Friday, 30 April 2010

Take note Rory - Shaun Udal's post-match appraisals

I am not going to dwell on the fact that Middlesex have made the worst start to a County Championship season in their history with four consecutive losses, because lets face it, we've not been much better.  They're too good a side to be losing like they have been - Strauss has played every game, Malan is a real talent, and their seam attack of O'Brien, Finn and Murtagh, plus that chap Berg and the spin of Udal is a very handy bowling attack.

Anyway, that's not what I want to talk about, I want to highlight the response of their skipper Shaun Udal, to their heavy and dispriting defeat to Gloucestershire at Lord's today, it was thus:

"We are not staying in games for long enough, we are always chasing our tails. On the batting, I would expect more from our big players - Andrew Strauss, Scott Newman, Owais Shah and Dawid Malan are as good a top four as anyone in the division - but they are not performing. To be three or four down for not many isn't good enough."

Shaun Udal: Forthright

Well bloody said, your side has performed substantially below par so why be shy about coming out to the media and saying so?  Too often Surrey skippers and coaches have emerged after yet another humiliating defeat and trotted out the 'we're a young side in development' excuse.  Well why didn't Udal use the same excuse?  In Malan, Robson, Simpson, Evans and Finn he has five first teamers who are 22 or below.  Surrey in fact have only one first team regular who is below 22 (Meaker), and while Harinath, Spriegel and Davies are just 23, there is still a core of uber-experienced players in Ramprakash, Batty, Afzaal and Nel.

Udal was critical of his senior players because they under-performed and so he should be.  I appreciate Rory Hamilton-Brown is a young captain who might be reluctant to be overly critical, but why can't Adams come out and say "Afzaal does play some half-witted shots from time to time doesn't he?" or "a bowling attack part comprised of two test players ought to be more consistently incisive than they are".

I am not suggesting that the captain and coach should focus solely on the negatives, but a few home truths from time to time, instead of management guff, might have more of an impact on the players next time they set foot on the ground.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Meaker, Harinath and Spriegel: Invest

I've had something of an epiphany.  I've expended and awful lot of effort in criticising Stuart Meaker this season, and now I'm here saying he needs to be in Surrey's first team as much as possible.

This has been partially brought about by the fact that he recently took 12 wickets against Middlesex's Seconds, and this week he's taken four more against Somerset's Seconds, and scored the small matter of an unbeaten 150 off 199 balls - that's some form.

Now, I maintain that he still bowls too many loose balls, and he's incredibly frustrating to watch sometimes, but he's an academy player, and he's English.  For those reasons I think he should be in our side ahead of the mediocre Rao Iftikhar Anjum.  Rao is here for a couple of months, and will contribute little to the future of Surrey cricket.  Meaker is our player, he's 21, and he looks to be going well and truly in the right direction.  We'd do much better to place a great deal of faith in him than waste effort on Rao.  I don't mean to denigrate Rao, I'm sure he's a good honest cricketere, but the plus points of Meaker far outweight the plus points of our current overseas player.

Moreover, we should also make a point of placing a great deal of faith in Harinath (to be fair to Adams, he has done this season already) and Matthew Spriegel.  Harinath clearly has the attitude to go far, and his technique will develop.  Spriegel may well turn out to be a limited-overs specialist, but I think he should be given a run at number seven in the four day game, and Hamilton-Brown should chuck him the ball more often - he's taken 7 wickets in two Second XI games in the last week.

Too many times in the last couple of years we've been sold short by players with the wrong attitude, not playing for the club in any way shape or form.  Here we have three players who are committed to the club and have a huge amount of talent - they should be given every chance possible.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Signings of the Mackay/Adams era - the story so far

Ever since Gus Mackay began a new era at Surrey in the Autumn of 2008 and Chris Adams joined him soon after we've signed a fair few players (some might say too many). I posted on a Surrey message board the other day that there were grounds to question their collective talent-spotting abilities. I thought therefore I'd put my money where my mouth is and look at the performances of those who have joined since the Autumn of 2008. I should note that I only looked at County Championship performances, I don't have the kind of time it'd take to look across all competitions!

The players who have been signed since then, from memory, are Andre Nel, Grant Elliott, Ryan Harris, Rangana Herath, Tim Linley, James Anyon, Gareth Batty, Chris Tremlett and Rao Ifthikar Anjum on the bowling front. Batsmen signed since then: Michael Brown, Rory Hamilton-Brown and Steven Davies. Instantly you can tell from that list that the focus was on signing bowlers, which is fair since our bowling in 2008 was truly crap, but we are now somewhat short in the batting department.

So, how have those players performed in the season-and-a-bit since the Mackay/Adams partnership began? The nine bowlers we've splashed out on have taken 68 wickets in 834 overs (strike rate: 73), at an average of 43 apiece - that's not very special, in fact its well below par.

Andre Nel is really the only bowler who can hold his head somewhere near high with 34 wickets at 29.5 (to be fair to him he missed the end of last season which partially accounts for the small number of wickets), indeed if you take Nel out of the equation their combined average shoots up to a dizzying 57.2! And in amongst all this, the lot of them could only muster one 5-for (that man Nel again with 6-36 against Northampton - incidentally the only game we've won in more than two years!) It remains to be seen how Tremlett will impact on those numbers, but surely it can only get better?

Andre Nel - or Gunther as he calls his in-match alter-ego - celebrates a wicket

And the batsmen? Only runs from the pure batsmen and all rounders (Batty, Harris and Elliott - yes folks, he was an allrounder technically) are taken into account, and the picture is slightly better, boosted somewhat by the early 2010 form of Davies and RHB. The collective batting average is 37.9 at a strike rate around 50, but only four hundreds have been registered from 50 innings - two for Brown in 2009 and one apiece from Davies and RHB this season.

So now we sit at least a batsman light and it looks like signing batsmen is the speciality of the Mackay/Adams regime! From the looks of them so far this season, the batting stats are heading in the right direction, but their record on bowlers is worrying. The likes of Rao and Herath just haven't performed for us and the English bowlers we've signed aren't much better.

