Optus Stadium pitch perfect

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The perfect moisture content on the green-top wicket being prepared for the first Test match at Optus Stadium starting tomorrow will have Australia’s fast bowlers tuning up for chin music against India’s batsmen.

After a detailed preparation, particularly over the past 12 days, WACA curator Brett Sipthorpe said the ground was ready to deliver on Cricket Australia’s request for a frighteningly fast and bouncy Perth pitch.

“They want to see this place fly,” he said.

“That’s like an early Christmas present for me. To get that fear in the eyes of the opposition turning up and seeing it fly … beautiful.”

Mr Sipthorpe said his curating technique, which revolves around moisture levels, was unique in Australia.

His new Optus Stadium office is a shed filled with rollers, tractors and wheelbarrows and cluttered with tools of the trade such as pitchforks, shovels, corers, rakes, brooms, mallets, calipers, scales and a computer which stores pitch-monitoring data.

Water and air percentages in the pitch, density, moisture and core saturation are the key indicators.

They are checked in a 100mm core cut exactly into four 25mm increments, which are weighed and microwaved on a low heat for 30 minutes.

“Having this data to benchmark everything we’re doing takes out the guesswork and speeds up the education process on a new clay,” Mr Sipthorpe said.

“We’re trying to get to the point where we know what moisture content it’s going to crack at.”

The preparation increased on December 1 with a four-day watering program that poured about 60mm into the pitch in a bid to confirm at least 36 per cent moisture down to 100mm.

That figure then triggers three days of cross-rolling with a 1.5 tonne roller to flatten the wicket.

Other rollers weighing 2.5 tonnes and 3.5 tonnes have been used for at least two hours a day since Saturday.

The drop-in pitch, which Mr Sipthorpe said was almost identical to the WACA wicket, is made from pliable clay sourced from Waroona. It is crushed and some of it is put through a sieve.

A container of WA cricket’s black gold sits in the Optus Stadium shed for top-dressing and maintenance requirements.

“It’s like s… to a blanket when its wet, it sticks to everything,” Mr Sipthorpe, who worked at New Zealand cricket’s Basin Reserve in Wellington for nine years, said.

The pitch was allowed to bake in the sun yesterday ahead of a chat between Mr Sipthorpe and Australian coach Justin Langer on how much grass should be left on the top. It is expected to get a light watering this morning to help press the grass leaf into the clay, adding more skid and pace.

WACA curator Brett Sipthorpe in the new turf shed at Optus Stadium.
WACA curator Brett Sipthorpe in the new turf shed at Optus Stadium.Picture: Ian Munro

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