England v India, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge July 5, 2014

'Don't want teams bowled out for 180' - Trent Bridge curator


Trent Bridge, the venue for the first Test, is rightly being considered India's biggest test, but the challenge lies in the quality of the bowling and overhead conditions, according to Steve Birks, the man in charge of the pitch. With four days to go, the pitch does not look green or menacing from a distance. However, if you look at it up close, it is covered with eight to nine millimetres of straw-coloured grass, which is not live but can provide seamers assistance.

"The grass is dry, and we have been pushing it in every day," Birks said. "We have been watering around the edges. We don't want teams bowled out for 180."

Stuart Broad's grumblings about the pitches provided for the Sri Lanka series have had no impact on the preparation of this surface, Birks said. "You can't try to keep too many people happy," Birks said. "Bowlers want one thing. Batsmen want one thing. If you can just do your best, it is up to them to perform."

One of Broad's concerns - the poor carry at Lord's and Headingley - is not expected to resurface. "We are trying to get a bit of carry," Birks said, knocking the surface to demonstrate how hard it is underneath the brown grass. "If we get carry we are happy. There should be good carry. Four days to go, it is hard. Really hard."

Coming to their backyard, James Anderson and Broad should not need to worry too much: they take wickets in their sleep at Trent Bridge. Anderson has struck 49 times for 17 runs apiece, and Broad has 21 wickets at 23.

The length of the grass on the pitch is crucial. In 2011, Birks was quoted in The Cricketer magazine as saying: "When we won the Championship, we were cutting the wickets at 7mm and last year we flattened them out a bit more at 5mm. I don't want to pre-empt what Mick Newell [the Nottinghamshire coach] has to say but I've a feeling we might be changing that next season."

How much shorter are we going to go from the current length? "We have got 8mm at the moment," Birks said. "Monday-Tuesday, we will trim it to down to maybe 6, and then have a look at that [and see] if we need to go lower. Looking dry. Nice straw-coloured look to it."

That sounds somewhere between angel and monster.

Birks might say he does not want teams getting bowled out for 180, but that has been the general trend at Trent Bridge. When India came here in 2011, both first innings ended pretty early before the pitch settled down. The same happened in the thrilling Ashes Test last year, when England's first innings lasted 59 overs, and Australia's 65. And yet we had a match that was alive on the final afternoon. In the last first-class match at Trent Bridge, Somerset were bowled out for 168 on the first day, but the next two innings were 461 and 402.

All signs point to putting teams in, but Birks thinks it looks like a bat-first pitch. "Looking at the surface, it has looked like a decent bat-first wicket," he said, "but then we have bowled first some days and we have got teams out easy. It all depends on the bowlers and the overhead conditions."

The week before the Test has been dry, allowing smooth preparation, but the next few days have rain forecast. It rained all of Friday night too, which could help the pitch retain some moisture and even provide a tinge of green.

The flattening out of the surface in later stages of matches has been consistent with the changing nature of all the pitches in England. The new drainage system has made sure the moisture disappears much faster than before. Trent Bridge, though, has retained help for seamers. "We did struggle with it for the first two years but then most of us got used to it," Birks said. "We try to leave a fraction more moisture in it. We water the ends a lot more, leading up to the game."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 9, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    i think india its first batting..its better obviously be the openers good batting.. performance. in this pitch i think india won the match

  • John on July 7, 2014, 4:28 GMT

    I'd much rather see teams bowled out for 180 than bat for 2 days and score 600-5. An ideal pitch in my mind would make 250-350 par scores for the first innings of each side and 150-250 par scores for the second innings. That would ensure a result, keep the game tense and close and allow individual performances to shine.

    Test cricket ought to be an even contest between bat and ball and reward hard work by both batsmen and bowlers. If there is an advantage, it ought to be to the bowlers. Bowlers toiling away while batsmen have it easy on featherbed wickets is no fun to watch.

  • Steven on July 7, 2014, 4:10 GMT

    The groundsman doesn't want teams out for 180 what crap I'd rather that then 600 plays 500 at least there would be a result if it's low scoring alongs it not one sided and it's fair for both teams there's nothing wrong with that if it doesn't last the five days so be it it beats a meandering draw anyday

  • Dummy4 on July 7, 2014, 3:27 GMT

    I wonder which team has got better batting options in swinging conditions. Both India and England have got quality swing bowlers. If there is assistance from the pitch, the batsmen will have a tough time. We have seen recently in Bangladesh that in testing conditions their batting just collapses. The same could be said about England. Having said that, being in a test match situation of such an anticipated series, might force batsmen to apply themselves better

  • King on July 7, 2014, 3:15 GMT

    As a Srilankan supporter I don't know why some have this mind set that asian pitches should only support for batting and spin but English, Down under and South African pitches should be more fast bowling friendly. How long we going complain about it. Teams should be prepared to face any bowling attack. I think all the asian teams should think differently.

  • Brady on July 7, 2014, 2:32 GMT

    Sounds like England will prepare a pitch that will not offer much for the spinners by holding together and moderate assistance for the fast men. Such a strategy suits England's strengths as they don't have Swann and they will back Broad and Anderson to extract a little life out of the surface.

  • Android on July 7, 2014, 2:03 GMT

    key will obviously be the openers, especially Vijay who looks good whenever he tries to grind the New ball. for me dhawan is not international material. but still we all.know he will open and I hope he does good.... and if rohit is not played rahane plays at 5 and jaddu should play at 6 instead.of dhoni... jaddu is the man who has the ability to score big runs ( 3 triple tons ins not small thing) and if he gets some time in middle he will flourish his opportunity.....and my set of.bowlers will be shami, bhuvi, ishwar, and ishant ( we can't drop him, he is greatest bowler ever :-P )

  • Sira on July 7, 2014, 1:43 GMT

    Note the first two days of play, the maximum temperature is going to be 20 deg C. Which means most of those two days, it will be cloudy and cold (for players from India).

    It does look like England would put India in if they win the toss. If India were to bat first, they will have to score 300+, or at least 250. Any score below 200 will be disastrous for them. But it can't be ruled out especially since this has been a happy hunting ground for the duo of Anderson and Broad over the past 4-5 years..

  • Dummy on July 6, 2014, 12:38 GMT

    You are right mr. Kalyan budhavartiat

  • Dummy4 on July 6, 2014, 9:42 GMT

    Two series Rohit does not perform and people are questioning his place but 10 years Mr captain has done nothing in 10 years and people still sing his laurels. People who like Dhoni in tests, don't love test cricket. Period. People who want Jadeja in the test team, don't know test cricket. When it comes to Rohit, the scores in India do not matter, but for the captain yes, because he still does'nt have an overseas century. Hypocrisy? He has just played 3 series, and even in those 2 series, he was better than Dhoni. Give him time, he is the ideal No.5 for India. Plus, something obvious which most people including the captain and coach are missing is utilizing him with the ball. Look at what JP does for SA, Root for Eng. And responsibility makes him better. Plus, and I guess, most importantly, Kohli also likes him. And Rahane and him are Mumbai's back.

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