By Andrew Alderson in Birmingham
If anyone should have a dossier on how the Edgbaston pitch might perform in Wednesday night's World Cup match between New Zealand and South Africa, it's former Black Caps spinner Jeetan Patel.
These days the 39-year-old captains Warwickshire, living summer to summer between Wellington and Birmingham.
He earns his living the old pro way, tweaking a ball around the English county circuit rather than parachuting into global Twenty20 franchises. Patel has clocked up 10 seasons at the club, nine of them in succession from 2011. He lives with his wife and two children in the suburb of Solihull, a 25-minute drive from the city centre.
Patel meets the Herald at a chic bar in the city's canal district, a red brick-clad area recently spruced into a thriving social precinct. The setting seems a natural habitat. Patel's urbane and articulate character is reflected in his coiffed beard and the confident disposition of someone who has seen a bit of life after almost 20 years at first-class level. He has learned lessons, particularly in his leadership role over the past 18 months, which should help him succeed beyond the game.
Patel could turn his skills to administration, broadcasting or coaching - the ABC on many cricketers' post-career horizons. His future looks assured; in England or New Zealand.
Warwickshire currently sit seventh of eight teams in the county championship's first division after six of the 14 rounds. The side now heads on the road for five matches in a month, played in parallel with the World Cup. Patel is the joint leader on the competition wicket table with 35 at an average of 16.34.
So how do New Zealand procure 10 of those when they face South Africa on Edgbaston's debut as a tournament venue?
"For a 10.30am start, if you win the toss, send the opposition in and try to get the ball moving sideways," Patel says.
"The weather leading in suggests grass will be on the wicket. In the one-day games here, which start at 11 o'clock, we've had the seam nibble early and it's spun a bit as well. It'll be tacky on top before drying out to become better for batting.
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"[As a spinner] I've had more success in the first innings with the white ball but, as the game progresses, it tends to harden out."
Although the pitch has been undercover – or at least beneath the modern hovercrafts which allow for better moisture control and airflow – Patel still expects runs to be prevalent as the ground staff try to showcase the best of the block.
He says the New Zealand and South African pace attacks might be hard to separate, regardless of the surface unveiled.
"You can't fault what a legend like Imran Tahir offers in the slow bowling department, but their seam attack is there or thereabouts asking the same questions, with a couple of bounce bowlers in Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris.
"Both attacks match up well. For New Zealand, getting the ball to do a bit is key, especially against strokemakers like Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis. Get those three and the game will change quickly."
Patel says it could be an "old school game of 250 plays 250" depending on the amount of sun in the interim.
"People might scoff at that, but I think that makes for a good game. Plus, those last 40 to 50 runs seem to have been so hard to get for chasing teams on occasion."
Patel is contracted to Warwickshire until next year. His kids are yet to see a winter. He describes the lifestyle as a "lucky existence".
"The travel can be tiresome - and hard on the body and family - but I'd never knock the opportunities I've been given by Warwickshire and Wellington to keep playing."