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A Look at Cricket Wicket Soils

Tuesday 22, Oct 2019

 

Gary Beehag looks at some of the new cricket wicket soils that have hit the marketplace in recent times and writes of the importance of knowing their source and physical-chemical qualities before curators decide to use them.

Cricket wicket soils are unique turfgrass growing media.  Generally speaking, cricket wicket soil sold in Australia is a mono-soil. 

That is to say, each soil type is produced using one source of clay soil as opposed to many construction sands which may be blends of more than one sand source. 

Technically called vertisols, because of their high shrinkage/swelling and cracking behaviour, Australian cricket wicket soils are primarily sourced from privately-owned land.

The precise location and production of many cricket wicket soils remains somewhat secretive to their suppliers.  Typically, the cricket wicket soil is mechanically excavated from beneath a vegetated surface, screened to size and possibly crushed before storage.
 

 

 

Some sporting facilities in country regions are fortunate in obtaining their cricket wicket soil from within their own property.  In NSW and Victoria in recent years, additional and alternative sources of clay soil for cricket wicket construction and topdressing has become available, thus providing more choice in the marketplace.

However, some homework is required by clients given the fact that physical characteristics of wicket soils do not provide all of the answers to the performance of unfamiliar soils. 

 

Historical background 


In Australia, the earliest written reference of using cricket soil (“black soil and manure”) dates from the late 1850’s in Victoria. The earliest published, science-based study of Australian cricket wicket soils dates from the early 1930’s. The specific reasons prompting the selection of Australia’s earliest and two most famous Australian wicket soil types – Bulli soil from Wollongong south of Sydney (NSW) and Merri Creek soil from Beveridge north of Melbourne (Victoria) – is forever lost in time. 

From the early 2000s, several sources of commercially-available cricket wicket soils in NSW became unavailable (e.g. Berry, Queanbeyan and Wamberal), while new or alternative sources (e.g. Bungonia and Coolac) have become available. One additional source of clay soil from the Grampians in Victoria has also recently become available. 
 

 

 

The author is aware of the geographic locations of where the original Bulli soil and Merri Creek soil were first excavated, but sadly are no longer available from their original sites.  Nonetheless, black-earth, cracking clay soils from other locations in the Merri Creek Valley have been excavated over the years; some unscrupulously sold in small quantities to unaware clients in Victoria. 

In NSW, black-clay soil has been excavated from further sites around Wollongong.  Needless to say, the physical-chemical characteristics and consistency of these additional soils vary to lesser or greater extents from the original source. 

 

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