch being too batsmen friendly. It was very satisfying when a result, with 18 balls left in the game, came late on day five. That game was crowned 'Incredible Adelaide.' The rollercoaster ride throughout the game was quite emotional for Les, so it was fantastic that it had such a happy ending with the bonus of Australia winning. During this match, I was lucky enough to be 13th man for the Australian side, and was in the rooms with the team, and Les, celebrating at the end of the match.”

How would you describe the pitch at Karen Rolton Oval?
“It has a great grass cover and provides consistent bounce and carry. There’s enough in the pitch to help out the fast bowlers and spinners and batters get great value for shots. The outfield is world class. Full Santa Ana Couch in summer is a dream to field on and – in winter, couch over sown with rye provides a consistent and well-presented oval for football.”

What goes into producing a great pitch?

“It comes down to a number of key ingredients! Consistent grass coverage; correct moisture levels; a quality cricket pitch mower and roller - and favourable weather conditions!!! Your first roll when starting a cricket pitch is your most important.”

Trent kelly on roller at karen rolton oval

What are some of the specifics of preparing a pitch for a T20 game?

For a T20 cricket pitch, our team works towards the below paragraph:

T20 Cricket Pitch

• A very good pitch will provide continual opportunities for batsman to score runs all around the wicket. It will have little or no seam movement or spin over the course of the match, and have good consistent pace and bounce.

• The contest needs to be entertaining for the fans.

• Pitch conditions will not change across the course of the match.*”

Will you make any pitch adjustments in the lead-up to February’s matches?

“We’ll continue to prepare the pitches the same as we have for the WBBL and Marsh Cup games that we hosted in 2019: the right amount of grass, the right amount of water (SA Water supply our pitches with potable water and our outfields with recycled water) and the perfect amount of rolling. The biggest challenge in February will be the hot and dry conditions that we encounter in SA at this time. Keeping the right moisture levels where we need them to create the perfect pitch. There is a 21-day exclusion period as part of ICC conditions. This means no cricket will be played on the pitches in the lead up to the warm-up games. The pitch will be covered the night prior to each game and be presented to the players and match officials when they arrive.”

Trent kelly on roller closeup
photo-icon Skye Murtagh

Women’s cricket keeps soaring in popularity - why do you think that is?

“Cricket Australia, State associations, Premier Clubs and Community Cricket are doing an outstanding job promoting the game through schools, clubs and through competitions like the WBBL. Young girls have certainly got something to aspire to.”

Which female bowler would you most fear facing as a batsman right now?

“Ellyse Perry is certainly Australia’s biggest weapon in this coming World Cup!”

Who are you keen to see play in the women’s warm up matches?

“It’ll be strange to watch Sophie Devine playing for New Zealand, after she played so well for the Adelaide Strikers. She likes hitting sixes at Karen Rolton Oval.”

Which women’s match up are you most looking forward to?

“I can’t wait to see Australia take on South Africa at Karen Rolton Oval on 18 February. Hopefully they can get a win and build that momentum to win the 2020 Women’s World Cup!!”

*Cricket Australia and the ICC.

Purchase tickets to the ICC T20 World Cup here.

Article by

Skye Murtagh

Skye Murtagh

Skye is passionate about sharing stories from all walks of life. When she's not busy weaving beautiful words together, she's singing a line or two from her favourite song.