Some two and a half years after a group of Air Traffic Controllers working in Split, Croatia, founded the Sir Oliver Cricket Club, its members have installed an artificial grass wicket on its match and practice facility.
After checking various samples for bounce, spin and durability, the artificial grass selected was ordered from a local distributor who specialises in synthetic sports surfaces. The European Cricket Council provided 75% of the costs and club members funded the remainder.
One unfortunate constraint placed upon the project by the owners of the soccer field used by the cricket club, was that it was not allowed to lay a flat concrete surface, on which to overlay the artificial grass. The latter being the local distributors recommended method of installation. As an alternative, a trench was dug to a depth of 5-7 cm, filled with layers of crushed stone decreasing in size as the surrounding ground surface was reached. The stone was thoroughly dampened and a heavy roller was applied to produce a hard and flat surface. The artificial grass was then laid over the crushed stone. Small crystals of silicone sand were added to the artificial grass surface to provide stability and to maintain its durability qualities.
The first match on the new surface was held on a typical warm and sunny Croatian day on 16th September 2007. Fittingly this was the first game in Croatia since the triumphant national side became European 3rd Division Champions by beating Spain in the final in Belgium on August 25th. The contesting teams were "Sir Oliver" Cricket Club from Split and a Croatian Cricket Board Presidents XI comprised mainly of players from the Zagreb and the "Sir William Hoste" from Vis Cricket Club.
The President's XI won the toss and elected to bat. The President, Jasen Butkoviæ, and the national side manager Zdenko Leko, made a brilliant and chanceless opening partnership of 96. Once the pair had departed the Sir Oliver bowlers came into their own and wickets fell rapidly. The rot was stopped by a last wicket partnership of 54 between, ironically, the Secretary and a founding member of the "Sir Oliver" Club, Željko Lipanoviæ and Siniša Vodopija a mainstay of the "Sir William Hoste" Club from the island of Vis. The President's XI finished on 179 for 9 in its allotted 30 overs. Pick of the Sir Oliver bowlers was Marko Ivkovic who bowled a good length at or just outside the stumps and was rewarded with 4 for 36.
The Sir Oliver innings began well with Ivan Biliæ dominating the bowling, unfortunately for Sir Oliver he was well caught when he had reached 20 and beginning to look dangerous. Mate Maroviæ and Mate Jukiæ both members of the all conquering national side came together and scored 28 and 39 respectively, but once they had departed the Sir Oliver team capitulated and were all out for 144, 35 runs short of their target.
The consensus of opinion was that the new artificial wicket had emerged well from its first 'test', 323 runs being scored in 54 overs for the loss of 19 wickets. On balance the wicket probably favoured the bowlers more than the batsman, the occasional ball rising sharply just short of a length. The club will monitor the perfomance of the wicket and take remedial action if it should become necessary.
Sir Oliver Cricket Club is indebted to Philip Hudson, ICC Europe, for his patience, and advice in the planning phase of the artificial wicket project, to the Croatian Cricket Board for its wholehearted support of the project and to the "Sir William Hoste" Cricket Club Vis for its unstinting support of our activities before the artificial wicket was laid.
Any side wishing to arrange a fixture with Sir Oliver Cricket Club, Split should contact Ken Ford, the club coach on 00385/(0)91-170-94-08, or by e-mail,