The Telegraph
Wednesday , July 16 , 2014
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Lord’s turns a deaf ear to pitch prayer

Mahendra Singh Dhoni during a practice session, at Lordís, on Tuesday

Mick Hunt, the Lord’s groundsman, is renowned for being his own man when it comes to preparing his pitches and the MCC refused to answer whether the surface for this week’s second Test will have the pace and bounce England are demanding.

The pitch Hunt produced for the first Test against Sri Lanka last month was one of the slowest seen at the ground in recent years and began a trend which continued at Headingley, and then the first Test against India at Trent Bridge.

Last year, England asked for slow pitches, but then they had Graeme Swann in the attack bowling to Australian batsmen weak against spin. Now with Swann gone, they would ideally like the pitches to support their strong seam attack, but a long dry summer has not helped groundsmen.

They have left more grass on the surfaces than usual to try and help the bowlers. But this has made little difference because the pitches are biscuit dry underneath.

An MCC spokesman would only say that Hunt is preparing his pitch in the normal fashion. In the past he has said: “We do our own thing here.”

Such is the sensitivity around pitches at the moment following the criticism of the surface at Trent Bridge that the ECB Board were refusing interview requests with Chris Wood, their pitches liaison officer.

It is his job to monitor Test pitch preparation in the weeks leading up to a match.

Nottinghamshire are not used to criticism of their hosting of a Test, which in recent years has seen them emerge as the most successful ground outside London.

Lisa Pursehouse, the Nottinghamshire chief executive, was, along with other counties, in a meeting with the ECB’s major match group, on Monday, which decides how to allocate international cricket.

“It would be very irrational if something like this would impact on our ability to stage international matches. I would be incredibly disappointed,” she said.

“Steve Birks has never made an error like this before. When most of us make a mistake, we know why we’ve done it. Steve is dealing with natural factors all the time. I’m leaving him alone because he’s a bit fragile, but we’ll speak after the game, just as we would normally. What he has said to me is he would change nothing about his preparation.”

The nature of the pitch will determine the prospect of Simon Kerrigan’s return to the side. Peter Moores, the head coach, has played a big role in trying to restore Kerrigan to Test cricket having helped him recover from his debut last year being coach of Lancashire.

“He is a good bowler, there is no doubt about that and his record in first-class cricket proves that,” Moores said.

“He had a tough debut, yes. He has gone away and learnt. He has worked extremely hard to get himself where he wants to be and he gets another chance in the squad.

“Whether he plays or not will depend on when we see the surface. He is a very talented bowler, a very talented young man.”