England 'hope' for faster pitch

  • Last Updated: July 15 2014, 16:53 BST

England live in hope, rather than expectation, of an appropriate surface for the second Investec Test at Lord's.

Ballance: 'I hope there will be more pace and carry'
Ballance: 'I hope there will be more pace and carry'

Conditions underfoot have become the hot topic after the hosts laboured last week on a third successive lifeless pitch, the most extreme yet in fact, of their Test summer.

Draws at Lord's and Trent Bridge were separated by an agonising defeat at Headingley, as England began with a shock 1-0 setback against Sri Lanka and stand 0-0 so far with India.

At all three venues, edges to wicketkeeper and slips became increasingly elusive and the quest for wickets more and more frustrating for both sides.

Trent Bridge groundsman Steve Birks took the unusual step of issuing a public apology, before stumps on day one, for the lack of pace there.

His Lord's counterpart Mick Hunt was less forthcoming on Tuesday, and kept his surface largely under wraps - two single-strip layers of plastic covering - before finishing touches take place over the next 36 hours.

Captain Alastair Cook, coach Peter Moores and England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton chatted for several minutes only yards from the pegged-off surface.

But even for them, there was to be no unveiling yet - although there were three airings in all, the last for Moores and national selector James Whitaker in mid-afternoon.

On first morning inspection, the pitch was barely discernible - as was the case against Sri Lanka here last month, two days out - from the lush square and outfield surrounding it.

The intention then, as presumably now, was to retain as much moisture and zip once play was under way.

As Gary Ballance recalls, it did not quite turn out that way.

The England number three, who made his maiden Test century on his last visit, may have no personal objection to similar conditions.

His pace-bowling colleagues, and captain Cook, have obvious reason to feel differently - but if Ballance's equivocal assessment is any guide, there is little confidence they will get their wish.

"It was quite slow (here) against Sri Lanka," he said.

"I'm sure ... well, I hope there will be a bit more pace and carry in it for our seamers, and give our bowlers a chance when they do get those nicks.

"(That way), I hope they won't have to bowl as many overs."

The tarpaulin was pulled back a second time, for around half-an-hour, to allow ECB pitches consultant Chris Wood to take a series of readings.

He made no public statement about conditions, but there was an assurance his presence is business as usual and in no way a response to concerns about Nottingham and any urgent action therefore needed here.

Instead, it fell to a second England batsman to voice an opinion - which, on his home pitch, should be better-informed than most.

Sadly for Cook, opening partner Sam Robson does not sound especially convinced either that established trends will be bucked.

"If we can get a little bit more bounce and carry than at Nottingham, that would suit us," he told Sky Sports News.

"But I imagine it will be quite typical to what you normally get here."