Sunday, 26 December 2010

So long Chris, it was a blast!

In my post-Christmas lunch haze I settled in to watch the start of Ashes Test number four last night, the Boxing Day Test at the enormous Melbourne Cricket Ground, and what a treat I was in store for.

Australia blasted out for 98, their lowest total at The G in Ashes history, a sub-100 innings total is a rare thing indeed in the annals of England in Australia history.  England's seamers put on a real show for their supporters, those at the ground and those recovering at home .  Anderson returned figures of 4-44, Bresnan 2-25 and the pick of the attack - statistically at least, Chris Tremlett with 4-26 taking him to 12 wickets in just two Ashes tests at an average of under 15.  The reality struck then and there, Perth was no fluke, Tremlett is there for keeps.

Steven Finn can count himself unlucky to have been dropped, or 'rested' for this game, but his time will come, it is clear to all who have seen him that he'll go on to take hundreds of wickets for England.  Finn is still raw though, he has areas to improve on, Tremlett is the finished article now.

Chris Tremlett is what a good friend of mine likes to call a "sh*t you up" bowler, like Harmison was in his pomp, he worries batsmen because of his sheer size and presence.  It was a joy to watch him bowl at the Oval in 2010, which brings me to my main point - in 2011 Tremlett at the Oval, and in fact in a Surrey shirt anywhere, might not happen very much.

England know now that in Tremlett, if he stays fit, they have a world class bowler who is at the peak of his physical prowess, and they should take advantage of that.  I think Steve Finn will have a hell of a fight on his hands to get into this side once Broad returns, what a delicious prospect for England, and there's Onions to come back too!

So Surrey will likely be a seamer for large chunks of the 2011 county season, the fitness of Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker, Tim Linley and the fragile Chris Jordan is all the more important suddenly.  Dernbach, Meaker and Linley took 88 wickets between them in the Championship last season, averaging 30 collectively, striking on average once every 54 balls and going at 3.3 runs an over.  Respectable figures no doubt - but Tremlett was a cut above, averaging 20, strike rate of 45 and going at just 2.6 an over.  He leaves a gaping chasm in our bowling attack, make no mistake.

Matthew Dunn might find himself called upon more regularly than he might've thought a few weeks ago but it'd be unfair to expect too much of such a young (though undoubtedly talented) player.

I am delighted for Tremlett, and England (country before county after all!), but he added a real cutting edge to our attack that will be sorely missed.  Dernbach and Meaker need to make a step up, which I think they are both certainly capable of, maybe the extra responsibility will be the making of them?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Stewart Walters leaves Surrey

Veteran of six seasons at Surrey Stewart Walters has departed the club by mutual consent.  He has one year remaining on his deal but he won't see that out, choosing instead to go into cricket clothing retail.

I am always reluctant to be too critical of a player who is released, it must be tough for the player to give up like that.  Having said that I was never really convinced that Walters was ever going to be a regular contributor at the level we needed him to be.  He was always lively in the field and despite dropping a couple of horror catches when I saw him this season he was reliable in the field.

Walters always scored heavily in the Second XI but the step up to first class cricket was maybe a bridge too far.  His average of 25 after 34 matches with only 2 hundreds, was nowhere near good enough and I'm sure he'll be disappointed with that return as well.  His uber-purple patch of June 2009 where he scored those two hundreds was never repeated.

It does however leave us another batsman short and with Michael Brown sounding not all that confident about making the new season in his injury diary, unless Chris Adams has another signing up his sleeve (Tom Maynard?) we are going to be really susceptible to an injury or two - not a great position to be in.  The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Tremlett would be pitch Perth-fect for the Waca

The morning after the night before, and what a night! The hour and a quarter or so of play last night was one of the most enjoyable I've ever had the pleasure to experience - I hope there's more where that came from.

The one cloud on the horizon is Stuart Broad's injury, an abdominal tear ruling him out of the entire Ashes series. Broad has bowled well on the tour so far without taking many wickets, and has barely had a bat, but his absence will nonetheless be keenly felt.

It will surprise none of you to hear that I think Chris Tremlett is the man for the job of replacing Broad. The pitch at the Waca might not be the terrifying prospect it once was, but there is word that its getting back to some of its former glory - and surely Australia's only hope is to prepare a pitch with a bit of green and try and blast England out. This would play nicely in to Tremlett's ample hands.

His height and high 80s pace will make him a real handful on a pitch with any sort of bounce. We've seen in this test the trouble that bounce can cause (for both sides!), and the addition of Phil Hughes at the top of the order (who Tremlett dismissed in the Hobart warm up game by the way) will only magnify that. To have Finn and Tremlett operating in tandem, with Anderson making use of the Freemantle Doctor and Swann twirling away as well would be a frightening prospect for the Aussies.

I have long been of the school of thought that you back your batters to get you the runs, and in two out of three innings so far this tour England's top six have delivered in spades. Swann might not be the ideal number 8 but he can do a job and Tremlett can fling the bat at number 9 to decent effect. Bresnan might, might, get you a few more runs but I just don't think he brings enough of a threat with the ball and I'm not sure Shahzad is suited to the Waca surface. Tremlett is the man for the job in Perth - he won't let England down.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

De Bruyns and De Brawn

Alright, its not a very good effort, but headlines aren't my speciality.  Zander de Bruyn, formerly of South Africa, Somerset and Worcestershire, and possessor of one of the most freakishly long necks in all of county cricket has signed a one year contract with Surrey as a kolpak player - he qualifies as a British citizen in 2012.

On the face of it he's not the most obvious of signings, but for a couple of reasons I think its quite a canny pick by Chris Adams and Co.  Firstly he does have a solid, if unspectacular, track record in first class cricket - 10,000 runs at an average of 40 and a healthy List A average to go along with it.  800 division one runs, 550 CB40 runs and 300 Twenty20 runs in 2010 speaks of a reliable middle order performer.  He can also turn his arm over to decent effect when required.

Secondly he will slot into a batting order shorn of the vast experience of Mark Ramprakash, his 170+ first class games will count double among such an inexperienced - albeit very promising - lineup.  Finally we missed a middle order hitter in the limited overs games last season, particularly the CB40, Hamilton-Brown and Davies often gave us rapid starts but once we got into number 4, 5, 6 and 7 there was a distinct lack of power - hopefully de Bruyn will address that.

I think de Bruyn can be a real success at the Oval, but my track record in predicting the quality of signings is distinctly average, so we shall see.  What is not in question though is the fact that our batting is well short of experience - too many times last season we collapsed and lacked application, hopefully the instalment of an experienced and quality player will help turn the tide.

Monday, 29 November 2010

What do we make of that?

517-1? Really? That is one of the more absurd England cricket scorecards I've had the fortune to wake up to. A truly herculean performance from Trott and Cook, Strauss should be ashamed of himself, managing 25 runs fewer than the next highest scorer in the second innings...

So what to make of it? I won't be getting carried away, there's still some issues that warrant worrying about, but we have on our hands one of the most resillient batting orders I can recall. The steel and grit the top seven has in Strauss, Cook, Trott and Collingwood is extraordinary. Add to that the flair of Pietersen, Bell and Prior and you have a wonderfully balanced top order - and a tail with plenty of runs in it beyond that.

Yes, we were seen off for 260 in the first innings and yes we did let Haddin and Hussey take the match beyond the point where England could win it, but the team who will take the most heart from this game is unquestionably England.

There is talk that awaiting the teams in Adelaide is a pitch even flatter than this. I'm not sure that's technically possible, but I doubt it'll be fizzing around batsmen's ears or turning square at any point. Its going to be another hard slog, Broad, Anderson and Finn bowled 120 overs between them in this game and unlike their Aussie counterparts they can all count on playing on Thursday night. Hopefully Graeme Swann can find his mojo sooner rather than later.

However the most encouraging thing from an England perspective to come out of the Brisbane test is the Australian team. Good on Mike Hussey for proving the doubters wrong, and Haddin is under-rated no more, but there are issues abound for the Aussie selectors if they cast their eye around.

Shane Watson continues to flatter to deceive at the top, I think he must tire himself out holding the pose when he hits those admittedly gorgeous straight drives, they don't seem to be able to bank on him to score big. Katich is a fighter but past his best, North is all over the place and the bowling looked toothless in a way that an Australian attack has not done for a very, very long time yesterday. That they appear to be prepared to select North as the frontline spinner for Adelaide says a great deal.

England will rightly be wary of dismissing this Australian side out of hand. Bollinger and Harris are two quality performers who will boost Australia if they come in, but the suggestion that England are the better side will persist even then and Australia have it all to do.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

England's bowlers need to wrestle back momentum

After what has felt like decades, Ben Hilfenhaus finally got the Ashes underway on the stroke of midnight last night, and two balls later the skipper was back in the hutch.

Not the best of starts then, but after his departure Trott and Cook, though a little nervy at times, didn't look in too much trouble, Hilfenhaus and Johnson gave them little to worry about and I was in bed before Doherty got a bowl. Obviously I therefore missed the first big moment of the series, the Siddle hat-trick. He was by all accounts the only one of the seam bowlers to hit the right length and he's got six wickets in his pocket as reward. So what is the lie of the land?

England's total is below par, probably by 100-120 runs, but all is not lost. A wicket before the close of play would've been terrifically helpful, but twas not to be and Katich and Watson will reappear tonight. England are capable of bowling out Australia for under 300, they're as liable to lose wickets in bunches as we are these days (though we should probably not expect another three-in-three), all it takes is a little bit of magic.

Broad and Anderson have to come out willing to attack, all guns blazing, because we need to wrest that momentum back and show them what we're about. Their batting is full of good players and a great one, but we've got four cracking bowlers in our ranks.

What we don't need is blazing sunshine and sky high temperatures; another day like today would be nice please, a bit of cloud, a bit of a breeze, and a comfortable 25 degrees or so.

