Pitch report – Rose Bowl, Southampton
We run the rule over the venue for the third Test between England and India in Southampton.
<b>Established:</b> 2001<br><b>Capacity:</b> 15,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Pavilion End, Northern End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Hampshire<br><B>Head Groundsman:</b> Nigel Gray<b><br>Test History:</b> 1 Test; 1 draw<br><b>Only Toss:</b> 1 bowled first; 1 draw
<b>Overview</b><br>Long snubbed as a Test ground, the Rose Bowl's day finally came on 11 April 2008, when the Cardiff-favouring ECB eventually buckled to grant the stadium its maiden five-dayer in 2011.
For their appointment, the Hampshire club took 35 million pounds of generosity from chairman Rob Bransgrove and 30-odd million more from the local council to inject life into a facility marred by traffic problems and lack of easy access for spectators.
Since then, the Rose Bowl (not to be confused with the outdoor athletic stadium in Pasadena, California of the same name) has welcomed the award-winning architecture of Michael Hopkins & Partner, entirely responsible for circular-amphitheatre feel and prolific three-storey pavilion with canopied roof, to gradually host enough ODIs to tide them over and toasted ample domestic Twenty20 matches to pay the bills.
Bransgrove's big spend and Eastleigh borough's fork-out has afforded the ground – formerly known as West End – more covered stands, an indoor training camp, non-cricket function halls and all the other trimmings expected of a world-class venue. One can even have a wedding or annual staff dinner here. Meanwhile, the construction of a 175-room hotel and conference centre remains on the cards.
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>Four or five days affected by rain saw Hampshire's maiden Test match end in a stalemate in June 2011. England fast bowler Chris Tremlett took advantage of a wise decision to bowl first, before the right-handed Ian Bell and left-handed Kumar Sangakkara fought through steely centuries. Intriguingly, Sri Lanka only took one specialist spinner into the match, as <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'>Paddy Power's prediction of a draw </a> proved spot on.
<b>They Said</b><br>"It's firm, there is a covering of grass on it, so it is looking like it will be a good pitch to me. After 24 years of being head groundsman you still get nervous. I'm confident we've produced a good pitch. It won't be as grassy as Lord's was when that Test started, it will be much more like the Test we had against Sri Lanka three or four years ago, which was a good pitch. It went through, there was a bit in it for the bowlers and the batsman can play their shots, so I'm expecting very similar." – head groundsman <b>Nigel Gray</b> this week.
"It's the same 22 yards so it looks like it should be a good pitch again but you never can really tell until you start playing on it. But there is no reason to think it won't be very good. We want it to have a little bit of assistance for the seamers if possible rather than being a flat road. We want a decent balance between bat and ball." – Gray, again.
"It's going to be hard for us to get 20 wickets here, especially if the wicket is going to be as flat as it looks. It's going to be hard work for us. I think the average first-innings score in championship cricket has been 400." – England fast bowler <b>James Anderson</b>.
"We're not anticipating any problems. We've already spoken to and are in contact with potential step-in builders. We're fine in terms of scheduling, we had plenty of buffer built into the programme, so in terms of meeting our obligations for the summer we don't think they're going to be affected at all." – Hampshire chairman <b>Rod Bransgrove</b> late last year.
"The work to carefully relocate the trees is essential in order for the major works to commence later in the year. This will mean that the look of the ground and the way it operates will change in many ways but I'm sure that our members and other spectators at first-class cricket will appreciate the measures we are taking to ensure The Rose Bowl continues to develop as a professional and modern venue." – Rose Bowl operations director <b>Chris Egelstaff</b> keeps Green Peace happy and looks forward to more action at the turnstiles.
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br>Batsman <b>Ian Bell</b> scored a Test century here in 2011, while fast bowler <b>James Anderson</b> secured two wickets in each innings. Indian <b>Ajinkya Rahane</b> welcomed a consolation half-century in ODI defeat at this venue in the same year.
<b>Weather Forecast</b><br>Partly cloud throughout, with only a small chance of rain predicted for day two. The build-up, too, should be lined with mostly sunny conditions – allowing for adequate preparation of the pitch. Temperatures will peak at 26 and trough at 15 degrees Celsius.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>This season has brought four County Championship draws in six matches at the Rose Bowl, with several sub-300 first-innings scores suggesting initial help for the bowlers gradually flattens.
No Division Two captain has opted to bat first after winning the toss, continuing the precedent set by then England skipper Andrew Strauss three years ago. Alastair Cook or Mahendra Singh Dhoni shouldn't differ this time.
Pace and bounce are likely to abound, leaving England more justified than ever in not naming a specialist spinner in the squad. This, too, leaves a return for the sidelined Ravichandran Ashwin unlikely.
Batsmen prepared to knuckle in for the long haul rather than pounce on early runs should be duly rewarded, with superb techniques and still heads – like Hampshire's in-form James Vince and Will Smith – to the short ball sure to be an advantage.
Not asked to produce a five-day surface since 2011, curator Nigel Gray has his work cut out for him – and the team batting second will hope to do so just once. Either way, the Rose Bowl must improve on the docile conditions witnessed in at Trent Bridge – and complement a superb Lord's deck last week – before looking to oblige <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/royal-london-one-day-cup' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Hampshire's Royal London One-Day Cup campaign</b></a>.
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