Optus Stadium curator Brett Sipthorpe says Australia and New Zealand batsmen will not be confronted with cracks the size of canyons during the first Test in Perth, but warns there will be plenty of them.
An intense heatwave will hit Perth during the series opener which starts on Thursday, with the forecast 40-degree temperatures set to produce numerous cracks in the pitch. But Sipthorpe says those cracks will not be much more than one inch wide, with the compact nature of the drop-in wicket ensuring the cracks don’t “blow wide open”.
“Last year the cracks opened up a bit on day one, but they never really exploded,” Sipthorpe said. “I remember two inch cracks that used to be at the Waca running up and down. They crack more like a plate here. It’s different.
“And because of the moisture we’ve got underneath – there’ll be plenty of cracks, but I don’t expect them to blow wide open. I mean you might see cracks of an inch or something like that. I can’t imagine them being massive canyons.”
Sipthorpe said that because each pitch was in an individual tray, it limited the wideness of the cracks when they appear. For permanent pitches that are in blocks, the sand around it can pull at the clay when it dries, resulting in larger cracks.
“But when you’re in this scenario and we’ve got trays stacked against each other, there’s nothing to pull,” Sipthorpe said. “It’s really just the natural drying within that profile and if it wants to expand or contract. I can’t imagine them [the cracks] being ridiculously big, but there’ll be plenty of them.”
Sipthorpe has been giving the pitch about 5-10ml of water per day and said the grass cover on the pitch was better than in the inaugural Test at the venue last year. In last year’s clash, India were bowled out for 283 and 140 on a lively wicket that received widespread praise.
“And because the root system is stronger now, it will hold it together for longer,” Sipthorpe said. “As long as you’ve got that moisture locked down underneath it, your potential for more consistency is a lot higher.
“We haven’t seen any cracking at this point, which is really good. Whereas last year we had cracking showing early on. We’re in a much better position than we were last year.”