I hope they've made a note of where they've gone wrong with the personnel so far, and if there is to be a long-term replacement for Piyush Chawla they'd better sit down and think long and hard about who exactly it is they want - it needs to be a top quality spinner who is going to take bucket loads of wickets. I'm not asking too much, am I?

Tremlett emerges...and a Chawla update (sort of)

The Surrey Second XI game against Somerset, starting today was an unremarkable affair...except for the tall man opening the bowling - one Christopher Timothy Tremlett. Yes that's right, he finally made an appearance in Surrey colours. He only bowled 10 overs all day and they went for almost 50 runs, but he did pick up the wicket of Andrew Tye (whoever he is) for 22.

He'll be very rusty, I'm not sure when he last bowled competitively but it must've been a while ago, so the run rate while disappointing, isn't all that surprising. He'll hopefully now begin working himself up to full match pace and fitness and can then begin to play a full role in Surrey's season. The game on Sunday against the ECB Unicorns now seems a perfect match for him to make his competitive debut for Surrey and if the weather holds I'm looking forward to watching it!

Now, onto the Chawla update, the following from Gus Mackay seems to me to indicate that he's not going to be pulling on a Surrey strip any time soon:

"Sadly, once again, situations have conspired against us and he has now been selected for the Indian squad in the ICC World Twenty20, which means he will definitely not be available until the middle of May at the earliest.

After that however, India have a tour to Zimbabwe and are then due to play in the Asia Cup, so if he remains involved through that period there is sadly a strong chance he will not arrive at all. We are still regularly speaking to the Indian board though and we will make an announcement when the situation is clearer."

He doesn't indicate whether Surrey are in negotiations to sign a replacement, rumours abound that Vettori is being targeted, but I've only heard that in relation to the Twenty20 Cup - we need a quality spinner to play all cricket. One thing's for sure, Rao Ifthikar Anjum has not proven himself to be of sufficient quality to fill that space. I await news eagerly!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Good game, good game

It went this way and that, but eventually Surrey came out on top against Lancashire today by just two wickets with a single delivery remaining. After reaching 181-1 with Hamilton-Brown playing a captain's knock but falling just short of a hundred on 92 off only 64 balls, he really looks to be hitting his stride nicely.

Davies, opening and Afzaal at three also chipped in with 59 and 43 at better than a run a ball, but thereafter the batting was flimsy, as I feared. Ramps departed for only 23, Spriegel at least a place too high went for 23 and Meaker, Batty and Nel mustered just 8 between them. Ironically after bowling pretty poorly and fielding like he was wearing concrete shoes, Rao hit the winning runs - cutting Mahmood for four.

I think had Chapple played today Lancashire would've come out on top after Stephen Moore hit a very nice hundred. But credit to Surrey's openers, at one point they were rollicking along at nearly 10 an over on a pitch that was perfect for batting, and in reality the only reason it was quite as close as it was in the end was the conditions - damp and very murky towards the end.

The bowling...well there is still much to be desired. When you field 5 front line bowlers you can reasonably expect to keep a team to less than 7 an over, but perhaps the pitch really was that good. I think death bowling really is an area that we are sorely lacking - today 36 runs came off the final two overs, Meaker particularly culpable after the 39th over went for 23.

Lets take the positives, we won, RHB and Davies were superb and the fielding at least initially was excellent (lets just try and forget about the terrible run out miss from Jade in the final over!).

Negatives persist, and if with 5 bowlers we're going to be chasing 300 anyway, we might as well stick in the extra bat and get 10 overs out of our many part timers (RHB again under bowled himself - only one over but he got a wicket, and Afzaal didn't get a single over), and we only chiselled 14 runs from our batting powerplay. It doesn't matter today because we prevailed, but they'll make it a lot easier to do so in future if they tighten up in a few areas!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Squad for Pro40 against Lancashire

Surrey have named a 14 man squad for tomorrow's first Pro40 game of the season because of some stand out performances in the Second XI game with Middlesex this week. Stuart Meaker took 12 wickets and Laurie Evans made a hundred and are therefore included in the squad. I would caution against throwing them in because there is some way between the quality of the Middlesex Second XI and the Lancashire First XI!

The 14 players named are as follows in the order I'd prefer!

Usman Afzaal
Steven Davies
Mark Ramprakash
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Matthew Spriegel
Stewart Walters
Gareth Batty
Chris Schofield
Andre Nel
Jade Dernbach
Rao Iftikhar Anjum

Bench: Laurie Evans, Tim Linley, Stuart Meaker

I suspect that Evans might play in place of Walters, which I wouldn't necessarily disagree with, and Meaker may well come in for Rao given that he barely bowled against Worcestershire - this I would be very disappointed with.

The side above is a batsman light, still (in fact if I was feeling particularly uncharitable I'd say the tail starts at 5...), and there is almost no power hitting once Afzaal goes, but that's the squad we have! Lancashire have named the following:

Glen Chapple, Mark Chilton, Steven Croft, Kyle Hogg, Paul Horton, Sajid Mahmood, Stephen Moore, Stephen Parry, Ashwell Prince, Daren Powell, Luke Procter, Tom Smith, Luke Sutton.

Names like Chapple, Mahmood, Prince and Moore mark that out as a very decent side, but mercifully James Anderson has departed to the Caribbean for the World Twenty20, I would've feared a bloodbath of Surrey batsmen if he'd have played! They're not an unbeatable side but they've got a couple of standout bowlers and very good batsmen, I would suggest they've got enough about them to come out on top tomorrow.

Needless to say by the way, still no Tremlett, not even referenced on the official site, so presumably he's not recovered from his 'minor groin injury', which I suspect isn't all that minor at all.

Worcester escape with a draw

In answer to the question I posed yesterday, it seemed that Surrey neither went for the win or played for the draw.  A disciplined bowling effort from Worcs meant that wickets fell regularly in Surrey's second innings, but in the end thanks largely to Ramps and Davies (how many times will I have to say that this season) they racked up enough to post a total Worcester might fancy chasing.

