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How the weather will affect the pitch and players in the Boxing Day Test

Kate Doyle, Tuesday December 26, 2017 - 06:12 EDT

It is Boxing Day and today is all about the cricket — and one of the most important factors leading up to play is the weather.

Some would suggest cricket and weather are two of the most boring topics on the planet, but one man who disagrees is long-time groundsman and cricket tragic Scott Allen.

"I would add politics into that boring category and I know quite a few cricketers would as well," he said.

Cricket and weather are intrinsically linked. It is a game played outside, in summer, over multiple days on a living surface that stops when it rains.

But there is so much more to it than rain calling off play or moving tea time to suit the drizzle.

Pitch preparation

Mr Allen said the weather certainly had an impact on how the pitch was prepared.

"We try and get as much moisture as we can out of the ground, and that's what gives a cricket wicket its bounce," he said.

Rain is bad for pitch preparation because it can make the wicket too soft.

But counterintuitively, water is actually used to dry out a pitch.

"Funnily enough we actually sprinkle water on it to get the water out of the wicket, which is an unknown fact but that's how we do it," Mr Allen said.

Preparing a cricket pitch is a fine art. Leaving a little grass on the pitch can help the wicket last longer, but Mr Allen said it also favoured the bowlers.

"When the ball comes down and hits the seam it actually digs into the pitch and can move either way," he said.

"Bowlers like to see a little bit of grass. Batters are not so keen on it."

Overhead conditions

The weather also has an impact on play on the day.

According to Mr Allen, the humidity, wind and whether there is rain around can all impact a game.

"Hot, dry conditions favour the batters, humidity and wind assist the bowlers," he said.

Bowling sides like overcast conditions when there is a little bit of wind around, because the ball swings around a little bit.

But the tables are turned if those overcast conditions develop into rain.

"If it does rain the outfield gets wet, the ball gets wet, bowlers can't hold onto it and the ball stops swinging," Mr Allen said.

"So as a batter it is good after it rains, but just before it, it causes a few issues."

Hot, dry conditions are preferable for the batting side because it bakes the pitch and tires the bowlers out quicker.

"Overcast conditions, the bowlers can run in and think they are superstars, whereas the batters have to put up with that then score runs after they get a little bit tired," Mr Allen said.

"In the heat, 40 degree days, bowlers seem to tire very quickly."

Of course, it is not just about the weather, but how the players handle the conditions.

Mr Allen said it was all about the length of the game.

"In a it doesn't really seem to affect people, four overs, but when you increase and play Sheffield Shield and Test cricket it's about testing the body and testing the mind.

"The mental side comes into it more than the physical."

Boxing Day Test conditions

Mr Allen thought overcast conditions would be preferable for the English on Boxing Day.

"Their bowlers seem to bowl well in that. The Barmy Army would probably like some overcast conditions as well to try and get out of the hot Australian sun," he said.

"The Australians would certainly like it to be hot, dry and little rain at all."

Mr Allen's tip for the match: "Definitely Australia to win. Our batters are better than them and our bowling line-up seems to be bowling better than theirs.

"I think if Australia gets Joe Root out they will win the game quite easily.

"It is always good to beat the old England at any sport we play."


© ABC 2017

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