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Will the Welsh support England in Cardiff?

Roar Guru
6th July, 2009
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There is an old saying in Wales that the Welsh support whoever is playing England. That’s why the first Ashes Test in Cardiff this week makes for such an intriguing spectacle.

Welsh players have long turned out for England and in the last Ashes series they had Simon Jones, and less so Geraint Jones, that they could call their own.

But this time around there is none.

Even Sophia Gardens operations director Simon Lee wasn’t sure about the exact nature of crowd support.

“There is going to be 16,000 people, half of which are from Wales. I guess (they) will be supporting England, I do not know,” said Lee with smile.

“We will find out when the national anthems are sung what the response is.”

The anthem situation is another bizarre one with the Welsh national anthem being played first on day one, followed by Advance Australia Fair and last of all God Save the Queen.

“I think people love cricket in Wales,” Lee said.

“We have a county side and people have responded very well. We have sold out all the tickets, it is going to be interesting.”

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There is not only an air of mystery as to how fervently the Welsh will support a bunch of Englishmen but in regards to the pitch.

Adding to the intrigue, groundsman Keith Exton has had a media ban slapped on him and details regarding the deck have been sketchy at best.

The first Test on Welsh soil is a big deal for cricket in the country and Lee admits officials are a tad nervous.

They have good reason to be cautious as the redeveloped ground was panned in mid-May after local county side Glamorgan suffered the indignity of being docked two points a below-par pitch.

The dodgy deck had been labelled as taking “excessive” turn, the main reason that Nathan Hauritz has kept in the mix for the Australian side.

“Keith had just arrived and was just getting to know a new pitch and a new wicket which he learnt some lessons from (that) and he will be the first to admit that,” Lee said.

“It was a bit drier then it should have been but he has had time to iron out that issue and he is very familiar with it and he is very confident.”

The curator had been caught out by the new drainage system and how he handles preparations for the first five-day match in the ground is an unknown.

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Australia’s brains trust made a reconnaissance last Friday from Worcester to check out the pitch and Test opener and seasoned county campaigner Simon Katich wasn’t entirely what to expect.

“I guess that air of the unexpected, of not knowing what the wicket is going to be like because there has not been Tests played here in the past,” he said.

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