In the end 268 was far too much on a fourth day pitch and Surrey bowled well - everyone contributed bar Rao who didn't get an over.  Surrey ended just two wickets short as they ran out of time.  This has been a vastly improved performance - big first innings runs and a fighting performance thereafter.  A little bit more bite was required when bowling in Worcs' first innings - an overseas spinner would've made bigger inroads I'm sure, but otherwise it was a good all round improvement.

Rory Hamilton-Brown's captaincy was questionable in the first innings but I liked the way he rotated the bowlers particularly towards the end of the match, it ensured the Worcs batsmen had no opportunity to settle.  The form of Nel was encouraging though he didn't collect a hatful of wickets, Dernbach took a while to find some rhythm but he's starting to look a little better.  Rao still doesn't look a matchwinner and if you're only going to give your overseas player 18 overs in a match you have to question why he's there at all.

I would still advocate going with a four man attack, because we have some good part-time options, but I'm not seeing many batsmen knocking on the door. Walters was poor in both innings and I wouldn't be surprised to see Spriegel back and young Laurie Evans may well get a chance given his form for the Seconds.

Its onwards and upwards from here, we've stopped the rot and hopefully the players will have a bit more confidence about them for the next round of games.  Well played lads.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Go for the win or play for a draw?

As it stands Surrey are 85 runs ahead going into the final day, with Ramps and Afzaal at the crease and looking reasonably comfortable.  Worcestershire's last five wickets fell for just seven runs, thanks mainly to Jade Dernbach finally getting some penetration and taking three quick wickets before tea on day three.

There could be reason to think that the pitch is deteriorating, the first 15 wickets to fall fell at an average of 63 each, the next 7 fell at an average of just 9.  Granted that included the Worcestershire tail, but still that's quite some discrepancy.  I somehow doubt that its deteriorated to such a degree though, and I think the two batsmen currently in possession should be able to build without too much trouble.

The question is, will Ramps and Afzaal, once settled (if they settle at all that is) push on to try and get 100 or so before lunch, then really blast for a few overs after and set Worcestershire something they might be tempted to chase?  I sincerely doubt that they will, and part of me thinks they should just make sure they don't lose before thinking about going for the win.  They'll just have to take it in ten over chunks I would imagine, and see how it pans out!

I don't think this pitch has contributed to the best of games.  It has turned apparently, but slow turn, which isn't going to result in hatfuls of wickets for Schoey and Batty.  I hope at least that Surrey come out in a positive frame of mind, regardless of what they have planned.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The good and the bad

Surrey were brought back down to earth with a bump today by two excellent hundreds from Solanki and Moeen Ali, they batted very well today, but Surrey let them take charge.  Despite putting on a few quick runs and then nipping out both Mitchell and the dangerous Jaques for nothing between the two of them, the bowlers were unable to follow that up and very little pressure was applied thereafter.

For some reason, I can only presume it is down to injury, Rao bowled just 8 overs out of 76 bowled, that's a very worrying sign as he was one of only two Surrey bowlers to take a wicket.  As I pointed out yesterday, the two spinners strategy came back to bite them, the combined figures for the spinners were 43-6-166-0, a combined run rate of just under 4 - not very good.  That compares to 33-10-92-3, and Rao and Nel bowled excellently with combined figures of 21-9-46-3.

I like Schofield, but he's not an effective bowler at the moment.  Since the beginning of last season he has been taking wickets at the astronomical average of 66, all the while going at almost 4 runs an over.  His strike rate sees him only taking a wicket once every 18 overs.  If anything he should be considered as a batsman alone, I certainly like the look of him over Stewart Walters.

I was a bit disappointed in Hamilton-Brown's captaincy today too.  It was clear even to those not at the ground (me included!) that spin was not proving effective, and yet he persisted (though this may have been foisted upon him to a degree if Rao was unavailable).  I would like to have seen Afzaal given a bowl, particularly as Moeen and Solanki approached their hundreds, but perhaps that is a sign of the lack of confidence RHB has in one of his senior players.

You'd have say this game has draw written all over it, Worcester look well set to gain something close to parity unless we really get amongst them tomorrow morning - and if Rao is injured that will be tough since only Nel of the other bowlers looks capable of keeping pressure up.  At least this game has seen Surrey tick one box in racking up 500 in the first innings, but the bowling still needs plenty of work.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


What more can I say?  96 overs, 415 runs, two hundreds at strike rates above 70, full batting points and a great position going in to day two!

Hamilton-Brown's hundred in particular stands out, not just because it was 125 off just 130 balls, but he must've been under some really intense pressure.  He was dropped early on, just like he has been in the first couple of games, and he must've known he had to make this one count, and boy did he do just that!

Everyone knows what talent he has, but now he's shown it under some very trying circumstances.  Harinath and Ramprakash will feel like they've missed out on what is clearly a superb batting track, and Afzaal got out to a horrible shot again by all accounts.  94 runs from 5 innings is not good enough for a man of his talents, he's on borrowed time.

Then Steve Davies...well what a cracking signing he's turned out to be.  The only man who hasn't really failed once so far this season, and today he cracked an unbeaten 119 off 167 balls, really, really good show Steve.

Now lads, we need to get 500+ on the board on this pitch, Schoey is still there and can score plenty, then Nel ought to be able to biff a few and we'll be set.  We're in a good position to make this one very difficult to lose, and that's exactly what I was after.

I would still question the wisdom of playing two spinners at this stage of the season, I don't know how easy its going to be to get 20 wickets with that particular composition of attack, but that's for tomorrow.  For now though, lets do what we haven't been able to do in a while and give the players a big pat on the back and bask in their reflected glory.  Well played.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Squad to face Worcestershire...guess who's not in it?

Yep, you guessed it, no Chris Tremlett, though the club have at least seen fit to now come clean as to the reason, instead of fobbing us off with "workload", they now detail a minor groin injury which is keeping him off the pitch. Remains to be seen how long that "minor" injury keeps him out for; if he doesn't come out on Sunday for the Pro40 match I'll be very worried.