Two things are absolutely critical for tonight: firstly, an early wicket to get the tails up, if the partnership sails towards the hundred mark heads will begin to drop. Secondly, Ponting has to have his wings clipped early on, preferably by a short ball to feed the speculation that his ability in that area is firmly on the wane.

If both of those things happen, and they're 60-2 or so, its game on and England need to move in for the kill.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Kevin Pietersen is a Surrey player

That brings Surrey's total number of players on the Ashes tour to three, level with Middlesex. Excellent news.

Seriously though, what exactly does this mean for the club? Well firstly its a good bit of business, he won't cost much, if anything thanks to his central contract, and he might attract a few more casual supporters to the Twenty20s. I suspect the marketing people at the club are already designing the T20 advertising with his face all over it.

The reality is though, he won't play that much at all. He has his IPL duties to fulfil, and as much as we need a number three, I don't think he'll forgo $1.5m or whatever it is to help us out there, and since he signed that contract before he signed for Surrey, there's no reason he should anyway. There's the World Cup before that which he'll play a big part in and then England play Sri Lanka in May and June, and India and July, August and into September. At best he'll play a Twenty20 here and a CB40 there.

In the long term it is in the ECB's best interests to ensure that England players are more readily available for the Twenty20 Cup matches, but the schedule is set in stone for 2011 so Pietersen in a Surrey shirt will be a rare beast indeed.

I'm happy he's joined the club though. He's a world beater and any time he can spend at the club, with younger players aspiring to play for England, like Roy and Hamilton-Brown will be immensely valuable. I don't buy the theory that his ego makes him a bad role model, his work ethic and sheer talent make him the best possible role model in my view. If this crop of young players can develop the thirst for runs that KP has, we'll have some serious talent on our hands.

Ultimately this changes little for KP and Surrey. His commute is cut significantly, which is nice, but not a great deal else will alter. As much as I'd like to play it terribly cool and pretend it makes no difference, it was a thrill to watch him bat in a Surrey shirt and it will be every time England let him off the leash in 2011 and beyond. Welcome to Surrey Kevin.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Up a creek without a Ramps...

News reaches me that Mark Ramprakash has damaged his anterior cruciate ligament while having a Saturday morning kickabout. Obviously the injury requires surgery and typically sportsmen do not return for at least six months, and Ramps is no spring chicken these days. At 41, it could take even longer for the injury to heal satisfactorily.

Lets set aside the anger that the club's most valuable asset has seriously injured himself playing a (presumably) meaningless game of football, though doubtless many supporters will be fuming at that - me included. Where does this leave the club?

Well as I've said above, we're up a certain creek without our biggest paddle. Our batting was brittle but occasionally brilliant last summer, the brilliance largely on the back of a big innings from Ramprakash, almost every innings up and around 400 was built with the help of a Ramps Special.

We have made no signings and Afzaal and Evans have departed the club, two players who would probably have been asked to step up in the absence of Ramprakash. That leaves us with the prospect of a top seven comprising:

Jason Roy
Michael Brown (if recovered)
Tom Lancefield
Arun Harinath
Gary Wilson
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies

Mercifully the World Cup in Asia will probably be over in time for the start of the English season (if it wasn't we'd be without Davies and Wilson), and none of them currently have concerns about the Indian Premier League (though Davies is a possibility I suppose), but that is still a hugely inexperienced top seven without Ramprakash to bolster it.

Combined they have played 261 First Class matches (an average of 37 each), 181 short of Ramprakash alone, they have have scored 14,060 runs, 40% of Ramprakash's total career runs and their average age is 23, 18 years short of Ramps. Between them they have 22 career hundreds, I don't think I need to mention how many the big man has, and only one of them (Davies) averages over 40 in first class cricket. To say that Ramps leaves a hole in the batting is something of an understatement...

I think this will probably leave Chris Adams having to reassess his desire to sign a 'mystery spinner' as his overseas player for 2011, as the need for a senior batsman is now more pressing than ever before. Mark Cosgrove may well be available after Glamorgan controversially went for Alviro Petersen as overseas and captain. Cosgrove would be an excellent addition as an opener and he's available throughout - but I fear his face does not fit with Adams' fitness regime. Presumably there is no cash for anyone else so we are just going to have to hope and pray that no one gets injured and England go off Davies and Tremlett.

There is of course the option of loan signings as well, but I don't think counties will be offering up top class batsmen for loans. The idea of offering Chris Benham, currently without a county after leaving Hampshire, some sort of deal is now also looking more attractive if we can scrape together a few pounds.

The prospect of gaining promotion now seems a distant spot on the horizon and another season of disappointment beckons. I am hopeful that our youngsters will do us proud, and the pressure on them to do so is now enormous, but its not looking good for 2011.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Chris Gayle - underrated?

After his quickfire double hundred today, the third double hundred (he's also got a 197 in there) of his test career and thirteenth hundred in total, I got to thinking, is Chris Gayle a bit underrated as a test match batsman?

He's infuriating, of that there is no question.  You always get the impression that he isn't quite making the most of his undoubted talent because he looks like he doesn't really care all that much.  If you saw his celebration today you'd probably put to bed the theory that test runs for the West Indies don't matter to Christopher Henry Gayle. Having said that, he doesn't do much to counter the theory, saying after Windies' three day defeat to England at Lord's in 2008 that it "wouldn't be so bad" if test cricket withered and died.

So maybe he isn't as committed to tests as a Sachin Tendulkar or a Ricky Ponting, but does he deserve to be held in higher regard?

When you look at his stats they don't jump off the page.  89 tests and a batting average of 41.  In these days of lifeless pitches and mammoth totals that is by no means a great average.  However when you look at his numbers compared to his West Indian contemporaries it is surprising just how important he has been to their batting for the last decade.

Since his debut in 2000 only two men, Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, have scored more runs for the West Indies and while Shiv plodded along at a strike rate of 43, Gayle has comparatively raced along at a strike rate of just under 60 in collecting just 500 fewer runs than his senior colleague.  Admittedly Chanderpaul has played more gritty innings and dug his team out of the mire more often (he's been not out in a staggering 17% of all his knocks), but Gayle's knocks at the top of the order shouldn't be overlooked.

Indeed only 13 batsmen in all of world cricket have scored more runs since January 2000 than Chris Gayle, only five have scored faster than he and only four are openers.  He averages 50 from 5 tests in Australia and 55 from 5 tests in South Africa, no mean feat either of those.  He's never had one of 'those years', like Yousuf had in 2006 or Tendulkar is having this year, but he's scored plenty while not many of his team mates have been able to hold a place in the side, never mind score 6,200 runs.

His double hundred today away in Sri Lanka would probably not eclipse the 165 he scored in carrying his bat against Australia in Adelaide last December but its a big achievement nonetheless - only four other non-Sri Lankans have registered doubles in Sri Lanka.

I'm not suggesting Gayle is one of the greats, he isn't and he almost certainly never will be.  But is he a it underrated?  Maybe just a bit.  In a time when West Indian batsmen have not been setting the world on fire, he's been not-so-quietly getting on with the job, and doing it pretty effectively too.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Why do I love the Ashes?

Due to start on the 25th of November, the Ashes sees the fourth and fifth best teams (out of nine...) in the world begin a five match test series taking us over Christmas and well into 2011. To some, this might sound like the most interminably boring thing imaginable, but to cricket fans (well, a good chunk of them) its pure heaven.

But why? For me, a simple English fellow, there's something extra special about the Down Under version of the Ashes. There's something alluring about stretching your sanity to breaking point by pushing ever further into the depths of the night your bedtime, and who doesn't love drifting off to sleep with Jonathan Agnew's dulcet tones ringing in your ears. Then there's those few seconds when you wake up, completely in the dark even when you're no longer in the dark, before you manage to log onto your iPhone or Blackberry and see who took the initiative while you were dozing. 

I'll then spend the rest of the morning gorging myself to the point of breaking on the goings on of the night before - the broadsheet reviews, the Cricinfo take, and of course what Twitter made of the whole shebang. Chances of getting any work done before lunch in December? Not good I'm afraid. And of course there's the Christmas and New Year tests, where I can get away with not going to bed at all. 

Watching Ashes cricket at four in the morning while bundling the inevitable pairs of socks I got for Christmas? I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing. So it might not be the two best teams in the world going toe-to-toe, we have to wait for India v South Africa in December for that pleasure, but its England and Australia, in the middle of the night, for a tiny little urn filled with the remains of a burnt bail. You can't beat the thrill of the Ashes in Australia for me.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Ashes: the cricket finally starts

I've been resisting blogging about the Ashes, there's a million and one bloggers out there debating the whys and wherefores of the next few months, but I can't contain my excitement that with all the guff out of the way, the cricket is about to begin.

At half two tomorrow morning, when I will be fast asleep, England will take to the field with either bat or ball in hand to face a pretty decent Western Australia side at the Waca.  And despite the boxing efforts of Chris Tremlett and Jimmy Anderson, it'll be a full squad that Strauss has to choose from.

Whatever side they go with, and presumably it'll be the one that ended the series with Pakistan but for one difference, Ian Bell slotting into the middle order in place of Eoin Morgan. And unless someone has a real mare over the next three weeks, that'll probably be the side that starts the first test in Brisbane, despite Sachin Tendulkar recently naming Eoin Morgan as a potential key player.

So come tomorrow morning when I finally rise from my slumber we'll have the first idea of how England are shaping up for probably the biggest series of their lives.  Western Australia will field a few classy players, North, Marsh, Ronchi, Pomersbach and lets not forget ex-Surrey man Steve Magoffin so they'll be no pushovers.

Will Anderson be able to put what feels like the most oft-quoted stat of all time (his bowling average of 82 in Australia) behind him?  Will Steve Finn continue his meteoric rise?  Will Kevin Pietersen score any runs - and will he get out to a left arm spinner?  There's basically another one of those to go with pretty much every player bar Graeme Swann.

