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Nagraj Gollapudi in Birmingham
August 8, 2011
"You guys are going to get another green pitch at Edgbaston, aren't you?" suggested Peter Willey, former England player and ICC Elite panel umpire, during India's tour match in Northampton. He was not far off the mark.
The first impression upon entering Edgbaston is that there is almost no discernible difference between the pitch and the thick green carpet of grass that covers the rest of the ground. There is a decent covering on the surface of the pitch, Steve 'Rebel' Rouse, the Edgbaston head groundsman, says "some of it" would be cut come Wednesday. In what is going to be his farewell Test, Rouse said that the pitch would be slow compared to the faster tracks witnessed at Lord's and Trent Bridge in the last two weeks.
If there was any assurance Rouse had for India, it was that the pitch for the third Test would not be anything like the one on which Worcestershire, with two batsmen retired hurt and another 'absent injured', were thrashed by 218 runs by Warwickshire in May. Warwickshire were docked eight points after an ECB pitch panel found that pitch "poor".
"It has some grass on it at the moment, some of it will come off. It won't be quick. We haven't had the intense heat for a week now," Rouse said. According to Rouse, the temperatures have been pretty cold and damp the entire summer except for just two warm days - not the ideal conditions to give him enough time to prepare a harder pitch. There's also the forecast of heavy rain on Saturday to add to the mix, but Rouse believed that England's bowling attack could still force a four-day finish.
"The England attack is a quality one," said Rouse. "They bowl well together in pairs, bowl good lengths and they are extremely fit and can go on bowling for hours." He also added that India's attack could find just as much life in the wicket as the hosts, provided they get the basics right. "As long as you pitch in line, using your lengths, and as long as you can move it around it does not matter if the pitch is slow," he said.
The last match played on this pitch was the Championship game between Warwickshire and Sussex just over two weeks ago, during which Warwickshire were asked to bat first and recovered from 192 for 6 to make 521, with their last four wickets accounting for 329 runs. In reply Sussex were forced to follow-on and Warwickshire won the match by an innings and 43 runs.
"I am not a great believer of having flat, flat, flat wickets," Rouse said. "I always think the new ball should do something. It is a good contest to get a good bowler against a good batsman and then it is bat versus ball for about 90 minutes. And if you nick, you are out. After lunch as the ball gets softer it should even out a bit."
Interestingly, in the last Test played at the ground, between Pakistan and England last August, the pitch took turn from the second day, with Saeed Ajmal taking a five-for. The next day Graeme Swann took a six-wicket haul to help set England an easy target to chase, which they duly did with a nine-wicket victory on the fourth morning.
Rouse ruled out spinners playing such a significant role here, however, mainly due to the prevailing overcast conditions. "It won't turn massively off the straight," he said.
Rouse was unequivocal when asked about England's chances, saying: "England always win at Edgbaston. Always." There is some truth in his words, as in the 45 matches played at the ground, England have won 23 and lost eight. But three of those defeats have come in the last decade.
As a farewell gift, Rouse suggested he wouldn't mind if his favourite cricketer scored a century, if not a double ton. "If Sachin Tendulkar can score a century I will be really happy," Rouse said, before walking out to get the covers on.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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