The squad (and my expected team) is as follows:

Matthew Spriegel
Arun Harinath
Mark Ramprakash
Usman Afzaal
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Stewart Walters
Steven Davies
Gareth Batty
Rao Iftikhar Anjum
Jade Dernbach
Andre Nel

12th man: Chris Schofield

We shall see how that middle order will shape up given that RHB dropped himself to six, below Davies, against Hove, so its possible they might go with Davies-RHB-Walters, or Walters-Davies-RHB, but I'd be surprised and disappointed in the skipper to see him bat anywhere below five frankly.

The extra batsman does in theory make us harder to break down, thought as I've said before Schofield almost qualifies as a pure batsman these days.  I'm not sure of Walters' form, he got a duck for the seconds last week, so in actual fact his presence may not strengthen the batting as much as we might hope.

I certainly hope Spriegel bowls a few more overs, certainly he and Afzaal ought to given the four man bowling attack.  The Worcs squad hasn't been released to my knowledge, but Solanki and Jaques played in the first match, so the batting will revolve around them, and the bowling around Jones, Richardson and possibly Imran Arif, who didn't play in their first game but took four in the friendly with Leeds Uni last week.

We have to avoid defeat at all costs in this match, no question, for the sake of morale!  Hamilton-Brown needs to win his first toss for us, and unless its a real green top, bat first and put down a marker, make it all but impossible for us to lose.  Over to you Rory....

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Stat Attack: Surrey going in the wrong direction

Another week, another heavy Surrey defeat to contemplate. It almost seemed unfair that the Hove groundstaff had to get out of bed on a Sunday in order to complete the mere formality of a Sussex win this morning. And complete it they did, in style, it took them barely 45 minutes to take the last Surrey wicket and knock off the 33 runs needed for victory. Sussex certainly look too good for this division and completely outclassed us.

So I thought I'd take a "quick" look at Surrey's last 33 matches, i.e. every game since the start of the 2008 season (only the Lancashire game at Old Trafford saw no cricket at all), to see how things are progressing. A few quick stats which I'm sure all Surrey fans are aware of: in those 33 matches, we've won once, against Northamptonshire in 2009, and in games ending in a draw, only 8 times out of 33 have Surrey taken more wickets than the opposition. In all games Surrey take on average 12 opposition wickets, and lose on average 15 of their own. As for run-scoring, Surrey muster on average 347 first innings runs (so 3 bonus points on average), but concede on average 405 runs. Thing were particularly bad in 2009 where the corresponding numbers were 355 and 432 - Surrey conceding, on average a 77 run deficit in the first innings.

If you look at things graphically it doesn't make for happy reading either, the graph below shows first innings runs scored in every game by both Surrey (the blue line) and those conceded by Surrey (the red line):

So you can see that early on in the graph, around the start of the 2008 season when, incidentally we were playing in the first division against the likes of Lancashire, Durham and first division Sussex, the lines are relatively close (though rarely in our favour).  Thereafter however the lines start to diverge and save for a brief period in the middle of the '09 season when captain fantastic Stewart Walters was scoring runs for fun, the lines are becoming increasingly far apart!

The next graph shows graphically the number of wickets Surrey have taken in matches (the blue line) and the number of Surrey wickets to fall in matches (the red line):

Unsurprisingly, the lines in this graph follow along similar lines, with things looking particularly bad since the game against Essex at Chelmsford last season - 136 out of a possible 140 Surrey wickets have fallen to the opposition in those seven games and Surrey have taken 76 - barely half of the opposition wickets possible.

So not only have they been utterly rubbish, consistently, for the past two-and-a-bit seasons, but they are (improbably!) getting worse!  I know its early days in Hamilton-Brown's captaincy so its not time yet to damn him, but it just shows the enormity of the task he has on his hands!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Heavy defeat looms for Surrey (get used to that sentence)

Perhaps I should just re-post the synonyms for "bad"?  Another woeful day for Surrey, They allowed the Sussex tail to put on over 130 runs, rapidly in the morning, comprehensively failing to finish them off quickly as I had kindly asked.

They then proceeded to lose three wickets before 50 runs were on the board, and but for an impressive partnership between Steve Davies and Usman Afzaal of 140 or so, the day would've been considerably shorter. Surrey did at least manage to avoid the embarrassment of a three day defeat, but barring a scintillating hundred from Rao or Dernbach, Sussex will finish this off tomorrow early doors for a thoroughly well deserved victory.

A particularly depressing stat from this game is that barely 7 of the 19 Surrey partnerships so far have reached double figures, that is incredibly poor.  The Davies-Afzaal partnership was the first time this season that two batsmen have taken responsibility to try and dig us out of a hole (it was only broken by a dubious Goodwin catch - sparking a collapse of 4 wickets for 30 runs).  This needs to be addressed by the batting coach, urgently.

I am also interested to know why Hamilton-Brown dropped himself down to number six in the order, I certainly hope he's not hiding himself down there!  This is another sorry performance from Surrey and if this continues much longer I shall start blogging about something else entirely, there's only so many times I can write the 'Surrey roundly trounced again' post.

In other news, Surrey are apparently chasing Dan Vettori to play at the start and end of the T20 Cup (New Zealand have a series against Sri Lanka right slap bang in the middle of it).  This would be extremely welcome!  As a batsman he'd easily slot into our top six, and he'd be our best bowler.  Does make it seem increasingly unlikely that young Chawla will be appearing at the Oval at all this summer this space!

Time for Chris Schofield to move up the order?

From the middle of last season, lets say the Essex game at Guildford in the middle of July, Chris Schofield has missed only one game (the game with Derbyshire last week), and has actually proved a pretty good source of runs.

Bear in mind that he's been batting down the order at 7 or 8, so with the tail the majority of the time, and not always with Surrey in the best of positions - his average since that game (including the knock of 46 against Sussex) has been 38.3. Only Afzaal, Ramps and Mark Butcher averaged more last season.

Schofield batting for England (yes, England).

Since he only managed 22 wickets at the poor average of 61, its fair to say he's more of a batsman these days than a bowler. Given the woes experienced by the Surrey top order, Afzaal in particular, would it be out of the question to move Schoey up the order? The batting stocks at Surrey aren't exactly overflowing with talent knocking on the door, I can think of worse ideas.

