Tough ask but pitch will be 'as ready as we can be'

Prepare a pitch, they said.

In Dunedin.

In October.

Holy sheets of rain - that is a tough ask.

And remarkably none of it phases Jayden Tohill.

University of Otago Oval turf manager Jayden Tohill is embracing the challenge to prepare a first-class pitch for a match in late October. Photo: Linda Robertson
University of Otago Oval turf manager Jayden Tohill is embracing the challenge to prepare a first-class pitch for a match in late October. Photo: Linda Robertson

The University of Otago Oval turf manager has been asked to do what no-one else has had to do in the 155 years of first-class cricket in the city.

It is his role to prepare a pitch for Otago's Plunket Shield match against Auckland.

It gets under way on October 30 - a week earlier than the previous earliest first-class game at the venue which began on November 5, 2016.

There is no back-up plan. The 26-year-old has to make it work.

Don't be nervous. He isn't.

''It is why you do the job,'' he said when asked about the challenge.

''You've just got to embrace it and run with it, really.

''I think we'll be as ready as we can be. There is a certain degree of luck with Mother Nature.''

During the summer there is a staff of six working at the venue and they have to crack on.

''I guess from the outside it looks like we are just mowing and rolling a bit of mud. You could probably sit there all day and talk about it to be fair.

''But there is a fair degree of work and the team puts in a lot of effort.

''That is what it comes down to - a bit of ticker.''

The surface came through the winter in relatively good condition.

It was drier than normal and that made a big difference ''in terms of keeping a bit more grass on the blocks''.

''It had a renovation in early September and we are pretty happy with where it is at.''

The University Rugby Football Club plays some of its home games at the venue. Burly blokes in spiky boots and cricket pitches are not always a good mix.

It is just another challenge Tohill's team has to overcome. But there was a reasonable strike of grass.

However, it is the two or three weeks leading into the fixture which will be crucial.

''You just find a way to make it work,'' Tohill said when asked what happened if there was a lot of rain during that key period.

The venue will host two internationals this summer. The White Ferns are playing a twenty20 against South Africa on February 13, and the Blacks Caps will host Australia in a T20 game on March 24.

Tohill, in his second year in the role, had a taste of international cricket last summer when the Black Caps beat Bangladesh by 88 runs in a one-dayer.

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