Whatever happens, tonight's goings on will be picked apart relentlessly by hacks either side of the equator so I'll enjoy absorbing all that tomorrow.  I just hope England score a ton of runs, or take a bag of wickets - and most importantly - avoid any injuries!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Surrey Cricket: What now?

A short two week break for me and seemingly nothing has changed whatsoever at Surrey. The signing of Will Porterfield didn't materialise with the Irishman opting for the lights of Birmingham over SE11. I'm absolutely certain this was down to a combination of money and cricket, we couldn't offer the kind of money Warwickshire could and they also have Division One cricket to dangle in front of him. I doubt a change of heart from Chris Adams had much to do with it at all. 

So that leaves us short of an opener (or two if Michael Brown doesn't recover from a second bout of surgery in time for next season), and unsurprisingly given the cash situation there have been no other signings. I would've thought that given the departures of Afzaal and Evans, and the likely departure of Andre Nel, that there might be some room in the budget, but apparently not. I presume Roy and Lancefield will be signed to full time contracts but there should still be space for a couple of signings before we tip over the edge of the £1.8m ECB salary cap. 

That is of course if the senior management are interested in Surrey ever becoming a front running County Cricket Club any time soon. There is talk of a cut of £500k to the cricketing budget over two years, Graham Thorpe has departed to work within the England setup and 20% of the staff at the Oval has been sacked - how can the club progress in a cricketing sense at the moment? 

I am all for blooding youth, but the squad for next season is looking a bit thin even if (and its a big if) Chris Jordan and Michael Brown are available. Seren Waters, Freddie van den Bergh, George Edwards and Zafar Ansari could become regulars at this rate but as promising as they undoubtedly are, there is no way we will be challenging for trophies and promotion without some experience in the side. 

It may be the case that in light of the recession and perhaps some not-so-wise spending over the last few years that the 3-5 year recovery Chris Adams spoke of is now a thing of the past, but so little information is forthcoming from the club that we really don't know. 

It is probably very naive of me to expect that the club keep the members and fans alike appraised of every minute decision, but at this stage we don't know if Adams intends, or will be allowed, to pursue any signings at all. It may be that in the coming weeks the intention to plug the gaps with signings will be made clear, but it might well not.  Where does Surrey Cricket Limited see Surrey County Cricket Club going next year? Anyone?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Another holiday blogging break...

I've been very lax of late, largely because there's been very little going on in the world of Surrey cricket, and there were many more able and effective writers offering an opinion on the Andre Nel (get better Andre) saga.  And now I'm off on holiday for a fortnight, here's some things I hope will have happened when I return at the end of October:

  • Surrey finally tie up the signing of Will Porterfield, Anthony Ireland left Gloucester at the same time and Middlesex have nailed that one, so why haven't we tied down Porterfield?
  • We need a middle order batsman, and that isn't Kevin Pietersen, so I hope that gap is plugged.
  • Some sort of interesting rumour at least about our overseas signing, I can exclusively reveal that Gus Mackay revealed to me before he was unceremoniously dumped that it WON'T be Daniel Vettori, we've apparently tried and failed to sign him...damn it!
So that's not too much to ask is it?  I genuinely hope things do settle down at the club, the upheaval in the last few weeks, particularly the job losses, must have made for a very trying period.  If we are to succeed next year we need a harmonious atmosphere, and the preparation for that starts here (or at least when Rory gets back from captaining the Hong Kong Sixes).

Bye for now!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Championship: We have improved, and I think I have the evidence...!

Yes, we did finish 16th out of 18 counties, which is hugely disappointing, but, and it is a big but, I think there is reason to believe that we are much better off now than we were in 2008 and 2009 and certainly think we're on a better trajectory.

I'm not saying this because I'm an especially big fan of Chris Adams, in fact I am yet to be convinced of his particular (occasionally David Brent-like) style of management and there's nothing to say that we wouldn't have improved faster with a Tim Boon or a Matthew Maynard in charge, but I genuinely think there is evidence to show that we have improved.

I've looked again (having done so earlier in 2010, here) at our first innings scores as compared to the opposition's, and also the number of wickets taken by Surrey and the opposing side, game by game, since the start of 2008.  The improvement isn't 'out of sight', its gradual, but it is there.

This first graph shows the first innings runs conceded by Surrey (the yellow line) as well as the first innings runs scored by Surrey (the red line) in 2008:

This graph shows the runs conceded/scored in 2009:

And finally the runs conceded/scored this season:

At first glance it doesn't seem that there's an awful lot that these are telling us, but there is something to glean from this.  In 2010 our first innings total more regularly outstripped the opposition's than in 2008 and 2009 and indeed that is reflected in the averages.  I mentioned in yesterday's blog that our average first innings total was 338 or thereabouts which is almost identical to 2008 (337) and in fact below 2009 (365) but when you compare the averages of the opposition we're much better off.  In 2008 the average first innings score for the opposition was 373, in 2009 it was 431 but in 2010 it was 316 and even when you account for the rain affected scores against Leicestershire and Gloucestershire, that total only goes up to 340 or so - more or less level pegging with Surrey's score.

So you can see that on first innings scores we're more often keeping ourselves very much in the game where in 2009 in particular we were too often chasing it.

And what about in the wickets department?  In my blog earlier in the year it was blindingly obvious that Surrey's opposition were out-bowling us more or less every game.  Here are another three graphs for good measure.  The first shows Surrey's (again, red line) and our opposition's (yellow) number of wickets match by match, first for 2008:

And second, in 2009:

And finally, this season:

It is striking the difference between graph one, where Surrey only took more wickets in a match than the opposition once (ironically against a Nottinghamshire side featuring Graeme Swann, Darren Pattinson, Charlie Shreck and Andre Adams!), in 2008 and 2010 it happened five times.  In 2008 we took didn't take 20 wickets at any point, in 2009 we did it once but in 2010 we did so five times.  Ok in 2010 20 Surrey wickets also fell twice more than in both 2008 and 2009, which speaks of a very inexperienced and at some times reckless team, but there are some things there to cling on to as positives.

If we look at averages across the season, in 2008 on average just over half (10.3) the opposition's wickets went down compared to on average 14.4 of Surrey's.  In 2009 it was 12.1 of the opposition's to 14.6 of Surrey's and in 2010 it was 14.7 of theirs to 15.6 of ours.  Again yes we are losing progressively more wickets, but we're competing far more closely.  That statistic may also point to some more competitive wickets at the Oval - which is a very good thing!

There's nothing to shout from the rooftops about here, we are still a poor team with a poor set of results this year, but there is much to suggest that in time, with experience and perhaps a signing or two (however unlikely the latter might seem for now) we will be able to compete for the top spot in the division.  I can't help feeling it should've happened before now and that does not reflect well on Adams, but given upheaval is unlikely to make anything better, he should be given the first half of next season to take us another few steps further.  It won't be an easy task, but its what we deserve after too many years of rubbish.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Stat Attack: The 2010 Season in Numbers

In no particular order here are some numbers which caught my eye looking over Surrey’s 2010 performances:
  • The average opening partnership in the Twenty20 (29) outstripped the average opening partnership in the Championship (28). The average opening partnership in the CB40 more than doubled that, 63 at the heady strike rate of 151.
  • Surrey's bowlers took 20 wickets in a match five times in 2010, having only done so once in the previous two seasons. However in both 2008 and 2009 Surrey's various oppositions took 20 wickets five times, in 2010 they did so seven times.
  • In all Championship games Surrey's average first innings total was 338 compared to the opposition's average of 318. If you remove the 'competitive' declarations of the Glamorgan, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire games though, the results are a roughly even 341 and 345.
  • Surrey conceded over 400 first innings runs just five times in 2010, having done so nine times in 2008 and eight times in 2009 (including five consecutive occasions in the final matches of that season!).
  • While Surrey’s top order in the CB40 was spectacular, the middle order was pedestrian. Partnerships four, five and six barely topped a strike rate of 100 where the corresponding opposition partnerships all comfortably scored at better than 100 runs per 100 balls.
  • It was a similar story in the Twenty20, while our opening bowlers took care of opposition top orders, our middle innings bowlers failed to contain middle orders. Opposing team’s middle orders (partnerships 3, 4 and 5) scored at strike rates of 141, 156 and 143.
  • In innings where Surrey batted first, Mark Ramprakash averaged 99 in the 2010 County Championship.
  • In 16 Twenty20 contests in 2010 Surrey never once took all ten opposition wickets, though three times teams finished nine wickets down short of the target.
  • In 12 CB40 contest in 2010 Surrey took all 10 opposition wickets on a solitary occasion, versus Lancashire at Old Trafford. Nel, Tremlett and Dernbach shared the wickets.
  • Surrey’s top three catch-takers in the Championship (Batty, Hamilton-Brown and Spriegel) combined managed five fewer catches than Kent’s Martin van Jaarsveld alone.
  • We ended 2010 fielding a team with an average age of 26, all of whom were England qualified, to put that in perspective we began 2008 with a team with an average age of 31 and two non-English qualified players.
  • Jason Roy was one of only three players in the County Championship to end the season with a strike rate above 100. Surrey were the only county with two of the five fastest scorers in Division Two, the other being Hamilton-Brown.
  • In the Twenty20 Rory Hamilton-Brown bowled more off-spinning half-trackers than anyone else, and yet still ended with a better average, strike rate and economy rate than Andrew Symonds.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Cuts at the Oval

It seems the rumours of the last few months that Surrey would be cutting budgets and staff were accurate, the Telegraph has reported that 20 staff are being let go. Out of a total of 95, that is a very significant reduction.

The first to go was apparently Gus Mackay, the Managing Director. Now Gus has been the target of much ire on the message boards over the last couple of years and I'm not quite sure why. I once emailed him a furious rant about how rubbish the match reports on the website were. Not only did he reply personally and make sure the error was corrected, he also called me a week later to talk through some other issues. To front up and talk to some average Joe like me was a bold move, I don't know how many other Managing Directors do that, but I bet it isn't many.