He has proved he can score big runs with that 144 against Essex, and the way in which he forced his way back into the side shows he has got the right sort of attitude. He dragged the tail along to a single batting point against Sussex, and he seems well liked among the players.

Maybe its something to experiment with in the limited overs stuff initially, but I wouldn't be surprised or disappointed to see him move up the order in any form of cricket.

Friday, 16 April 2010

County Cricket Twenty20: "a way to cash in on the IPL" - D. Gough

Witness this conversation between myself and Darren Gough on Twitter this evening (don't ask why I am on Twitter on a Friday night):

Gough: what about b c lara possibly making a comeback playing for surrey t20?god they need him
Me: Don't agree Goughie, we need him in our four day side! Getting him for the T20 sends the wrong msg and he was terrible in the ICL!
Gough: Disagree you got to redevelop your 4 day side you have ramps for that,need him for t20 with money thats at stake and crowds
Me: we are redeveloping it, but we've only got one bat - Ramps. Don't want Surrey to be a vehicle for Lara to sell himself to the IPL.
Gough: Get used to it thats the only reason hes playing,so obvious
Me: Doesn't mean I have to like it Goughie,is that how you see county cricket now,a window just for players to get into the IPL?
Gough: Get a grip lad,read what i say b c lara wants to cash in on the ipl is way in is to play county t20
Me: I don't think Surrey's Twenty20 campaign should be about getting Lara into the IPL,not right for the team.

Lets leave aside the apparent disdain Goughie has for a lowly Twitter user such as I, and instead focus on this: does he really think its ok for county cricket to be used as a vehicle for ageing retired internationals to put themselves in the shop window for a crack at some extra cash in the IPL? What about advancing young English players?

I could just be over reacting here, but as has been said elsewhere the money we could be set to splash on getting Lara in for a few T20s could be much better spent on a younger, more promising player who would genuinely enhance the future prospects of Surrey County Cricket Club. As it is, Surrey appear happy to bring Lara in to (maybe) fill the Oval and sell a few shirts...oh and along the way see if he can't enhance his chances of a contract with the new Kochi franchise in the IPL.

Maybe this is the future of county cricket, just a sort of feeder series for the IPL and all its riches, I'd be interested to know what others think of that, particularly Indian readers? Personally I find the prospect that any player would use county cricket just as a means to get themselves into the IPL a bit cynical, but maybe I just need to wake up and smell Modi's coffee!

How, in a cricketing sense, would Lara's presence help Surrey's progression? I would love to see him on board in some sort of coaching or consultative role, he has talent and experience that is unmatched by any other, but in cricketing terms I really believe he would add little to a Twenty20 campaign.

I will be the first to put my hands up and say I was wrong if he cracks a thrilling hundred for us, or even just wins us a match here or there, but I am genuinely concerned at the direction this appears to show Surrey going in.

No worse, but certainly no better

That's what it has come to, I don't feel that bad about Surrey today because we weren't a complete and utter shambles. To lose the final four wickets for seven runs inside the space of 19 balls wasn't a great start to the day, but the slow pace of Sussex's initial reply showed the deathly slow nature of the pitch.

Sussex lost wickets quickly to begin with, but innings from Yardy, Goodwin and Wright have built them a strong lead, and Surrey's bowlers haven't been able to stem the flow of runs in the same way Sussex's did. Where Sussex had four bowlers go at less than 2 runs an over, Surrey could manage only one (Dernbach - a good sign in itself). Batty and Schofield in particular were expensive in picking up a wicket apiece. Batty has managed just 5 maidens in the 63 overs he's bowled so far this year, being unable to stem the flow of runs does not bode especially well for him.

I can't claim to have seen it, but Cricinfo reports that Hamilton-Brown dropped Goodwin "badly" at slip, which by my calculation puts the cost of Surrey drops this season at around 220 runs...its only the second game!

Rao and Nel need to come out tomorrow morning and do a Rana Naved, i.e. finish off Sussex's innings rapidly. They currently have a lead of 73, anything over a hundred spells defeat for Surrey I fear.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Brian Lara and, seriously...

This story on the BBC has it that Surrey are considering a shock, and it really is a shock, bid for Brian Lara to play Twenty20 cricket this summer. As much as I believe Lara is one of the finest cricketers of his generation, nay one of the best ever, but the man is forty years old and hasn't played top level competitive cricket for some time.

Yes the likes of Warne, Hayden and Gilchrist are approaching forty years of age too, but they've at least kept their eye in with the IPL, and yet still in all three cases its clear that they aren't the players they used to be.

Surrey, and indeed county cricket as a whole ought not to be considered a vehicle for players to put themselves in the IPL shop window, that's what seems to be inferred by the BBC's story. Moreover, I'm just not sure this sends the right message - we all remember the last 40-something Surrey signed, and that ended in a 13 year jail sentence. I'm not suggesting Lara would be a failure of Lewis-like proportions, I just don't think it says the right things about the club.

Yes, Lara will bring in the crowds and might even sell a few shirts (I have to say, a Surrey shirt with Lara on the back would be nice...) and maybe that is part of the reasoning, but will he enrich our side? I seriously doubt that.

Now, if Lara was to be drafted in to fill a seriously large gap in our batting stocks for four day cricket, well that might elicit a different reaction!

Surrey: A challenge for my vocabulary

Some synonyms for "bad":

atrocious, abominable, awful, dreadful, painful, terrible, unspeakable, deplorable, distressing, lamentable, pitiful, sad, sorry, fearful, frightful, hopeless, horrid, crappy, lousy, rotten, incompetent, unskilled, mediocre, poor....

All of the above apply to Surrey's "bad" start to this county season. The loss to Derbyshire is well documented here, and elsewhere much to Surrey fans' shame, and as Surrey sunk to 15-3 today we could be forgiven for turning away in a mixture of disgust, shame and embarrassment. 15-3 became 85-5 before they managed to crawl to 199-7 (at a run rate barely over 2), just a point short of a single batting point. Of course if it takes them 14 overs to get that single (not inconceivable given today's funereal pace) they'll miss out on the point anyway. That's how bad it is - Derbyshire missed out on their final batting point because they hadn't reached 400 by the 110th over - Surrey will miss out on all but one because of their run rate.

