ONE of Scotland’s leading cricket venues faces a race against the clock to stage major matches next season after vandals damaged the pitch.

Aberdeenshire’s Mannofield ground has already been ruled out of hosting two Saltires’ CB40 fixtures against county opposition in May. And the historic venue, where Don Bradman scored his last century in the UK, may not have recovered in time to stage the Intercontinental Cup clash with Canada in July.

Officials at Aberdeenshire CC, who reported the damage to police, believe vandals poured powerful weed-killer over large sections of the square which have subsequently turned yellow and brown. And they suspect the damage, which prevents grass from growing, may have been caused as long ago as July.

Mannofield head groundsman Ken McCurdie explained: “I first noticed a slight discoloration in August and put it down to a spillage of hydraulic oil. But during the end-of-season renovations I planted some seed which just didn’t take and it became clear we were talking about more than a bit of oil.

“I called in a local soil scientist who took samples and identified the source of the problem as a particularly strong weed-killer. According to the manufacturers the stuff decays at quite a slow rate but hopefully by the spring we’ll be able to get some grass growing again.

“My priority is to ensure our club cricket goes ahead and, as far as Scotland goes, hopefully we’ll be ready for the I-Cup game in July.”