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Scott’s unique first season

2020 was Scott Hawkins’ first year as Head Groundsman at Somerset County Cricket Club.

Now that the dust has settled on what was a unique season, Scott joined us to discuss his first year in the role.

“It’s certainly been an interesting year,” he said. “There have been several challenges that we’ve overcome, and I’ve learned a lot.”

How did Scott manage during the first lockdown at the beginning of the year?

“During the initial lockdown period, all of the Ground Staff except me were furloughed so I had to look after things here and at Taunton Vale. The grass didn’t stop growing in lockdown and it was quite dry and warm during that time. That meant that the grass grew more than it normally would in April, and because of the moisture we’d had all winter it was almost growing quicker than I could cut it! The ground also needed a lot of watering in the heat in order to keep it alive.

“Myself, Andy Hurry and Jason Kerr always work really closely together and we were just waiting for information. We knew that we had to be prepared to be ready to go and had to make sure that our standards never dropped.

“We were always two weeks away from a potential start to cricket, so we always had to make sure that the ground was ready to go at any stage. We had to be ready for when they pushed the button and gave us the green light. That eventually happened in May for the Somerset England players. Practice nets and practice pitches were prepared and off they went. The Ground Staff started to gradually come back from May onwards and we were back up to full strength in time for the start of the Bob Willis Trophy in August.”

Did the season starting much later than normal actually end up benefitting the ground and the pitches?

“Normally we’re fighting against the weather in March and April in order to prepare pitches in those conditions and we have to manage the grass and the pitches through that period. However, the extra time meant that in May there was full coverage and there were no bare spots. We had the whole square to choose from when it came to nets and pitches. It meant that there wasn’t as much need for rotation. There’s no doubt that the extended break did have benefits for the outfield and the pitches.

“These grounds are used heavily for six months of the year and normally we only have the cold and wet winter period to help them recover, so to be able to give them more time to recover and to be able to work on them in warmer conditions was certainly helpful.”

Was Scott happy with the pitches that were produced?

“Absolutely,” he said. “Our Bob Willis Trophy pitches received top marks this summer and our Vitality Blast pitches were also marked well. They played well and there was some exciting cricket played. Producing good cricket pitches is a skill and to find the perfect balance is difficult. I’ve got a really good team around me here and we set ourselves targets that we want to achieve, and we work as hard as we can to hit those.”

What work has been carried out since the end of the 2020 campaign?

“At the end of the season we had a very extensive renovation on the square and on the outfield here at the Cooper Associates County Ground,” Scott revealed. “We removed 100% of the grass from the ground. That has it’s benefits from the point of view of the removal of organic matter and the improvement of drainage. That means that we’ve spent the winter growing back the grass from scratch. Every blade of grass you will see next year will be new. That was quite a challenge with most of the staff on furlough.

“Any time you do that extensive level of work is a risk because you’re asking the whole ground to grow back in the winter. We’ve managed those risks and taken as many steps as we can to ensure that we have the best possible facilities next year. It’s a process that you have to go through every so often and it’s been 10 years since it was last done. A build-up of organic matter over time can be detrimental to the playing surface and this will help to improve the smoothness, drainage, playability and wear-tolerance of the whole ground. To go into a season knowing that we are being the best that we can be meant that we had to go through this process.”

What is Scott hoping for in 2021?

“We want to continue producing good pitches that offer a good contest between bat and ball. We know that the Members want to see good quality cricket and that’s what we want to produce for them. We also want success for the team and the Club both on and off the field.”

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