Arun Harinath was the only player to pass 50, though when you consume 300 balls in making 62, you really ought to be making three figures, but credit where its due I suppose, at least he stuck around. Afzaal was bowled by Martin-Jenkins, I don't doubt it was in playing a stupid shot.

I just do not know where to look at the moment, our batsmen don't look up to the task, and I worry about an attack that will rely heavily on two spinners in April being able to take 20 wickets here. The performances in the latter half of last season and in the five days of cricket this season beggar belief, and are so far short of what we are entitled to expect I am unable to put it into words.

I can only hope that Rao Iftikhar will take to this pitch like Robin Martin-Jenkins did today, and cause Sussex the same sort of trouble they caused our batsmen.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Still no sign of well spent.

The squad for the game at Hove has been announced on the Surrey website. On the plus side, Rao Iftikhar Anjum is in the side, at the expense of Meaker who was woeful at the Oval. On the down side, they still clearly don't see Tremlett can play a role in the longer form of the game. Oh and Michael Brown is still struggling with a combination of arm and shoulder injuries.

I don't really think its fair to the members to just give "workload" as the reason for his absence, and then not reference it at all in the interview with Chris Adams. I presume we're paying him a pretty penny, and not on a pay-as-you-play basis, I'd appreciate some sort of word on whether they see that he'll ever be able to play a four day game, whether it be as part of a four or five man attack.

Anyway, the squad (and what I think will be the likely team will be) is as follows:

Arun Harinath
Matt Spriegel
Mark Ramprakash
Usman Afzaal
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Gareth Batty
Andre Nel
Tim Linley
Rao Ifthikar Anjum
Jade Dernbach

12th man: Chris Schofield

Without wanting to be too hard on the players, this is the worst of both worlds. A tail that starts at 7, and Andre Nel is a half decent number 9, but a number 8 he is not. And yet, despite having a five man attack, it doesn't look likely to take 20 wickets! Dernbach is neither quick or consistent enough at the moment to take bunches of wickets and Linley isn't a threat at all in my opinion. Hopefully Rao will add some extra bite though.

I can't help thinking that the extra batsman is what is required here. We need to stave off defeat, however negative that might sound, and our batting lineup doesn't look capable of doing that at the moment.

Monday, 12 April 2010

They murdered us, they flippin' murdered us

To quote the irrepressible David Lloyd, Derbyshire flippin' murdered Surrey over the past four days. In the battle of the Star Batsmen Carrying His Side's Hopes, Chris Rogers comprehensively outscored Mark Ramprakash 340-102. Not to say that Ramps wasn't brilliant, he was, but Rogers was brilliant-er.

Of the two bowling attacks, only a fool would look at the scorecard and suggest that Surrey had done a half decent job. The collective average of Surrey's bowlers? 43. Derbyshire's run rate across their two innings? 3.7, compared with Surrey's 2.8. We were comprehensively outplayed here, and Rogers fully deserved to come away on the winning side after a virtuoso performance with the bat.

Five of Surrey's top seven were clean bowled. I saw a hint of uneven bounce in the pitch yesterday, and that may have played a part, but it doesn't look good. You have to credit the Derbyshire attack, they bowled sensible lines and lengths, the spinners stopped the flow of runs (largely) and the wickets duly followed.

Surrey's bowlers on the other hand were woeful. Meaker and Dernbach in particular failed to keep the run rate down to any degree. The only bowlers to keep the run rate below three in their overs were Afzaal and Spriegel, and they only bowled 24 overs between them out of a total of just under 200 overs (taking four wickets in the process - only one fewer than Meaker, Linley and Dernbach combined).

This might seem like an odd proposal, but I would be tempted to go with a four man attack for the Sussex game, and it simply has to include Rao Ifthikar and Chris Tremlett. The reason for this? Well our top six isn't good enough to be picking up 400+ regularly. Aside from Ramps, and to a lesser extent Davies, no one looks like they're about to hang around, and let's face it even if Brown comes back in, he's not exactly Dravid-esque in his crease occupation. So an extra batsman is required. There might even be a case for Walters after Spriegel and Harinath's less than convincing performance. And I'd wager that Rao and Tremlett offer more of a wicket taking threat than Linley, Meaker and Dernbach combined - at least on the strength of this performance they do. I'm sure Dernbach will come back stronger, probably in the limited overs stuff.

I would suggest a top six of Brown, Harinath, Ramps, Afzaal, Hamilton-Brown and Spriegel. Davies slots in at seven which is where I've always liked to have the WK-bat, Batty is a very capable number 8, likewise Nel at number 9, Tremlett is no Chris Martin (not the Coldplay one) with the bat and then Rao.

There's a temptation to go right into the doldrums here and write off another season, and believe me I'm struggling to fight that temptation. Several of our players need to stand up and be counted at Hove - Ramps and Davies cannot be expected to carry this side all season.

Sunday, 11 April 2010 it still 2009?

Another day at the Oval, another upsetting performance from Surrey. Ok, it wasn't dreadful - Ramps' 109th first class hundred was impressive and Batty played well for his 65, but really Chris Rogers showed us all what a pitch this is.

Rogers has now collected 299 runs to himself on a pitch where all Surrey's 11 men could only muster 352. Take nothing away from Rogers, he's a class act, but Surrey have been found wanting throughout in this game.

To be fair, Surrey did a decent job in making it to 352, Nel's lively 37 proving important, but when the sides emerged after the innings break - Derbyshire already 99 runs ahead, plenty of runs were there for the taking. Nel and Dernbach were confusingly only given three overs each before the woeful Meaker was given a go. I understand he bowled ok yesterday morning, but in his spell today there were at least two four-balls an over, it was nowhere near the standard we ought to expect of our players.

Rogers merrily tucked in, as well he might, and Derbyshire now sit 260 runs ahead and the prospect of Rogers biffing a few quickly after getting his hundred tomorrow morning could mean a tricky few sessions for Surrey's batsmen.

