0 Groundsman excited by Ashes challenge

In his first media interview since being appointed as head groundsman for Glamorgan County Cricket Club, Keith told the Rutland Times about the honour of working on the pitch for the First Test between England and Australia in July.

He has been championed within the game for the last eight years since he began cultivating top class wickets at Oakham for Leicestershire CCC matches, in the LV County Championship and the one day game.

Keith has clearly enjoyed his time at the school but he insists the new job was an opportunity he could not turn down.

"When I went to write out my notice to Oakham School I don't mind telling you I had tears in my eyes," he revealed.

"It's very exciting to be preparing a wicket for the Ashes series but, of course, that brings with it added pressure."

Keith begins his new role in January and it will be quite a culture shock.

He will be swapping the rural tranquility of Rutland's county town for the city of Cardiff, and more specifically the magnificent new SWALEC Stadium, next to the River Taff, which has a capacity of 16,000.

The hype will intensify as the England match approaches - it will be the first time the national team has played a Test outside the country - and Ricky Ponting brings his Australians over to Wales.

Keith is looking forward to meeting up again with England fast bowler Stuart Broad, who honed his skills on his wickets while studying and playing at Oakham School.

"I'm sure there will be plenty of banter between myself and Stuart, especially if his first delivery rolls along the deck," chuckled Keith.

"I've had some lovely feedback from people since I got the job with Glamorgan. I had a great text from Josh Cobb, who was first team cricket skipper at Oakham in the summer.

"And Stuart's mother, Carol Broad, rang me to say 'it's absolutely marvellous' on my new appointment.

"Everyone at the school has said I will be missed at Oakham."

Before the Test match Keith has a lot of hard graft to get through to prepare Glamorgan's wickets, both at Cardiff and Colwyn Bay, where the county play some of their matches.

He will be working on the outfield at the SWALEC Stadium after extensive new £600,000 drainage facilities were installed.

Keith said: "Everyone is talking about the Test match but there are lots of bread and butter games for Glamorgan to play before that happens. I have visited the site and there was no turf down.

"The square is looking tired, lean and hungry but I am sure we will have it ready for the start of the season."

When Kevin Pietersen's England team arrive for the Test, Keith will have had an indication from the England and Wales Cricket Board about the type of wicket they hope to see.

The Aussies will be smarting after losing a series in India and going down to South Africa in the First Test of the latest home series. They will of course want to avenge their 2005 Ashes defeat to England in this country.

"It is too early to say what kind of wicket it will be for the Test," said Keith. "It will depend on whether England want to play two spinners, both Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann, or if they want to go in with four seamers.

"I'm not worried what the Australians might want from the wicket.

"If we just prepare a good deck that is going to be competitive for both sides with bat and ball then I don't think England have anything to fear, given the way Australia are playing right now."

Keith will work alongside chief ICC pitch consultant Andy Atkinson, who has recently overseen the installation of the new drainage system and the re-turfing of the outfield at Cardiff.

Atkinson said: "Keith is the perfect man for the job. Looking after a Test match ground is a great responsibility and I am thrilled to be working alongside a man of such experience."

Glamorgan Cricket's operations director Simon Lee added: "Securing a high calibre individual such as Keith is a tremendous result for the club. Keith comes with an excellent reputation and we delighted to have him on board."
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