Good morning from a bright and sunny Cairnlea. Today is the first official practice day for the four teams, so I thought I’d try and set the scene for what promises to be one of the best MacRobertson Shields in its long history.
Firstly, a bit about the venue. Cairnlea (the Victorian Croquet Centre) has 12 lawns and a large modern clubhouse with high glass windows making for excellent viewing. Financial issues had led to the discussion of mothballing the venue and I should mention a few key volunteers who have worked tirelessly to keep it up and running. Apologies if I miss someone out, but Lester Hughes, Kevin Beard, Chris Grant, Andrew Wootton and Stephen Forster have all put in sterling work. If you are a member of a 2, 3 or 4 lawn club, you’ll understand how much work is needed on the lawns alone – imagine what it takes to keep 12 lawns looked after.
The lawns are quite variable. The front four (1-4) are usually faster than the others because they get used more. Lawn 2 has some large hills both generally and localised, but the other 3 are flatter. Lawns 5, 6 and 7 run down the left hand side and lawns 8, 9 and 10 up the right hand side. Lawns 11 and 12 are often termed Siberia as they are the furthest away on the top side and are usually the slowest. All of the lawns drain well and even when flooded can be back in action in under half an hour.
The past few weeks have seen torrential rain throughout Victoria. Cairnlea has been flooded on 5 occasions and the lawns are still soft. However, 3 good days of weather could easily see them reach 12 seconds (probably about 10 at present), so we could have very different playing conditions almost day by day. The main protection that Cairnlea has is the occasional windy day. It was noticeable in the Aussie Open that the error count increased substantially when we had higher winds.
So, what’s going to happen? The tournament starts on Saturday 12th.
Days 1-5 will have Australia v NZ and England v USA
Day 6 is a rest day
Day 7 -11 will have the winners of the above matches play the losers.
Day 12 is a rest day
Day 13-17 will have the remaining two Tests.
Each Test is best of 21 matches, each of which will be best of 3 untimed. There will be 9 doubles and 12 singles, meaning all the doubles pairs will play against each other and you’ll play 2 of the opposing team at singles, so 1+2, 3+4 and 5+6 will all play their opposites. This can make a difference when it comes to deciding the order in which you play your team. Teams are meant to be ordered by current form and there is a new rule this year that you can’t play above a fellow team member who is ranked 100 points higher than you.
Team orders for the first Tests will be given to the manager, Kevin Beard, on Friday afternoon.
Whilst we currently have a beautiful day with an expected temperature of 28 degrees, the forecast for the next few days includes plenty of rain, with temperatures dropping to 15 on some days.
Play starts at 9am Melbourne time on Saturday and will be live streamed. More details to follow.