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My season at the Ageas Bowl

17th September 2019 Posted in Grounds and People by Michael Weeks

As the first-class season at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl at Southampton comes to a conclusion with Somerset fighting for a vital win Wadebridge groundsman Paul Chapman reflects on his summer working at the Test venue.

From Egloshayle Road to the Ageas Bowl        From Wadebridge to the Ageas Bowl        Chapman’s Ageas Diary             

My eight-month contract with Hampshire will soon be coming to an end and it will soon be time to go home back to Cornwall. I must say first Hampshire have been totally amazing towards me the players, the coaching team, office staff & my family the ground staff I have nothing but praise for the club it’s an amazing club with amazing people.

What a journey the last eight months has been in my life totally unbelievable. My cricket groundsman skills have gone to a level I could never imagine and when I was brushing & cutting the wickets I kept thinking Kohli is going to be here tomorrow batting on this?. Also not to many people around the world have used a 100k hover cover. She has her own temperament and it takes a couple months to get used to her temperament learning what she likes and dislikes.

First, we had Australia here in May for two weeks as a base camp for the World Cup witch we got to chat and get friendly with the players and coaching staff, I must say they all were very friendly and kind, Justin Langer especially. I was trying to explain to Steve Waugh about soils and that your soil is tested before you chose your loam it’s not a random thing one does. Then trying to explain to the Aussie bowlers that we fill in the foot holes in the morning not at night because it could crack overnight. Then the 8 internationals World Cup and getting right up close and personal with the International teams and coaching staff. Literally for the last thirty years I’ve been watching these guys on Sky TV now I’m standing next to them talking to them some days I just had to pinch my self as it felt like I was dreaming.

Also, ex-players that work for Sky I got to meet and talk to my boyhood hero Michael Atherton. I used to try & play like him but sadly failed.  One training session the England players where ramping the ball over the 10 ft wall and I found my self round the back with Trevor Bayliss looking for the balls in the long grass chatting away with him about his retirement coming up and that he’s looking forward to it. Watching Virat Kohli throw down man was totally unreal he stands 17-18 yards away and slingshots it down at 90plus MPH he really works him over for 40 mins he travels with him everywhere I’ve seen nothing like it in my life.

The World Cup was unbelievable when India played I could here there fans outside the stadium at 8.00am when I was working on the square & the noise inside the ground you could not hear the person next to you talking & when Mohammad Shami got that hat trick I never forget that noise that 24,000 Indians made.  It was deafening, you’ll never hear that noise ever again at Ageas. Buttler’s 100 in 50 balls was something I never forget every ball sounded like a gunshot going off he was the best player I’ve seen here over the 8 months. But my moment I will never forget as long as I live is when I ran on in the drinks break to sweep the ends and Virat Kohli is standing 3 yards away from me helmet off eating a banana watching me I’m in the middle off the pitch in World Cup match with Kohli 3 yards away look at me.

The World Cup was totally unbelievable and Hampshire did themselves so proud all the teams loved it here the facilities are out of this World, Hampshire will never see a season like this again. Over the last eight months I have met & chatted to most of the hero’s Iv been watching for the last 30 years I had to pinch my self most days. I can’t tell you how hard I & the groundstaff have worked over the last 8 months unbelievable hours with everything that has gone on. I have worked pretty much 7 days a week 250/60hours per month for eight months with only 9 days holiday. It literally works sleep work sleep for 8 months, I’m very much looking forward to some time off after 8 months none stop. At the end of the season, the head groundsman Nigel will be going back to retirement and there will be a new head here next season with a new vision. I’m not so sure I would be working as hard as Nigel when I’m nearly 70.

Sadly because of the cost of paying two rents for my room in Southampton & my council flat in Wadebridge, which are both £700 a month, I cannot afford to do this for an 8-month contract next year. But I will be returning next season to help on internationals & some championship games because Hampshire want me stay in contact with them and I have many friends there to.

But what I have learnt here in the last 8 months is completely mind-blowing to think half of what I was doing at Wadebridge was wrong this is where club level goes wrong, the groundstaff here have been totally amazing towards me I will never forget that. As I speak I’m already well into renovations at Hampshire on the nursery ground and netblocks and as soon as I finish here I start renovations back at Wadebridge that club is going from strength to strength every year simply because it has very good people running that club.

If any club in Cornwall would like a chat I’m happy to help and tell them how we did things at Hampshire. I must sign off thanking Hampshire for everything they have done for me they have been totally unbelievable.