Middlesex v Durham, Lord's, 1st day

Lord's groundsman bemoans early start

Jon Culley at Lord's

April 19, 2012

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Middlesex v Durham - no play
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Rain forced Andrew Strauss to wait for his chance to bat, Middlesex v Durham, County Championship, Division One, Lord's, April 19, 2012
The start of Andrew Strauss' season was delayed by another day © Getty Images
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After the stink kicked up by Surrey over the Lord's pitch on which they were narrowly beaten last week, Andrew Strauss might have been permitted a grimace or two as he assessed the colour of the sky and felt the squelch under his boots. It is not the best time of year for a batsman intent on playing himself back into form.

Mick Hunt, the MCC's head groundsman, took the comments made by Chris Adams, Surrey's team director, in the immediate aftermath of Middlesex's thrilling victory, with a sizeable pinch of salt. Adams declared the pitch for that game to be the worst he had seen at Lord's. After more than 40 years tending to the square here, the last 27 as the man in charge, Hunt can correctly claim to be in a somewhat better position to judge.

Not that he could be blamed anyway for the problems that so upset Surrey. When captains have no recourse to the heavy roller between innings to take the fear out of a lively pitch, the indentations inevitably left by the ball in a naturally moist surface simply stay there.

If Hunt had his way, there would be no Championship cricket at this time of year. The unusually warm Aprils of the last two seasons have made the early starts a relatively painless experience but this year's damp picture is more typical.

"We've had good weather the last two years but one swallow doesn't make a summer," he said. "If you look back over the last 20 years, say, this is probably more like the norm.

"It makes pitch preparation difficult. It doesn't matter that it was such a dry March - it is the weather while you're preparing the pitch that counts. And if there is moisture about the sun just isn't hot enough."

And yet, undeniably, early summer cricket is exciting. The first two rounds of championship matches produced only one draw. Suggest to Hunt that 'result pitches' are what the ECB and the counties want to see and you invite another wry smile.

"They grumble if you give them flat pitches and if you give them sporty ones they squawk," he said. Groundsmen up and down will nod their heads as one.

However well or badly it behaves, depending on your point of view, one thing can be guaranteed about the pitch on which Strauss will hope to take guard at some time on the second day following the washout on the first: it will certainly not be flat.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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