That a further 19 people are also on their way out of the door is of course extremely sad news for them. I can imagine for many of them working for Surrey was a fun and interesting job, some of them might even have considered it an honour, this is not a happy time for the club.

There are also reports of a £200k cut to the cricket budget and a settlement being reached to allow the departure of Andre Nel (to Essex). A cut in the budget will make recruitment over the winter tricky for Adams, and although Nel hasn't taken the wickets he should've done, he always gave his all for the team and he'll be missed.

I think Surrey are financially speaking, in a much better place than many counties up and down the country, especially considering our lack of success on the field in recent years. But that we are still cutting such significant numbers of staff and budget shows where cricket is. The ECB and the counties have some seriously hard thinking to do on how to make cricket a more profitable exercise in this country.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Unofficial 2010 Awards

Player of the Season: Chris Tremlett & Steven Davies shared
My first thought was to make Tremlett the player of the season, but Davies consisteny brilliance at the top of the order in the limited overs games, as well as the runs in the Championship made Davies an inevitable pick. These two will form the spine of our batting and bowling for years to come, hopefully, and they're more than good enough for Division One.

Batsman of the Season: Mark Ramprakash
No one else came close, especially in the Championship, but it was his runs in all competitions which continued to impress. Age doesn't seem to dampen his appetite for runs, and well into his fifth decade he'll still be churning out the runs in 2011.

Bowler of the Season: Chris Tremlett
I think I've written enough on Tremlett, he was so many miles ahead of the next best bowler at the club. His average was 10 better than the next best and his strike rate was 10 balls quicker than the rest. Add to that the fact that he was also our most parsimonious bowler in the Championship, giving away just 2.6 runs per over (next best leading bowler was Nel at 3 runs an over), and you can see why he was so far ahead of the rest.

Fielder of the Season: Matthew Spriegel
In a year that was otherwise one of stagnation for him, Spriegel held on to more catches per game than any other non-wicketkeeper at the club. He continues to impress as a safe pair of hands (although he did drop one off Kevin Pietersen’s bowling against Worcestershire), if he can just up his game in the other departments he'll be a very useful player indeed.

Innings of the Season: Jason Roy's 101 vs. Kent
Either of Mark Ramprakash's double hundreds, Hamilton-Brown's two run-a-ball hundreds plus his 115 in the CB40 were in the running for this, but the significance of Roy's hundred shouldn't be overlooked. No Surrey player had scored a T20 hundred in almost 8 years of that format and the manner of Roy's was quite spectacular. Five sixes and eleven fours, it came from just 57 balls. This young man will play for England, I have little doubt about that.

Bowling Spell of the Season: Tim Linley's 4-13 vs Derbyshire
This spell easily eclipsed his maiden five-for against Northants. After the opening bowlers had failed to remove the top order Linley game in and removed four of them in a spell of 10 overs, conceding just 13 runs in the process. Tremlett unquestionably bowled more fiery spells this season, but something about this spell from Linley really impressed me, and it was a key element of us winning that game.

Most improved: Gary Wilson
As I wrote in the batsmen review, Wilson improved out of sight this year. I am happy to admit I was completely wrong about him. He always looks composed at the crease, he looks like he knows what he's up to and the thing which impressed me most was his ability to pace his innings just right. I hope he continues his development and who knows, he could be the next Irishman to pull on an England shirt?

Opposition Player of the Season: Vikram Solanki
I wanted to make this one Moeen Ali, so a nod of the head in his direction as well, but Solanki, in a season where he didn't set the world alight, was very impressive against us in the couple of times I saw him. He's still a top class batsman and his hundred in the CB40 game at the Oval was one of the best innings I saw all year.

(Most Unexpected) Partnership of the Season: Ramprakash and Spriegel vs. Glamorgan in the CB40
143 runs off 83 balls. In a season where our limited overs batting was regularly incendiary this might not have been a surprise, but that it was Ramprakash (85) and Spriegel (56), rather than Hamilton-Brown and Davies was. This was in the game where we set the world record for a total in a 40 over game, inside just 38 overs. Given those extra two overs we probably would've breached 400 and Ramps would've bagged a hugely impressive hundred. I've not seen Spriegel bat quite like he did that day before (or since).

Best Game of the Season: Derbyshire at Chesterfield in the Championship
The aforementioned record breaking game might have been a more sensible choice but the Derbyshire game struck me as the most impressive achievement. In the format where we were our weakest the players in this game showed a massive amount of character. Linley was ruled out early in the game, Nel pulled a hamstring, Dernbach was already out injured...the list went on. The second innings dismissal of Derbyshire was done with only one fully fit bowler in Tremlett and Nel hobbling in on one leg. Add to that the fact that the game was slap bang in the middle of the Twenty20 tournament (nice one ECB schedulers). I think this is probably known as 'winning ugly', something we've barely done over the last three years (we haven't really won 'pretty' either!), we need more of it!

Worst Game of the Season: Essex T20
The Gloucestershire game a couple of days before this, or The Night of the Boos as it became known (by me) might seem a more logical pick, bowled out for 97 and then trampled on in under 10 overs. However the Essex game, for me, was even more devastating. We bowled pretty well to restrict them to 120-odd, a very gettable total on the Oval tracks, and then just completely capitulated for the second consecutive match. If the Gloucestershire game could be thought of as an anomaly, this game seemed to confirm quite how bad we were. In three years of really bad cricket from Surrey, I don't know if I've felt lower than I did that evening. Fortunately, and credit to the players and management, they got an awful lot better thereafter.

Disappointment of the season: The overseas contingent
What a shambles. The signing of Chawla, announced late in 2009, was a real boon, but a short lived one. He was coming off the back of an impressive late-season spell with Sussex, in the first division, where he'd taken 36 wickets at 27 and scored a maiden Championship hundred. In the second division, he'd surely have made hay. However thanks to the BCCI it wasn't to be. So instead we got Rao Iftikhar, Younus Khan and Andrew Symonds. On paper, not the worst signings in the world, but none of them worked out. I don't think you can blame Adams for the Symonds signing, he should've been better, but signing Younus for the Twenty20 was all wrong and Rao just never looked interested. Roll on 2011 and a proper overseas signing.

Two players in the Ashes squad!

This time last year, if you'd have suggested to me that there would be two Surrey players in the England squad about to embark on one of the most anticipated tours Down Under ever, I'd have been left scratching my head as to who it would be.

But I don't think there are many people about who would say that Steven Davies and Chris Tremlett don't deserve their selections.  They have both excelled across all formats this season and the pair of them have all the necessary talents to succeed in Australian conditions.

In all honesty, I don't think either will play.  It'll take an injury to James Anderson or Matt Prior to open up a slot in the team, but if that does happen I think England have picked just the right people to pick up the baton and pick up where others leave off.

Massive congratulations to both players, although they've both only been at the club one season (how I would love a home grown player to be going to the Ashes) I think they are very well thought of.  Tremlett has won over the doubters by dint of his exceptional wicket-taking ability, and Davies has wowed everyone with his strokeplay.  Good luck to them!

A word for Jade Dernbach too who despite not having the best of seasons is in the England performance squad.  He genuinely is home grown and can be enormously proud of his achievement.  He gives you 100% without fail and if cricket rewarded effort and will to win alone, he'll be taking many a wicket for years to come.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Season Review: The 'allrounders'

Gareth Batty
The numbers – CC 41 wkts @ 39 & 483 runs @ 23, CB40 12 wkts @ 28 & 81 runs @ 13, T20 7 wkts @ 22 & 16 runs @ 3

Average, just very very average from the re-signed Batty this season. I was saddened to hear of the abuse he received on his return to Worcestershire, but for us he just hasn’t turned up regularly enough. Wickets at 40, at a strike rate of 70 is nowhere near good enough. In his defence he was signed to act as a second spinner but because of Chawla’s no-show, ended up as the lead spinner throughout, a role which he’s never been good enough to fulfil. Second innings wickets are often seen as the preserve of the high class spinner, Batty never took more than 3 wickets in the second innings all season which left us high and dry many a time. Not only did he not take enough wickets, at regular enough intervals, he was also relatively expensive in doing so – 3.5 an over is a worse economy rate than the often profligate Jade Dernbach. With the bat, the 65 he scored in the game against Derbyshire was a false dawn – he never passed 50 again all season. Verdict: Not up to scratch in either department, disappointing 4/10

Matthew Spriegel
The numbers – CC 248 runs @ 20 & 5 wkts @ 35, CB40 268 runs @ 38 & 5 wkts @ 53, T20 67 runs @ 22 & 7 wkts @ 29

Just where does Matt Spriegel fit in? Does he fit in at all? I think he deserves another year to prove his worth, but after watching him for a few years I’m still not quite sure of his role. If I was Chris Adams I’d be sending him away to work on his bowling this off season, if his bowling could develop to the stage where we could play him at number 8 I think he could really grow into the role. I hope his torrid spell as an opener in early season is the last time he’s subjected to that. He actually batted pretty well in the CB40s, finishing the innings quite nicely a couple of times, but his batting in the T20s was a disaster. Often coming in at number seven, he scored the grand total of one four in seven innings and finished with the barely believable strike rate of 79 – number seven is a vital spot in T20, something obviously not grasped by Adams and Co. His fielding deserves a shout, he was the only non-wicketkeeper to average more than one catch per match in the Championship. Verdict: Work on your bowling Matthew, and carve yourself a niche 6/10

Chris Schofield
The numbers – CC 336 runs @ 28 & 14 wkts @ 38, CB40 127 runs @ 31 & 8 wkts @ 41, T20 54 runs @ 6 & 14 wkts @ 28

