England v India, 3rd Investec Test, Ageas Bowl July 24, 2014

Ageas groundsman battles heatwave

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There are no survivors from the last time India played at the Ageas Bowl - formally the Rose Bowl - Hampshire's home ground, a bowl rising out of nowhere in the outskirts of Southampton.

Two members of that 2002 team are travelling as commentators; Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly will remember this as a nasty pitch with such uneven bounce that led to rumours that the Indians did not even want to bat the second time around in that tour warm-up. The Indians won that match comfortably, though, bowling Hampshire out despite declaring with a lead of only 252. Nigel Gray, the head groundsman, remembers that pitch all too well, but those were the bedding-down days, only two years into the existence of Hampshire's new home ground.

The pitch for the Test, only second in the history of the venue looks green, not as green as Lord's last week, but promises good carry and bounce. It has been an incredibly hot week leading up to the Test so the challenge for Gray and his team has been to retain the moisture.

The pitch has been spending most of its time under the hovercraft, and is uncovered only for watering. The pitches for this series have received their fair bit of attention after Trent Bridge proved to be slow and low and Lord's brought the home team a loss even after they got their ideal seaming conditions and the first use of the surface. Trent Bridge even earned a poor rating from the match referee David Boon.

If Trent Bridge and Lord's are two ends of a scale, Gray believes his pitch is somewhere in the middle but leaning towards Lord's. "It will be a pretty good pitch," Gray said. "It has a bit of grass on it and will have good pace and bounce. A good international pitch. Grass is there but there but it isn't oceans of grass."

Gray is not too much into lengths of grass, but the mower right now is set at around 10mm. It will be trimmed later, but Gray is not sure to what height. Trent Bridge, by comparison, had 8mm three days before the Test, which was to be cut down to 6mm. Gray believes there is more to it than just the height.

"I am not one so much for the height of the grass," Gray said. "I go for the feel. We do check the height once in a while and whilst it is interesting it doesn't make the entire difference to what a pitch is like. There are other factors like how dense the grass is, how green it is. This has got some green on it." He expects the ball to seam around but not alarmingly.

Gray was later seen in conversation with Alastair Cook and Peter Moores, but he does not need any instructions. Asked if he was told by England what to give them, he said he knew England wanted English conditions, and that is what he will strive to provide. The heat - with highs going over 30 degrees and no rain expected anytime soon - remains a challenge.

Has there been any change in what England might want after they lost at Lord's in pretty English conditions? "Not as far as I am aware," Gray said.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • RK.Chandru on July 27, 2014, 3:39 GMT

    Is Dhoni trying to protect an out of form Virat from the wrath of fans and the media? Why is he going to for an additional batsman when the side is already packed with seven able players (in fact, 8 if one considers Bhuvi too). It's unfair to drop Stuart who saved the side from blushes with his 70+ knock, without giving a fairly long run. The same goes good in the case of Jaddu too then. Barring his one knock, he too hasn't done anything (apart from being a street fighter) noteworthy to retain his place. He has bowled more overs than even the specialist producing a paltry returns. Binny seems to be more organised a batsman than Jaddu who's only living on his luck rather than any methodical appraoach. Dhoni's liking towards a few players has always prevailed more than any wisdom. It's the bowlers who are overworked and hence if at all there's any change, it's only wise to go in for an extra bowler and not another batsman. I'd even take a chance by dropping Kohli for Varun or Pankaj

  • timohyj on July 26, 2014, 14:14 GMT

    Ashwin needs to come on because Jadeja is not good enough to be India's only spinner in a test match. Jadeja is so one-dinemsional in his bowling, and he can't say that the surfaces were completely unhelpful. I can't believe he didn't get any of England's left handers out in the second innings at Lords with all the rough he had outside their off stump. Also, I wonder if Pankaj or Ishwar Pandey could do a better job than Shami as both of them have better seam positions. Shami is ideal for reverse swinging conditions, but we won't get any of that in England.

  • dummy4fb on July 26, 2014, 13:42 GMT

    I like that the Curator is upfront about preparing conditions for the English side. The home side will naturally want favorable conditions, and thats how it should be. Those who think its unfair remember the toss still has to take place and for all you know Indian bowlers could get first use of the pitch, if they don't then do what they did at Lord's, it is after all the toughest format of the game, expect no favors.

