Team India at the nets
Team India at the nets

Southampton: The count down has began, the players, skippers, think tank and other staff are busy in their own manner to make this match a memoriable one.

With the teams doing their best for the inaugural World Test Championship, the focus now shifts to the curator. And at the Ageas Bowl, England Cricket Board have rightly enthrusted the job with none other than, Simon Lee, the winner of the Groundsman of the Year award thrice.

And going by Lee's words, it will be fast, furious and carry which will be a paradise for the seamers while the spinners can look for their share depending on the weather conditions, as the days progress.

With four days to go for the start of the final encounter between India and New Zealand, the focus has been 22-yard strip at the Ageas Bowl that will stage the much-awaited contest.

Hoping to prepare a pitch that offers an even contest, Lee reckons pitch preparation is a little simple because he is being guided by the ICC as it is a neutral venue for both sides. “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,” Lee told ESPNCricinfo.

Lee also went on to confess that personally, he wants to prepare a surface that assists pace, bounce, and good carry. He also revealed that given the conditions, he is hoping that he can produce a pitch that would be hard without over-rolling it

The curator, however, added that he does not want the pitch to be too one-sided towards seam movement and wants it to be even.

"Pace just makes red-ball cricket exciting, I am a cricket fan and I want to produce a pitch where the cricket lovers have to watch every ball," he said.

"A maiden over can be quite exciting if it is 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," he added.

Lee said this pitch could also help spinners since it will dry out quickly due to presence of sun but for that to happen, they will need the seamers to create some rough.

"As I said, 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 10 years ago, but it can help it spin as well. To get to that point we will need the seamers to bowl, some runs scored, and make some rough along the way," said Lee further.

Indian team out of quarantine

The Indian cricket team ended its three-day match simulation on Sunday ahead of the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal among others getting a chance to bat.

"The third day of intra-squad match simulation was about settling down & finding that rhythm. (emoticon: thumbs-up twice) #TeamIndia," tweeted the Board of Control for Cricket in India along with a brief video recapping the day's play.

NZ dislodge India from top spot

New Zealand on Sunday dislodged India from the top spot in the ICC Test team rankings after their series-clinching win over England in Birmingham.

The Kiwis beat England by eight wickets to win the two-match Test series 1-0 ahead of the World Test Championships final against India in Southampton from June 18.

New Zealand, who were second behind India in the previous ICC team rankings update, jumped to top spot by gaining three rating points.

The Kane Williamson-led side now have 123 rating points against India's 121 in the latest rankings. New Zealand, however, have lesser overall points of 2593 from 21 matches as compared to India's 2914 from 24 matches.

Australia are third with 108 rating points while England (107) and Pakistan (94) are fourth and fifth respectively.

India were the number one Test side after the annual update of the ICC team rankings last month.

WTC winners to get US $ 1.6 million

The winner of the upcoming World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand will walk away with a prize money of US $ 1.6 million along with the Test Championship Mace, the International Cricket Council said on Monday.

India and New Zealand will battle it out for the prestigious title at Southampton on June 18.

"The winners of the much-awaited ICC World Test Championship (WTC) Final between India and New Zealand will take home a purse of $ 1.6 million along with the ICC Test Championship Mace," an ICC statement read.

"The losing team will get US $ 800,000 for finishing second in the nine-team competition, which was played over a near two-year cycle, adding context to Test cricket and to crown the first official world champions in the longest format of the game."

The governing body said that the team finishing third among the nine competition nations will get US $ 450,000 cheque, while the prize money for the fourth-placed team will be US $ 350,000.

"... the one that finishes fifth gets US $ 200,000 while the remaining four teams will get US $ 100,000 each," it said.

The inaugural World Test Championships saw nine teams competing over a near two-year cycle to add context to Test cricket.

The team claiming the inaugural world champions title in the longest format of the game will get the Test Mace, which was previously given to teams topping the ICC Men's Test Team Rankings.

"In case the final ends in a draw or a tie, the finalists will split the prize money for the first and second places and share possession of the Mace during the time they remain champions," the ICC said.

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