Oh Chris. Chris, Chris, Chris. What a rollercoaster we’ve had. Over the last few seasons he’s either had a ‘bowling year’ (2008) or a ‘batting year’ (2009). This year was neither. Averaging 40 with the ball and under 30 with the bat is not ideal for a genuine allrounder, in fact it’s downright rubbish. There were a couple of times when he dug us out of a big old hole, and his batting in the last couple of games was good, but he doesn’t take wickets regularly enough to make him a viable selection any longer. I think Schoey might have to make way for young Ansari to develop his game. Verdict: Well below par, Scho might have to go 4/10

Andrew Symonds
The numbers – T20 263 runs @ 20 & 12 wkts @ 24

I was tickled pink at the signing of Symonds, having mooted it months wrong I was. His form in the IPL was good, a couple of good knocks and some wickets, but that just didn’t translate to English conditions one bit. His 63 off 33 balls against Hampshire was the highlight but there was only one other 50. But as much his batting was a letdown, his bowling was on another planet completely. The worst economy rate of any of our bowlers – just a shade under 10, I don’t think I saw him bowl a single decent delivery, and his last over against Essex cost us the game. Put simply, he had a shocker. His fielding wasn’t even that good. Verdict: I don’t think he’ll be back next year 2/10

Season Review: The bowlers

Chris Tremlett
The numbers – CC 48 wkts @ 20, CB40 8 wkts @ 43, T20 24 wkts @ 17

35 matches, thirty five, in one season, who could’ve expected that? In a season where he’s excelled with the ball, that he’s played the majority of our games is the most encouraging number. Still, 80 wickets in all competitions is nonetheless hugely impressive and beyond even my most hopeful predictions. Seven four-fors and not a single five-for is unfortunate, but he tirelessly led our seam attack throughout the season. An Ashes tour as backup to the main bowlers beckons as reward, and so it should. There’s always that niggling worry in the back of your mind that he might break down, but maybe he really has put the injury worries behind him for good now. He also averaged 20 with the bat in the CC and provided plenty of very useful lower order runs. If I had one complaint it would be the 21 no balls in the Championship, he needs to keep an eye on his front foot, but apart from that, an enormously impressive season. Verdict: Good enough for England, good enough for me 9/10.

Andre Nel
The numbers – CC 21 wkts @ 32, CB40 7 wkts @ 20, T20 7 wkts @ 54

Huffed and puffed a lot, but didn’t take enough wickets. His performance on the last day of the Derbyshire game at Chesterfield, taking three wickets in 25 overs bowling essentially on one leg was heroic, but in the remaining two and a half months of the season he bowled just 28 overs in all competitions. His numbers in the T20 don’t reflect how well he bowled, his and Tremlett’s opening spells were crucial for us this year. Throughout his time with us he hasn’t taken wickets in the numbers he, or I would have liked him to and I wonder the money we pay him might be better spent on a young English seamer (James Harris please) or investing in our younger players. Ultimately too many injuries, too many bans and too few match winning spells. Another one with a front foot problem, 25 no balls in just seven matches isn’t good enough for a man of his experience. Not Gunter’s best year by a long shot. Verdict: Always gives 110%, but is he right for the club? 6/10

Jade Dernbach 
The numbers – CC 46 wkts @ 29, CB40 12 wkts @ 45, T20 3 wkts @ 32

What exactly do those numbers tell us? Dernbach is one of the few players I like to refer to by his first name, because I think he goes out onto the field for Surrey, not for himself. Jade gives his all, every single game. Alright he serves up plenty of filth, but that slower ball, my word, it is superb. He’s quick enough, and on his day, he’s more than good enough. Only problem is, when it isn’t his day, he’s crap. Bizarrely his economy rate of 6.5 in the T20, easily the best at the club, is contrasted with his economy of 7.2 in the CB40, easily one of the worst. He was injured at Lord’s when he was really building up a head of steam in all forms which won’t have helped his consistency. He also showed some ability with the bat, his fifty in a 100+ partnership with Andre Nel against Northants was crucial to us winning that game. His 86 wickets in the Championship in the last two seasons is miles more than anyone else at Surrey. Verdict: Good, could’ve been much better, needs to step up a gear in 2011 7/10

Iftikhar Anjum 
The numbers – CC 6 wkts @ 40, CB40 4 wkts @ 22

I almost can’t be bothered to write this, so I’ll keep it brief. I thought in early season conditions Iftikhar might’ve been a canny signing, just like I thought Grant Elliott might’ve been a canny signing. It’s difficult to decide who was worse in the end. Iftikhar, frankly, looked like he didn’t give a monkeys and was a massive disappointment. Verdict: Rubbish 2/10

Tim Linley
The numbers – CC 13 wkts @ 31, CB40 1 wkt @ 151, T20 3 wkts @ 20

I’m never sure what to make of The Viscount, one minute I think he’s a reliable option who will pick up enough wickets to justify his place in the side who can tie batsmen down, and the next I think he’s just a bit average. This season he was cruelly cut off in his prime during an excellent spell of 4-13 against Derbyshire, and never really got any form back. I don’t know if he’ll ever be anything more than a squad player, but he’s a decent enough one of those. Verdict: Is he or isn’t he? I dunno 5/10

Stuart Meaker
The numbers – CC 28 wkts @ 32, CB40 2 wkts @ 76, T20 3 wkts @ 29

When I watched Meaker bowl early in the season, in that horrible first game with Derbyshire, he looked very average. Far too may four balls, even in the Championship, and he just didn’t look quite up to it. It is to his tremendous credit that he improved significantly from there on in. He’s always been rapid, if not quite the ‘fastest bowler ever’ or whatever ridiculous label he was given a couple of years ago, but there have always been questions over his wicket-taking ability. This season he developed a pleasing tendency to take wickets in bundles, only Tremlett of the regular bowlers has a better strike rate, but similarly none of the regular bowlers was more expensive than his 3.7 runs an over in the Championship. He has all the raw materials to be a very, very good bowler and I hope he’s given plenty of chances to develop next season. There was a time when I thought he might turn into a genuine allrounder but his batting this season has regressed to such a degree that he’s been coming in below Tremlett and not far off Dernbach either. His bowling is the priority, but the batting talent could do with being nurtured too. Verdict: Needs work on the consistency, but all the essentials are there 7/10

The Others: Steven Cheetham’s signing on loan was an odd one. Ostensibly as cover for injuries but on occasion he played ahead of a fit Linley and Meaker. He did ok when he played, but only ok and he was released back to Lancs soon enough. Tom Jewell played just once against Northants, returning 1-74, the jury remains out on him with both bat and ball. Zafar Ansari also played just once, against Sussex in the CB40 but delivered a composed performance with the ball, I’d like to see a lot more of him next season. Matt Dunn didn’t play at all in the first team, but he looks a very exciting prospect.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Season Review: The batsmen

Rory Hamilton-Brown
The numbers – CC 808 runs @ 29, CB40 478 runs @ 43, T20 397 runs @ 28

What to say about our young skipper? He could have crashed and burned spectacularly, this season saw six county captains fall by the wayside, all a good deal more experienced than the 22 year old Hamilton-Brown, but he remains at the helm. And in my view, he should remain there for the foreseeable future. Ok, there were times when his captaincy was a bit directionless, and I think he needs to think about using the young bowlers more considerately, but for me there has been enough to suggest this guy is a leader of men. His leadership aside, I have gone on the record as thinking he needs to learn to pace an innings better, he has appeared a bit one paced this season. To his immense credit, that pace is right in top gear – his average (42) and strike rate (150) in the CB40 makes him one of the outstanding openers in the country in that format this season. His bowling has been something of a disappointment, no wickets in the CC and only a handful in other competitions, I wonder if he’s under-bowled himself a touch this season. His average once he passes 20 is over 55, but his big scores are interspersed with too many nothing scores – often when the team needs a big knock. Verdict: A tough year, but he passed the test, just 7/10.

Mark Ramprakash
The numbers – CC 1,595 runs @ 61, CB40 326 runs @ 46, T20 331 runs @ 36

There’s not a great deal I can say about the man, the legend, the Ramps, that hasn’t already been said. Another outstanding season which tailed off ever so slightly towards the end. The middle season period which in a run of 10 innings included scores of 223, 103*, 70, 79*, 73, 99 and 248 was vintage Ramps and without him we would have been completely lost. The man is a machine and if next season is to be his last with the club, we are in serious trouble. He maintains a strike rate in the CC of 56 with just 58% of runs scored in boundaries. He continues to contribute across all forms and to my mind should’ve played more in the CB40, though maybe his advancing years put paid to that! There is a slight concern that 36% of his dismissals were clean bowled, and six out of his last ten innings this season ended in that fashion, but I don’t doubt he will return next year and still bag many a hundred. Verdict: Churning out the runs as ever, superb 9/10 

Steven Davies
The numbers – CC 887 runs @ 49, CB40 485 runs @ 60, T20 389 runs @ 29

Vying for the title of newcomer of the year with Chris Tremlett, Davies has been a revelation across all formats this season. I knew he was a serious talent, but I didn’t know he was quite this good. England duties restricted him to 12 of the 16 CC games, and it was much to the detriment of the team in those he missed. Unfortunately it looks like his England duties are only likely to increase in the coming years. Opening the innings in the CB40 he was superbly consistent, and in the T20 he was simply ballistic, a strike rate of over 160 and 13 sixes in 13 innings. An average of close to 50 in the CC at a strike rate of 65 indicates he’ll be an integral part of the side in that format too in years to come. His keeping was steady if unspectacular, on average 2.25 catches per match but not a single stumping (though that says more about our lack of spinners). An absolutely brilliant acquisition for the club. Verdict: A revelation across the board 9/10 

Tom Lancefield 
The numbers – CC 323 runs @ 32, T20 65 runs @ 21 

Just 19 years old, I really liked what I saw from Lancefield to begin with in the T20s. He seemed willing and able to hit powerfully over the top, but his early innings were the bright spots, I think the pressure of opening the innings might have gotten him down in the end. Scored runs by the truckload in the Seconds but one fifty (I don’t count the fifty against the buffet bowling from Gloucs) in 11 innings isn’t up to scratch. He also needs to work on his fielding. Despite this, still our most successful CC opener this year. His strike rate of 47 but 64% of runs scored in boundaries tells a story of a player who needs to learn to work the ball around more – an important skill for an opener. Verdict: His time will come 5/10. 

