Rouse voices concern over pitch

The Edgbaston groundsman Steve Rouse believes he is several days behind in his preparation for the second Ashes Test following last week's freak tornado which swept through Birmingham.

England, 1-0 down in the series after losing last month's series opener against Australia by 239 runs at Lord's, added Paul Collingwood to their squad Monday for the game, which is due to start on Thursday, because of concerns about the wet surface.

"I've been devastated about this," Rouse told the Birmingham Post on Wednesday. "You work up to this all season and when the weather comes down like that and you can't do anything you sometimes wonder whether it's all worth it.

"You have to tell yourself it's all part of the job, but you can never trust the English weather. It's not like being in Cape Town or Perth when you can flood the wicket a few days before, roll it out and it's all done. "I've never been so far behind prior to a Test match before. We're probably about four days behind in our preparation - it won't be a quick wicket, that's for sure," added Rouse, who played at Edgbaston as a Warwickshire seam bowler throughout the 1970s and early 80s.

Even so, Warwickshire might have had to cancel the match or see it taken elsewhere had the tornado hit the ground rather than struck 400 yards away. But while buildings at Edgbaston remain unscathed, the pitch suffered from three inches of rain in four days and an inch falling in a minute at the tornado's peak last Thursday.

"The wicket has got a crust on the top of it at the moment, but there's still a lot of moisture underneath which isn't surprising after what we had," said Rouse. "It was frightening what happened and the covers that were supposed to be out there were just floating on top of the water.

"Up until then our preparations were fine. It was damp, but you can usually water it up until a couple of days before - it's been the worst possible preparation leading up to the Test match."