In other news, Rao Ifthikar Anjum has now apparently arrived, visa issues cleared up, and he'll be available for the game at Hove next week. If I was Stuart Meaker or Tim Linley I'd be looking at making alternative arrangements next weekend. Rao ought to slip in to the attack and if available, Tremlett should too. Eight bowlers have bowled for Surrey in this game, with very little success - here's hoping that next time out fewer have a bit more success.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Derbyshire = good. Surrey = poor.

Day two of the new season and Surrey are well and truly behind the 8 ball at the Oval. Derbyshire battered their way to 451 thanks in part to a tasty last wicket partnership worth 51 off not many balls. Meaker eventually finished off the innings getting a tail ender out, surprisingly, by bowling full and straight. Well there's a surprise.

Harinath and Spriegel started deathly slowly, at one point they'd crawled to 11 off 11 overs, but they did at least keep their wickets intact. They both batted ok, Harinath looked composed for the most part and Spriegel while not fluent was grinding it out. From 44-0 Surrey blundered to 53-3, Spriegel got a very good ball but Harinath and particularly Afzaal got out to poor strokes. That brought skipper Hamilton-Brown to the crease who looked in decent nick, but Groenewald had him LBW after he'd scored just 9.

Ramprakash and Davies batted very nicely together and put on a century partnership before Kolpakker Peterson had Davies caught at slip, bringing in Gareth 'batting far too high at number seven' Batty. He survived, mercifully, to the close.

Surrey have a battle on here, Ramprakash basically has to save this innings single-handedly, and that won't surprise him or anyone else. Derbyshire bowled well, their seamers were very tight, Rogers (increasingly in my view one of the best captains in county cricket) rotated them well and they had a good tempo about them. Spin wasn't introduced until the 35th over and when he did come on Peterson was turning it nicely.

Surrey at 185-5 won't see this as the batting road that Chris Rogers made it look, but a draw is salvageable here. Again, not a great start to the season, chasing the game. It hasn't quite been a disaster, but a marked improvement is required.

Note: Everything else is frankly irrelevant today after news of Steve Finn's 9-37 against Worcestershire. Incredible effort from the young lad, 14-106 figures for the match. If he ever gets near that again he'll have done well. Here's hoping he carries that form through the season!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Setting the tone? I hope not....

So Derbyshire finish the day on 306-5, with the imperious Chris Rogers still there on 178 not out from 282 balls. Couple of wickets for Batty, couple for Afzaal and one for Linley.

I am reluctant to be too negative, and I'm sure this pitch is a cracker for batting, but Derbyshire aren't the best side in the division and its a bit worrying that despite a clearout from last season, we're still managing to field the same seam attack from the end of last year. A seam attack which never seemed capable or likely to take 20 wickets in a game.

Where is Tremlett? His fitness might be being 'managed' but he played no pre-season and I've heard no report of an injury, so what's the reason for his absence? And Rao, our overseas replacement for Chawla - I thought he'd been signed for three championship games and he's missing this one, where is he?! Some explanation is needed from Surrey here.

I would expect the likes of Afzaal, Davies and of course Ramps to make hay on this pitch, Derbyshire look like setting a big total so we'll need them to. With our tail starting at seven, the burden weighs heavily on our top order. Here's hoping Surrey come out with a bit of fight tomorrow morning and bowl us back into the match.

Oh and also, I'm hearing word that at least two catches were dropped - this is inexcusable (unless of course they were impossible chances), Adams said that a lot of work had been done on fielding over the winter. Last two seasons drops have cost us far too dear, and we can't afford to have that happen again.

UPDATE: According to the Cricinfo report, Rogers was dropped on 46, Borrington dropped on 7, drops have already cost us a grand total of 146 runs and the season is one day old. Bad omen!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Surrey squad for Derbyshire game tomorrow

Chris Adams has named the squad for the first County Championship game starting at 11am tomorrow (at long last!), few names missing very disappointingly, no Rao yet, no Tremlett and no Michael Brown:

Rory Hamilton-Brown (c)
Arun Harinath
Matthew Spriegel
Mark Ramprakash
Usman Afzaal
Steven Davies (wk)
Gareth Batty
Stuart Meaker
Jade Dernbach
Andre Nel
Tim Linley
Chris Schofield

I maintain that I don't think Linley offers enough of a wicket taking threat. He keeps it nice and tight, but just doesn't take wickets, and wickets is what we need people! I fear that squad could be a batsman light, thought I suppose if Schofield and Spriegel continue their form of the last part of last season we might be ok.

To hear that Tremlett's workload is 'being managed' is a bit worrying at such an early stage, I'd have thought a good start to the season to give some momentum would be the priority. Clearly Adams doesn't think he's up to a four day game just yet, I'd like to know a bit more on that situation.

The Derbyshire squad looks pretty evenly matched with our lads too:

Chris Rogers
Wayne Madsen
Paul Borrington
Garry Park
Greg Smith
Dan Redfern
Robin Peterson
Chesney Hughes
Graham Wagg
Lee Goddard
Tim Groenewald
Steffan Jones
Mark Footitt

Not world beaters, but some real quality in there. Rogers is a class act, pure and simple. Peterson has international pedigree and Graham Wagg is a threat. Depends on the pitch, but this one could be headed for a draw. Though with a few days sunshine forecast ahead we should get all the overs in, so you never know!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Surrey sign Andrew Symonds!!!

As I called for here and here, Surrey have heeded my wise words and signed a genuine matchwinner for the T20 Cup in Andrew Symonds. Fair play to Mackay and Adams, they've obviously been working on this, and what a result.

If Chawla is available and the BCCI don't throw that particular toy out of the pram, a T20 side with him, Symonds, Nel, Ramps, Afzaal and Rory H-B in it could give us a bit more to cheer about than we've had in the past. Excellent news!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Another one that got away.....

David Warner has signed for Middlesex...somewhere deep down I thought we might dip into our deep pockets and sign him. Alas no. Is it just me or is there a lack of ambition here from Surrey? Middlesex only found out a couple of weeks ago that Yuvraj wasn't coming, so they got straight on to signing a world class replacement...we've been one overseas signing short for the T20 Cup for months and....nothing.