Arun Harinath 
The numbers – CC 537 runs @ 25

I probably put the ultimate curse on Harinath at the end of last season when I said I thought he’d go on to be a good player for us, because this year he hasn’t performed. He was dropped from the side twice, which isn’t good for a young opener, but that aside he has looked well out of his depth. A tendency towards funereal pace, never more obvious than during his 62 from 290 balls against Sussex, would more often than not lead to him being tied down and he doesn’t appear to have the shots yet to get him out of trouble. I like him though, and his attitude and powers of concentration lead me to believe he may yet go on to become an important player for Surrey. Verdict: Plenty to work on 4/10.

Gary Wilson 
The numbers – CC 339 runs @ 48, CB40 15 runs @ 5, T20 51 runs @ 51

They may well be the numbers, but they do not tell the full story of this little Irishman’s season. I am happy to admit I used to think he was rubbish, but it seems he was just never given the right chance. He would always come in at 8 or sometimes even 9 in the T20s in 2009 and invariably got out trying a reverse flick or something else extravagant. What I should’ve done was praise him for being one of our few players willing to innovate, because he’s clearly got the talent. Fully deserved his maiden first class hundred and towards the end of the season he was a reliable part of our lower middle order. His average at number 6, where I believe he should play for us regardless of whether Davies is in the side, is over 60. Verdict: Improved out of sight, excellent 8/10.

Usman Afzaal 
The numbers – CC 451 runs @ 25, CB40 124 runs @ 62, T20 14 runs @ 7

In the end it seems Usman’s face just didn’t fit with the Adams regime. He was always a terribly lazy fielder, and when the runs which were compensating for that dried up, he had to be dropped. He’s got all the talent in the world and his career average should never be below 40, but you wonder if he has the drive to push himself to the next level. His performances for us this season were rubbish and there were some particularly horrible and ill-timed dismissals. I think he should maybe have been given more matches in the CB40 where the lower-middle order was missing some power, but ultimately, his time had probably come and gone. Good luck to him wherever he lands next. Verdict: All the talent, none of the application 3/10.

Stewart Walters 
The numbers – CC 242 runs @ 24, CB40 271 runs @ 38, T20 184 runs @ 46

Lots of not outs in the T20 inflated his average, and his Championship performances were poor. An astronomical 80% of runs scored in boundaries and yet a strike rate below 60 isn’t a good combination. To his credit he did put in some impressive knocks in the CB40 but he never quite repeated the purple patch he experienced in the middle of 2009 where he scored about a billion runs. The fact that he scored twin hundreds in the Second XI Championship game and still wasn’t selected for the final First XI game speaks volumes. A good fielder and he may well be a positive presence in the dressing room, but for me, not quite good enough. Verdict: 2011 might be a year too far, thanks for the memories Stewart 5/10.

Jason Roy 
The numbers – CC 170 runs @ 34, CB40 92 runs @ 18, T20 242 runs @ 30

The find of the season, no question. His hundred against Kent in the T20 was quite superb, and his ability to hit almost anything for six will come in very handy. Showed his versatility in opening the innings, to reasonably good effect, in the Championship at the end of the season but ideally he belongs in the middle order for me. Averaging 30 at a strike rate of 150 in the T20 at the age of just 19 in a monumental achievement and he is one of the main reasons I can’t wait for 2011. You know something is going to happen when Roy is at the crease, and that makes him a joy to watch. When he first appeared in 2008 he brought little with the bat but his fielding was electric – this season as he’s bulked out he seems to have lost a little of that, I hope he can rediscover his mojo in that department. Verdict: Will 2011 be the Year of the Roy? 8/10

Younus Khan 
The numbers – CC 155 runs @ 38, T20 154 runs @ 15

A major disappointment, not much more to say than that really. If he’d have played the whole season in the Championship I suspect he would’ve been up there with Ramps with 1,500 or so runs. However he was a poor signing for the Twenty20 Cup alone. Only one innings of note in that competition and offering very little in the field. We are assured he brought plenty to the dressing room, but I’m not convinced. Verdict: Big let down, but not his best format 3/10 

The others: Laurie Evans was released before the end of the season, he was given just a single match to prove his worth, he delivered just 17 runs at the top of the order. My campaign to create a buzz around young Kenyan international Seren Waters goes on, I genuinely believe he has a future in the Surrey top order and I hope he’s given a chance next season.  As for KP, three innings, 41 runs in the Championship, not much to say there, but his 116 against Sussex in the CB40 saved that game for us and was one of the best innings by a Surrey batsman all season.  Will he be back?  I wouldn't mind it if he was.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

7th place - it is an improvement...honest!

Ok, so it was a bit of a contrived win today, but if anything we gave Gloucestershire a cracking chance in only setting 260 as the target.  It was a very competitive declaration and when Gloucs were cruising with Dent and Marshall going well, it looked horribly misjudged.

However Jade Dernbach, with two in two balls right at the end, won it for Surrey.  He's blown seriously hot and seriously cold this season but 46 wickets at 29 is a decent return.  Schofield chipped in with four as well, which incredibly is the first time a Surrey spinner has taken more than three wickets in the second innings this season - that encapsulates quite how much we've struggled in that particular area.

Earlier Tom Lancefield hit his highest score since the Worcestershire game, and Hamilton-Brown hit a rapid 50 against some very gentle declaration bowling, Kevin Pietersen (who had earlier tweeted his opposition to playing at all in this weather!) didn't even get a second bat - three first class innings looks to have been his lot for Surrey!

So we finish on 159 points, four ahead of Middlesex and 11 better than last season.  Four wins to last year's one but 6 defeats to last year's four speaks of a team well short of experience.  This season has been far from a triumph, make no mistake, but it does feel like its been an improvement, if only a very small one.

I'm gutted its the end of the season, it hasn't been the most enjoyable season from a Surrey perspective, but it has been fun and I'm going to miss county cricket for the next many months!  I'm compiling plenty of stats as we speak, so I'll be doing player-by-player reviews, and some end of season awards as well!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

To set up a game, or not to set up a game?

Finally some play!  After the weather put paid to any chance of play yesterday the ground was dry enough this morning for play to start on time and a full day's play was possible.

Pietersen and Hamilton-Brown resumed with the score on 115 and KP didn't hang about long, he didn't add to his overnight 40, bringing the number of First Class runs he has scored for Surrey to a grand total of 41, we should all be concerned at his lack of form.  The skipper hung about (haven't said that too often this season!) for a while at least with Gary Wilson but after he departed there was something of a collapse.  From 152-4 we were all out for 186, the last six wickets went down for just 34 runs and no bonus points were to be had.

Presumably the captains had a conversation at some stage about making a game of things because Gloucestershire saw fit to declare with the score on just 106 - 80 in arrears.  It rather cruelly denied Chris Tremlett the chance to bag his first five-for of the season, though he did pick up his seventh four-for!  He has been exceptional, to say the least, in a sea of average bowling for Surrey this season.

Surrey then progressed to 55-2 by the close of play, Lancefield plodding along somewhat on 15 from 51 balls.  I was a bit disappointed to see Linley sent in as nightwatchman, the last thing we need if there is to be a game tomorrow is Tim Linley hanging around holding up proceedings.  Hamilton-Brown should've told Pietersen to get out there and bat!

With a lead of 135 and 8 wickets in hand, we look reasonably safe, but not only are we capable of collapsing spectacularly, Gloucestershire's bowlers are more than capable of an inspired spell or two between them.  It should be an interesting final day - providing the weather doesn't get in the way again.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Right selection, wrong execution?

Well it remains to be seen, but with Chris Tremlett at number 8, a theory advanced by this very blogger yesterday, the top 6 had to perform.  At the premature close of play this afternoon three of them had failed to do so - Lancefield, Roy and Ramprakash were all dismissed for less than 20, so all the more pressure is now heaped on the remainder of the frontline batsmen.

And maybe that's no bad thing because Kevin Pietersen and Rory Hamilton-Brown have compiled a 67 run partnership at 4.5 an over and in the last game of the season is the skipper about to play that long awaited innings of responsibility?

And yet with just one more batsman to come in the shape of Gary Wilson, there is always the risk that this innings could be over in the blink of an eye.  From a Surrey and England perspective, Pietersen's runs tomorrow are absolutely crucial.

On a damp day in Bristol, with the players on and off at various times for rain and bad light, it can't have been easy for the batsmen, and against a seam attack as strong as Gloucestershire's (the best in the division in my opinion) perhaps some top order fragility isn't as bad as it seems.  On the issue of the light and the weather, it seemed particularly odd that in an over where the bowler went for 2-1-4-2-6 the umpires saw fit to leave the field for bad light, but they know best!

The weather forecast for tomorrow isn't looking great, and that for Thursday has deteriorated somewhat, so the chances of a result are receding rapidly.  There's unlikely to be anything much more than an innings each in this match, so KP's knock tomorrow suddenly has much more significance, and RHB will want to get some runs in tricky conditions as well.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

One game to go, plenty of issues

The only thing at stake for Surrey in this game is whether we end the season as the third worst, second worst or very worst county in the entire country.  A depressing state of affairs, but such is life, its something we've had to become accustomed to in recent years.

Gloucestershire, similarly, are just jostling for position, they cannot be promoted, they can just finish between third and sixth.  So in those terms, this isn't one of the more captivating clashes of the final week of the county championship.  But there are plenty of issues still to resolve for Surrey, and its an especially important game for one Kevin Pietersen - I don't need to detail why!

