Cricket

WTC final: Pitch Curator aims for ‘pace, bounce and carry’

Simon Lee, Six Sports

Southampton groundsman Simon Lee says spin could potentially become a factor, later in the game, if conditions remain mostly dry. Not for the first time has he become the center of attention instantly. Striding alongside his master Simon Lee, the head groundsman at Hampshire, he even attracted whistles from some in the Indian contingent. They were holed up in their rooms overlooking the ground for the first few days upon arrival in England on June 3.

As Lee lapped the ground which will host the inaugural World Test Championship final from June 18, India head coach Ravi Shastri asked him who it was running alongside him. His name is Winston, Lee told Shastri. Winston is a redhead cocker spaniel, under three years old, and Lee says, “a people dog”.

Lee on WTC Final pitch:

“Having the WTC final here at the Ageas Bowl is pretty massive, obviously without the current world situation with the pandemic, it wouldn’t have been here, so I feel lucky to have the chance to produce a pitch for potentially the biggest game of Test cricket ever staged. It’s a huge opportunity.“Lee said.

Simon Lee, Six Sports

You can’t rush anything when it comes to the work of pitch preparation – that didn’t start until the end of May. After some very wet weather moved away from the UK we started getting the practice pitches rolled out on the nursey ground for India. And the Test pitch has been started a little time after that as you like to not over-prepare it, getting it ready just in time would be ideal,” Lee added.

While India have lost both the Tests they have played at the venue (2014 and 2018), New Zealand will be playing their maiden Test in Southampton.”Pitch preparation for this Test is a little simpler as we are a neutral venue, we are guided by the ICC, but we all want is a good pitch that offers an even contest between the teams.

About Simon Lee

Lee spent nearly two decades at Somerset, till late 2019, where he climbed the ranks from an apprentice to the head groundsman. During his time there, Lee won the ECB’s Groundsman of the Year for one-day cricket three times. Attracted by the challenge of making pitches for international cricket, he accepted the Hampshire opportunity.

Simon Lee, Six Sports

Lee was immediately presented with a lot of work. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the ECB had endeavoured to host West Indies, Pakistan and Australia during the 2020 summer and Southampton, which has an on-site hotel, hosted three Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is. While the last two Tests of the Pakistan series ended in a draw, the first one the ground hosted was a thriller clinched by West Indies on the fifth afternoon, after the first day was rained out.

That first Test pitch for England vs West Indies last July was my first real pitch I prepared on the square here, it was a complete leap into the unknown, as I simply didn’t know how the square would react to my preparation methods,” Lee says.

While Taunton was like, in his own words, the “back of my hand”, Lee was working out the little quirks at the Ageas Bowl during the winter before he and his deputy Tom Cowley started talking about making pitches for the 2020 season.

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