    If anything after Lord's the English side would like the spinner to not come into play at all not even on the 5th day and the bounce stay even throughout. India will probably retain Dhawan, but I would like Shami to be rested one of the three uncapped seamser, preferrably Aaron, to be given a go. He is the fastest bowler India has produced for a long while and I would like to see how he performs in seam friendly conditions. He can be erratic so that will have to be taken into account, but Shami needs to sit this one out, he has been poor.

  • ShanNachimuthu on July 26, 2014, 13:18 GMT

    Considering the hot English summer and the 3rd & 4th day pitch conditions in last two matches, India does not need a fourth seamer. Had it been Ashwin instead of Binny in those matches it could have been bit more interesting. Also the form of Bhuvi ( both bowling & batting ) and Ishant encourages to go for Ashwin, in place of Binny. Rather than looking for a batsman to score additional 24 runs ( That's what I believe Rohit would score. Also I expect Ashwin would score more that him, say 36 ) go for a spinner, who can strike and make the opposition to score 100 runs lesser. Shami is disappointing, but as the pace combo as whole doing well I would like leave this as it is. Ashwin in place of Binny would be more appropriate than Rohit. Both MSD and Virat should fire to extend the lead in this series. Dhawan continue to be aggressive like the way he was in the 2nd innings last test match. Expected a fight back from England and Cook. Go India Go!!!

  • GRVJPR on July 26, 2014, 6:43 GMT

    What a joke, Heat waves in England?? Fact of the matter is that England was humiliated on green track at Lords and now they don't have guts to prepare another green track. So they are going for flat track so that their flat track bullies can score some easy runs. India has already won this series for me since they have forces the host nation to change pitches. If green track - India winning easily ( becoz of better batsmen and accurate pace attack), if dry track - India winning easily again (Indian spinner much better than english trundlers).

  • cktspirit on July 25, 2014, 18:06 GMT

    I think it will helps tear away pacers more than seamers. Given it could dryup and help spinners on Day 4 and 5, I'd have Gambhir for Dhawan and Varun for Binny.

  • Cricinfouser on July 25, 2014, 14:45 GMT

    If India play 11batsman i.e. Dhawan murli gambhir pujara Kohli Rahane binny Ashwin dhoni Jadeja Bhuvi in upcoming three matches then result will be draw. India 1st inning 450(1.5 days) England 1st inning 500 (against Bhuvi binny jadeja and ashwin in 2days).Now India with 11 batsman will not get all out in 1.5 days.Even if they get allout England will not be able to chase 300 runs in 1 or max. 2 sessions.

  • Cricinfouser on July 25, 2014, 14:28 GMT

    Play Ashwin in place of Dhawan and Pankaj in place of binny.Ashwin is a better opener than Dhawan. Had Dhawan batted in no. 8 he would not even averaged even 20.Batting at no.8 is harmful to career average.Had don bradman batted at no.8 he would have scored 0,20,60,30notout,40notout instead of 0,20,60,150and 250 which was his general trend.In first case he would have averaged 150/3 =50 In 2nd case(batting at no.3) he would have averaged 480/5=96.Some people think that not out scores increases the average but actualy its opposite of that. When you get set and you are not able to complete the innings than your career average decreases.

  • namakkalsekar on July 25, 2014, 13:52 GMT

    Gone were the days of spinners from India winning matches. In England, Chandra, Venkat, Bedi and Prasanna were successful. Present day Indian spinners lack flight , guile and the loop and hence they are unlikely to succeed unless the pitch helps. Pankaj should replace Binny.

  • Night.angel on July 25, 2014, 12:31 GMT

    So many people are disillusioned here. When was the last time spinners from Ind take a 5-wicket scalp in the overseas test match. Other day, I saw BishenBedi took 6 wickets @ expense of 150+ runs and 50+ overs in England.

    Even in the last tours in SA,NZ,ENG, it was fast bowlers who took majority (90%) of wickets. In the last test Jadeja got a lucky wicket of Sam Robson, otherwise he wasn't convincing at all. At best what he can do is tie up one end.

    Remember people, spinners won't win u matches in England. In 2011, Harbajan, Mishra all got hammered. This time, Jadeja took 2 wickets from two tests. And, do u really expect Ashwin can work his magic in Eng. Dream on.

    I predict, both Jadeja and Ashwin will get 2 wickets combined in coming test, if they are playing. And Ind will lose.

    If Ind need a win, they need 4 fast bowlers to exploit the condition. Include pankaj in place of Binny.

    Dhawan,Vijay,puj,kohli,rahane,jadeja,dhoni,Bhuvi,shami,ishant,pankaj