Given that Adams picked two spinners in Schofield and Batty at the Oval, and it wasn't a raging turner of a track, it seems sensible enough to assume that he will go for two spinners again here, though it goes without saying that he definitely should not.  He's named the same squad, plus Tim Linley, for this game.

Gloucestershire's strength is overwhelmingly in their seam bowling - Franklin, Kirby, Lewis and Hussain have all been in good form and Kirby in particular might be motivated to put in a good performance for his last game with the club.  It would follow then that conditions are more likely to favour the pace bowlers than spinners, and therefore one of Schofield or Batty should not play.  They've both been poor with the ball this season, at this stage Batty looks slightly the more likely wicket taker, but Schofield is in good form with the bat.  I actually think there's a case for playing neither of them and going for the youngster Ansari instead, but he isn't even in the squad.

My preference for a team to face Gloucestershire would be:


Lancefield remains at the top of the order due to a lack of viable alternatives, and at the beginning of this season Tremlett at 8 would've been unthinkable, and I still think its complete madness, but given the squad he's named and the likely conditions, I just think two spinners is completely the wrong way to go.  At the Oval last week 40% of the bowling attack bowled just 20% of the overs.

The last game at Bristol was the frankly absurd one where Derbyshire won having been dismissed for just 44 in the first innings (and Gloucester mustered just 150 in reply), so there's plenty in it for the bowlers.  I would imagine Gloucs will go in with four seamers of their own - Lewis, Franklin, Hussain and Ireland or Kirby, but Franklin adds a much better balance to their side.

The side above relies on substantial contributions from at least two of the top six because the tail is so lengthy, which places plenty of pressure on the shoulders of the skipper who was as impressive in scoring 96 last week as he was infuriating in scoring nought in the second innings.

The pitch at Bristol is not likely to favour the spinners and while this week will be less wet than last, its still going to be pretty humid so four seamers is worth the lengthening of the tail that this necessitates (given the squad that's been named - I'd have gone for a different bunch, omitting Schoey and Batty and going for Ansari instead).  This game is largely about pride for Surrey, and that's no small thing.  A spirited performance at minimum is needed, and hopefully a good one at that!

Friday, 10 September 2010

There's two ways of looking at this

Either today was a colossal failure of the top order, missing straight ones and generally playing in a pretty below-par fashion, or alternatively it was an attempt by the top order to make a game of it - going in with flashing blades in search of quick runs, which didn't quite come off.

In reality it was probably a mixture of the two. I'm sure Jason Roy and Hamilton-Brown had in mind a rapid 200 and getting Glamorgan in this afternoon. However Kevin Pietersen labouring at the crease for a solitary run from 23 balls before being given out LBW for the second time in the match is evidence of a man aeons away from his best form.
Whatever the means of getting there, in the end it was played out as a pretty comfortable draw. Dernbach pinned Waters LBW in the first over of the day to maximise the time for Surrey to make a game of it, but once five wickets went begging for just 20 runs, it was a case of Gary Wilson and Chris Schofield batting to make the game safe.
On that note, it is remarkable, to my mind, quite how far Gary Wilson has come. I remember watching him in a number of Twenty20s last year and thinking he was one of the most hapless players to take the field, and now we seem to have on our hands a genuinely promising, mature and intelligent cricketer who played the situation to perfection today. His 45 swallowed up 134 balls and his partnership of 124 (the second hundred partnership he was part of in the match - indeed they were the only two century partnerships in the whole game) with Chris Schofield made the draw a certainty.

So what to make of this game?  Its another result that's gone begging because of the weather, but there's no way of telling which way this would've gone if we'd had four full days.  The batting of Jason Roy as opener is a huge plus and he should continue there - having a hard hitting, fast scoring opener in the longer format is becoming more and more fashionable.  However his opening partner Lancefield looks at this stage to be a little short of where he needs to be - I think his time will come, but I'm not sure that time is now.

Hamilton-Brown's 96 on day one was hugely impressive but he should've gone on, and the less said about KP's performance the better.  The last few games of the season are exposing two enormous gaps in the side.  Firstly we don't have, and we haven't had all season, a decent number four (except once when Meaker was in as nightwatchman and Ramps dropped to four!).  Owais Shah fits the bill perfectly but he seems destined for Chelmsford.

And secondly an allrounder, spinner or otherwise.  Ok Schofield bagged himself a bucketload of runs in this game, but his bowling is not of sufficient quality, and the same goes for Batty and Spriegel.  The return of Michael Brown next year and the good form of Jason Roy makes the openers, previously a major concern, slightly less so for now.

One game to go and it won't be an easy one.  Gloucestershire and their crack bowling lineup on home turf, against our batting lineup which is far from in top gear at the moment.  Avoiding our first ever wooden spoon is a must, so we need to get something out of the game even if Derbyshire, the only side below us, have a tough task in going to Cardiff to face Glamorgan in their final game.  A win would also lift us above Middlesex, which while essentially meaningless, would be nice. 

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The looming draw

Some torrential rain in South London cost a good few overs today and it might sound like a whinge, but the weather has cost us the chance to push for the win in at least two games this season.

This one might yet turn out to be a thriller but Huw Waters and Jim Allenby's last wicket partnership, and some general obdurateness from Glamorgan have probably made this game safe from their point of view.  They might've fancied a declaration in arrears earlier today but the time taken out of the game by the weather made that very unlikely.

On the plus side, Stuart Meaker picked up his second five-for of the season, his economy rate of over 4 runs per over is less than ideal, but if he can tighten up his line a bit he is a real wicket taking threat.  Tremlett is on the cusp of his seventh four wicket haul of the season too in another impressive performance.

At one point in the day, when over 70 overs had been bowled, the spinners accounted for about 10 of them, which makes the selection of a pair of them all the more confusing.  Of course the conditions suited the seamers more, but a cursory glance at the weather forecast on Tuesday would have told Chris Adams that was likely to be the case this week.  In the end Batty and Schofield bowled 19 overs in the day, collecting just one wicket between them.  The lack of a penetrating spinner this season has cost us oh so dearly.

Tomorrow morning will hopefully see Tremlett pick up his fourth or Meaker his sixth (Dernbach seems off colour in this game, worryingly) and then who knows what could happen from there.  A lead of 100 could very quickly become 300 with Jason Roy, Kevin Pietersen and Hamilton-Brown in the side and then with a good few overs to bowl at Glamorgan a collapse could be induced.  Its hugely unlikely though, the pitch won't have deteriorated much and I hardly need mention that Batty and Schofield aren't likely to be running through Glamorgan tomorrow afternoon.

Whatever happens I really hope we see some attacking play from Hamilton-Brown, not just with his batting (does he know any other way?!) but with his captaincy too.  Nothing reckless, just good positive cricket.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Could go their way...could go ours

An awful lot more overs were bowled today than I expected, though it was still only 45, and neither side used those overs to decisively seize the initiative.

Schofield notched his first half century of the season, and for some time now his batting has far outstripped his bowling - though it remains to be seen whether he has rediscovered any of his zip with the ball when he gets his chance tomorrow.

With Glamorgan ending the day on 72-2, and with Maynard and Allenby still to bat, Surrey will have to work very hard to get themselves into a matchwinning position.  The best chance would obviously be to dismiss Glamorgan for 230 and enforce the follow on, but with just 158 runs between them and that target, Glamorgan are well placed to avoid it.

It sounds from the various reporters at the ground as if Tremlett was bang on song again, which is a relief after his brief sojourn into mediocrity in the CB40 games, but Dernbach and Meaker were less convincing, although the latter did account for dangerman Cosgrove.  Dernbach was at least frugal in his 8 overs.

You have to think, after Cosker's four-for, that Schofield and Batty will have to play a big role in bowling Glamorgan out twice - and bowling averages of 48 and 39 respectively does not bode well for that, but I hope they prove me well and truly wrong!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The near...and the far

The rain arrived as expected but it might not yet get in the way of this game completely, 72 overs were bowled today and largely thanks to Jason Roy and Rory Hamilton-Brown Surrey have moved into a good position at the end of the first day.

Neither registered a century, but both hit substantial half centuries at or above a run a ball, with Hamilton-Brown getting himself out on 96 going for one more big one to complete what would have been his third century of the season, all registered at or above a strike rate of 100.  Jason Roy was indeed put in to open (I won't claim credit this time...) and put in probably the most assured performance of any Surrey batsman this season at the top of the order with 69 from just 72 balls.

Poor old Kevin Pietersen was seen off by yet another left arm spinner, this time the experienced old pro rather than the young tyro who got him out in the Pro40, Dean Cosker got the decision apparently after a long delay from the umpire - perhaps he was anxious that England's key batsman got some runs and only gave him out grudgingly.

The day finished with Schofield, who was picked ahead of Harinath (and perhaps wisely, there are reports of significant turn already) and Batty unbeaten at the crease with Surrey on 324-6, with fully 40 overs to collect the 78 runs we need for full batting bonus.

For Hamilton-Brown to miss out on a hundred like that must rankle with him, he was pulling Surrey into a really strong position and if he'd just pushed it around to get to his hundred he could've gone ballistic after the landmark.  The age-old adage of 'that's the way he plays' will only hold for so long, the odd 100 from 80 balls interspersed with lots of 20s from 15 balls won't do from the skipper.

So what will tomorrow hold?  The forecast is worse than it was for today, but you never know, we might get a few overs here and there.  Such has been the pace of this innings, a result inside three days might not be beyond the realms of possibility - the forecast is markedly better for Thursday and Friday.  If in between the showers Schofield and Batty can rack 80-100 more in double quick time, the prospect of being on and off the field will not please the Glamorgan top order.

Oh and KP really ought to bag some runs second innings if he wants to silence the doubters....

Monday, 6 September 2010

Rainy Championship debut likely for KP

Chris Adams has named the squad for the inevitable draw (if it even gets that far!) with Glamorgan starting at a soaking wet Oval tomorrow morning, its a game that is all about salvaging some kind of pride from another poor County Championship season for Surrey, and pushing for promotion for their opponents.

