WTC Final, IND v NZ: Southampton curator hopes to dish out pitch with “pace, bounce and carry” 

Simon Lee at Ageas Bowl, Southampton.
Simon Lee at Ageas Bowl, Southampton.

Simon Lee, the head groundsman at Southampton’s Rose Bowl, hopes to dish out a surface with “pace, bounce and carry” for the India-New Zealand World Test Championship (WTC) final, beginning on Friday.

All eyes are on Simon Lee, a celebrated curator preparing the pitch for the biggest Test fixture. The former Somerset groundsman, who won ECB’s Groundsman of the Year for List A games thrice, began his WTC preparations in late May after weather conditions improved in England.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo, Lee stated that he’s aiming to prepare a pitch that assists pace for the WTC final despite the challenges the English conditions present.

“For me personally, I just want to get something out that has some pace, bounce and carry in the pitch. It can be a hard thing to do in England as the weather doesn’t help us most of the time, but the forecast in the build-up is good with a lot of sun, so we are hopeful that we’ll get some pace and a hard pitch without over-rolling it and killing it.
“Pace just makes red-ball cricket exciting, I’m a cricket fan, and I want to produce a pitch [for the WTC final] where the cricket lovers have to watch every ball in case they miss something, be that some class batting or an amazing spell of bowling. A maiden over can be quite exciting if it’s a battle of skill between both bowler and batter. So, yeah, if we can get some pace and bounce in the pitch, but not too one-sided towards seam movement, we’ll be happy,” said Simon Lee, who considers himself lucky to have the chance to produce a pitch of arguably the biggest Test ever.

International cricket resumed in July 2020 after being halted by the COVID-19 pandemic for almost four months. The sport resumed at Southampton on a pitch prepared by Simon Lee. The thrilling England-West Indies Test was the first surface that Simon Lee prepared at the venue. He has been a busy man since as the venue hosted several international matches last English season.

The ICC is guiding Simon Lee for the WTC final.

Spin could play a role in WTC final: Simon Lee

Simon Lee believes spin could play a key role in the WTC final if weather conditions remain dry and the Test heads into the final two days. He further states that eventually, it will depend on the players and their skill-set.

“The forecast is looking okay, the pitches dry out very quickly here as we do have some sand mixed into our cricket loam, which helped it hold together when the pitches were re-laid some ten years ago, but it can help it spin as well. To get to that point, we’ll need the seamers to bowl, some runs scored, and make some rough along the way.
“The pitch will always get talked about a lot, but you need the players to play their part to make a good game, so if we produce a pitch that allows the players to show their skills at the top level and we have an entertaining game for the fans, we will be more than satisfied,” Simon Lee added.

With both Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin available for selection for the WTC final, the Indian think-tank may well be playing both of their star spinners – a rarity in overseas Tests.

If spin comes into play, India will be at an advantage as that’s one area where India wear a stronger look than their Kiwi opponents.

The weather forecast for the WTC final's match days is expected to be around 20 degrees Celsius, with light showers predicted.

Edited by Sankalp Srivastava
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