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Big Bash League: Les Burdett recruited to improve pitches at Spotless, Etihad

Cricket has recruited ‘s best-known curator, Les Burdett, to improve the pitches at the Big Bash League’s non-traditional venues, Spotless Stadium and Etihad Stadium.
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The first test whether Burdett, the long-time Adelaide Oval curator who now works on his own, has had a positive influence will come in Thursday night’s BBL season opener, when Sydney Thunder host Sydney Sixers at Spotless Stadium.

The two venues, which use drop-in pitches because they are primarily used for AFL matches in winter, accounted for the four lowest first-innings scores in last season’s BBL. This spurred CA to seek outside help in trying to boost scoring at those venues which led them to Burdett. In November, he was brought in to help prepare a Sheffield Shield pitch in Bankstown after a match at the SCG was abandoned due to turf problems.

“It’s largely around providing expertise, knowledge and assistance to the venues that aren’t the major stadiums that host international cricket… and putting some assurance around the quality of the surfaces we play on,” said Sean Cary, CA’s head of cricket operations.

“Given some of the issues we’ve had in recent times with those two stadiums, in terms of lower scores than we would like, it’s about making sure the curators in there are plying their trade to the best of their ability and getting the best result out of the wicket they are preparing.”

The two matches at Spotless featured scores of 7-77 and 8-106, on new drop-in pitches. It is hoped the change to mature drop-in pitches, purchased from the Thunder’s former landlord ANZ Stadium, will increase scoring at the venue this season.

Cary said Burdett’s “unbelievable experience” with even drop-in pitches — he oversaw the series installation of pitches at Etihad Stadium for the winter series in 2000 against South Africa — gave CA reason to believe pitches would perform better this year.

“We want the evenness and the balance across the competition, for not only the integrity of the competition, but also to give our players the best possible opportunity to perform at the top of their game as well,” he said.

Adelaide-based Burdett has regularly visited Spotless Stadium since the Matador Cup, most recently last weeked. He is in Melbourne until the weekend overseeing the preparation of the Etihad pitch, for the December 23 match against Sydney Sixers.

CA is prepared for the drop-in pitches to have less bounce than other venues. The main priority is that the level of bounce is consistent.

Renegades chief executive Stuart Coventry said he, too, was optimistic about Burdett’s impact on pitch preparation.

“It’s a poor T20 game when sides are only batting for 12, 13 overs,” Coventry said. “I’m hoping he can make good, strong batting decks that are going to bring lots of runs for us this year.”

Whether Burdett is needed for the entire BBL, rather than just the period between the installation of the drop-in pitches and the first matches played on them, will be decided in the next week or so.

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