The 13 players named in the squad and my preferred team is as follows:

Jason Roy
Tom Lancefield
Mark Ramprakash
Kevin Pietersen
Arun Harinath
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Gary Wilson
Gareth Batty
Chris Tremlett
Stuart Meaker
Jade Dernbach
Bench:  Tim Linley, Chris Schofield

I don't think Adams and Hamilton-Brown will have the confidence to go with Jason Roy as an opener in the Championship but they have to face facts that Harinath has not passed 25 in his last 8 innings - he may just not be suited to the openers slot.  Tom Lancefield has fared only slightly better but will probably end the season at the top of the order.  It is clear that Roy has bags of talent and like to play his shots, we've really struggled this season with slow starts in the Championship so maybe he can inject some impetus that while Lancefield anchors.

Unless Bill Gordon has prepared a raging turner for tomorrow, I see no reason why Schofield should play, and I'm a bit surprised he's made it into the squad over Matthew Dunn who has been preferred for the Second XI this week.  Tim Linley or Stuart Meaker is consistency or potency, its a tight call but I'd probably go for Meaker for his extra pace.

The continued absence of Stewart Walters and Andre Nel doesn't bode well for the players themselves, particularly for the former.  I presume Nel is still suffering with his hamstring injury but there's been little news on that front from the club but I wonder if Walters might have played his last first team game for the club.

I've managed to get this far without mentioning KP (well, except in the headline), for England's sake Pietersen needs some time in the middle and I hope he gets plenty.  I would expect him to come in after Ramprakash at number four and some runs in the longer form of the game would supplement his delightful hundred at Hove on Sunday.

Glamorgan have named a pretty strong squad for an important game from their perspective: GP Rees, MJ Cosgrove, WD Bragg, TL Maynard, BJ Wright, JWM Dalrymple, J Allenby, MA Wallace, JAR Harris, RDB Croft, DA Cosker, DS Harrison, HT Waters and WT Owen.  Cosgrove offers precisely the sort of quick-scoring threat at the top of the order that we lack, and Allenby, Dalrymple and Maynard are solid bats in the middle.  James Harris is a quality seam bowler and has bags of wickets already, and Croft and Cosker offer a well documented threat if there's any turn (and sometimes if their isn't!).

This game, if there's any play at all, might turn out to be about the batsmen.  Pietersen needs runs, as does Hamilton-Brown if his season with the bat is to be considered anything better than mediocre.  Its also a good chance for Wilson to stake a claim for a spot after his hundred against Leicestershire, and for Jason Roy to continue his recent good form.  I just hope there are some good performances, particularly from our younger players, to brighten up the gloom.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Snatching a tie from the jaws of victory

Sussex, with batsmen numbers 8 and 10 at the crease required an unlikely 15 off the final over, Tim Linley conceded 14, including a wide, to allow them to tie the game.  The total was always vulnerable given the batting strength of Sussex, but credit to the bowlers and debutant Zafar Ansari in particular as they restricted their opponents - though ultimately not by enough.

Hamilton-Brown, after his barnstorming 80 off 41 on Wednesday, was out in the first over having taken three boundaries off Kirtley which heaped plenty of pressure onto the young shoulders of Jason Roy, and the very capable shoulders of Kevin Pietersen.

Pietersen gave the most emphatic of answers to the selectors who won't be able to call on him in the first Twenty20 against Pakistan tomorrow by cracking 116 off 105 balls, after Roy's 60 the next highest score was Schofield on 18.  That 60 from Roy was made from the openers slot, giving us the bizarre situation of having three good openers in limited overs cricket and none in four day cricket.

For the umpteenth time our lack of power in the lower middle order cost us the 20 or so runs that would've won us the game comfortably, we dropped from 117-1 to 240 all out, the last eight batsmen added just 40 to the total.

Dernbach was again expensive, that he is our joint leading wicket taker in the competition with 12 at 45 apiece and an economy rate of over 7 from 11 matches really says a lot - he needs to work hard on his consistency.  Meaker was better today and aside from his disastrous final over Linley wasn't being carted about.  Hamilton-Brown left it very late to introduce Ansari who was probably the pick of the bowlers on the day, he was left with three overs unbowled which might have proved the difference in the final analysis.

In a competition that promised so much - we won five of our first six completed games, we tailed away really badly, failing to win in four of the last five matches, losing three of those quite heavily.  That smacks of a failure to adapt once 'Plan A' failed.  In too many games we suffered from a lack of batting depth - some of that can be attributed to the lack of a genuine allrounder at the club, but some can also be attributed to poor selection.

Adams and Hamilton-Brown now have two Championship games in which to strengthen the impression that this season has been one of progress, albeit limited, rather than stagnation.  Pietersen has four Championship innings to continue his run scoring, Ramprakash and Tremlett must come back in and on the strength of his performance today I wouldn't be disappointed to see Ansari come in to replace Batty.  Linley, Meaker and Dunn will compete for probably two bowling slots, and personally the latter two would be my preference.

Play the extra batsman...please!

Against Somerset and Worcestershire we came up well short in chasing a big target, in both instances the pitch was a great one to be batting on, and yet in both instances we were very light on batting.

You could argue that had we won the toss that in both matches we would have prevailed, and that may well have been the case but today, against Sussex on a smallish ground, we absolutely must pick the extra batsman and play Spriegel at number seven.  Adams has named a very young squad with no Ramps, Tremlett or Batty:


This is a big gamble, no question, because it means getting 8 overs from Spriegel, Hamilton-Brown and young Zafar Ansari - who is in line for a first team debut.  Not to mention a full 8 overs from Schofield.  We are really suffering this season from a lack of a genuine all rounder, a Ryan ten Doeschate or a James Franklin, and I'm beginning to think that should be the number one priority for Chris Adams this winter.

Davies' absence is a blow but its a good chance for Wilson to stake a claim for a place in the side as a batsman when Davies returns.  I've never been a huge fan of Wilson but he has matured as a player this season, and he's always been one of the few Surrey batsmen willing to play innovative shots.  The other question is likely to be the order, I suspect Adams will shift Walters up the order to open but I really hope he gives Roy a whirl up there instead, as I said in the preview of the Worcestershire game, our wins this season have largely relied on big starts and Roy can give us just that.  You still have to think that a decent total is going to rely on a big knock from Pietersen or Hamilton-Brown though, which is a very dangerous position to be in.

Cheetham was no worse than Dernbach or Tremlett on Wednesday, they were all well below par, but if we aren't going to retain him next season I see no reason to play him.  I think Linley's more consistent line and length is more likely to keep the runs down at Sussex than Meaker's pace.  It will be interesting to see how Matt Dunn gets on, his bowling was good against Sri Lanka for the England Under-19s earlier in the year by all accounts and I hope he gets off to a great start.

Sussex, although without Yardy and Wright who are with England, have named a strong squad: RG Aga, JS Gatting, MW Goodwin, AJ Hodd, EC Joyce, RJ Kirtley, CJ Liddle, CD Nash, MS Panesar, MJ Prior, OP Rayner, Yasir Arafat.  A bowling attack of Arafat, Monty, Kirtley and Rayner has bags of experience and easily has the edge over our attack.  The batting, led by Prior, ably assisted by Nash, Joyce and Goodwin is also very strong.

There's nothing but pride in this game for us, but there's a lot to be said for us beating Sussex to boost morale.  That said, they are one of the best limited overs sides in the country and I just cannot see the side above making any mark on them today.  I am curious as to the wisdom of resting players this close to the end of the season, I suppose it is just to give younger players a go - I thought we'd been doing that all season?!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

We're not learning lessons

Kevin Pietersen's Surrey debut didn't manage to obscure the fact that we suffered another defeat, in fact another hefty defeat yesterday evening to a side who although in form, were until recently the whipping boys of the group.

The match may well have been lost in the toss, batting first on a supremely good track was always going to be the best ploy but it was still a good surface come the Surrey innings and yet we were still very short on runs - 90 to be precise. As if to ram home the idea that this was a magnificent batting surface, our final total - 286 - is more often than not a winning total.

But Worcestershire got more, largely thanks to two impressive hundreds from Solanki and Gareth Andrew, the latter from just 57 balls including six sixes. We were guilty of some pretty poor bowling, Tremlett's drop off in form is alarming but hopefully the Championship games will be more to his liking, and Dernbach, although he picked up three wickets, served up too many half volleys and long hops for my liking. The spinners never really looked threatening and I'm not sure Chris Schofield has done enough this season to warrant another year at the club - the 37 runs he scored was 10 short of the number he conceded in just 4 overs of his leggies.

Our innings started supremely well, Hamilton-Brown and Davies looking in fine touch despite some significant swing from Jack Shantry. Davies was clean bowled by him with his score on just 12 after playing for swing that didn't quite materialise that ball. Hamilton-Brown continued on his merry way and was out on 80 from 41 balls trying one too many sixes - but it was exactly what was needed. Pietersen played second fiddle to the captain for most of his innings and looked to take the initiative once his younger partner was out, unfortunately he was caught and bowled by Choudhry. Immediately prior to his dismissal he had played a gorgeous cover drive, picking the gap perfectly.

Thereafter we were never likely to recover, and this is where I worry that the lessons of previous defeats are not being learned. I accept that the policy of playnig Schofield at 7 has reaped rewards in certain games this season but it has relied on massive starts from the openers by and large. Today on a wicket on which Schofield's bowling was never likely to keep the runs down he should've been dropped in favour of the extra batsman - Jason Roy - who gives us some firepower lower in the order. Spriegel and Hamilton-Brown, the sixth and seventh bowlers respectively, bowled 8 overs between them in any case.

I still doubt that we would've chased 376 down, but with a top order of RHB, Davies, Pietersen, Ramprakash and Roy we give ourselves a bloody good chance. We're now completely out of the CB40 and after such a roaring start in the competition that is galling.