The overseas players are a statement of intent, its important. Afridi, Mendis, Razzaq, Warner, Pollard, Morkel, Gilchrist...all players NOT coming to the Oval...sort it out Adams!

Four day cricket is almost back....

It feels like its been an age since I last went to the Oval and saw a red ball bowled, but come this weekend I'll be back there to see the start of Surrey's 2010 County Championship campaign.

The pre-season friendly against Cambridge did little to inspire, the batsman did what was expected and scored plenty of runs, the bowlers were a little less than incisive, though Dernbach's four-for is encouraging.  Linley isn't up to it at this level if you ask me, Jewell is still too young to judge and we haven't learnt much about Stuart Meaker that we didn't know already - pretty quick but not taking the wickets we'd like.

That said, the attack should take on a pretty different look come the weekend.  Rao will presumably be available, Tremlett and Nel likewise, on early season pitches that could make for a very potent attack.  To fit four seamers in might be a bit much to ask, if we want a spinning option as well that means Gareth Batty at number seven, definitely a place too high, but that would give us an awful lot of bowling:

Hamilton-Brown (c)
Davies (wk)

Alternatively, a more cautious approach would be to put Spriegel at six, and have him, Hamilton-Brown and Afzaal doing the spinning duties, if the wicket is a bit green and there's a bit of cloud about, that might not be such a bad idea.

Hamilton-Brown (c)
Davies (wk)

Whatever the lineup, its an awful lot stronger than we had last year and I'm an awful lot more confident now than I was then!

Saturday, 3 April 2010

40 overs, 469 runs, 10 wickets. Who is Man of the Match?

Here's a few of the numbers from today's Chennai vs Rajasthan match:

Murali Vijay: 126 runs off 56 balls
Albie Morkel: 62 runs off 34 balls
Naman Ojha: 94 runs off 55 balls
Shane Watson: 60 runs off 25 balls

Albie Morkel: 4 overs, no maidens, 2 wickets for 56 runs
Sudeep Tyagi: 4 overs, no maidens, no wicket for 45 runs
Murali: 4 overs, no maidens, 1 wicket for 52 runs
Yusuf Pathan: 4 overs, no maidens, no wicket for 44 runs
Shaun Tait: 4 overs, no maidens, no wicket for 44 runs

All of the above are remarkable, remarkable in the batsmen's cases for their phenomenal strike rate, to score 127 off 56 balls is some achievement make no mistake, remarkable in the bowlers' cases because of their horrible economy rates. But, and its a big but, the following figures are the most remarkable of all:

Doug Bollinger: 4 overs, no maidens, 2 wickets for 15 runs.

You read that right, Doug Bollinger, he of the most slappable face in cricket, conceded just 15 runs from his four over spell. Fifteen runs given away in a match where 469 runs were conceded in 40 overs, a collective run rate of 11.75 runs per over. 246 plays 223 wouldn't look out of place in a One Day International, but a Twenty20 match?!

Bollinger: Slappable, but bloody good.

Anyway, what is the significance of that? Well, he was shamefully denied the Man of the Match award, that was given to M Vijay for his spectacular hundred. Spectacular it may have been, and on another day entirely worthy of the MoM award, but of all the figures above, which set stands out from the rest? Which set of figures unquestionably won the match for his side? Which set of figures was completely unique among all the others? Bollinger's.

There's a serious point here, if the IPL does not see fit to award the man of the match award to a bowler who bowled fully 10% of the overs in a match but only conceded 3% of the runs, and for good measure took 20% of the wickets to fall, when exactly does a bowler get the man of the match award?! I'm all for big sixes and high strike rates, but the bowlers need to be recognised too, and Bollinger's performance today wasn't just the best of the match, it was in my opinion the best of the tournament so far.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Stat Attack: Which overseas players are best in the IPL?

On the interminable bus journey to work in the morning I was thinking about how Royal Challengers Bangalore have based much of their overseas contingent around South Africans, and I wondered if one particular set of overseas players has a better record in the IPL than others. So I gorged myself at the IPL stats table to find the answer...this is what I found:

Unsurprisingly Australian players top most of the charts, there are more of them in the IPL and have been for the first three years. But it doesn't end there, they also top the averages charts, from 236 innings played by Australians since the start of the IPL, they average an impressive 33.3, clear of South Africans - 30.7 from 206 innings and Sri Lankans - 26.8 from 133 innings.

Aussie Shaun Marsh averages a spectacular 67 in the IPL

Furthermore, they also top the charts on strike rates - those 33.3 runs have come at a strike rate, across the board, of 136.4 runs scored for every 100 runs faced. They're only marginally clear of New Zealand at 134, but significantly ahead of Sri Lankans on 129 and in a different league alltogether to South Africans languishing on 118. The English by the way only just nudge in ahead of the Saffers here, with a strike rate of 120.

Australia also have significantly more 50s and 100s than any other set of overseas players with five hundreds, no other country has more than one. They also have scored 44% more 50s than the next country in that particular list, South Africa.

So what about the bowling, maybe someone can redress the balance here? Well, yes actually, the Sri Lankan contingent does so. While Aussies have taken more wickets (148) than anyone else, they have done so at a higher average (26.4) than Pakistani (18.5), English (22.1) and Sri Lankan (22.8) bowlers. Similarly they languish in fourth place in the bowling strike rate stakes, only taking a wicket every 20.8 balls, behind Pakistani (14.2), English (17.5) and Sri Lankan (20.4) bowlers. While Pakistani and English bowlers do feature prominently here, it is only Sri Lankans who have bowled a significant number of overs and can therefore produce a truly representative stat.

Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga takes wickets, but also doesn't give away too much.

The Australians regain some pride slightly with their economy rate, coming in only behind Sri Lankan bowlers (who give away just 6.6 runs per over), giving away 7.4 runs per over. Incidentally South African and English players are very close behind here, with economy rates of 7.4 and 7.5 respectively.

So basically, you want your batters from Australia, and your bowlers from Sri Lanka. In short you want Murali, Malinga, Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh. If you want a wicketkeeper, Gilchrist is your man. Honourable mentions here though for the likes of Ross Taylor, Hayden, McCullum, Yusuf Abdulla and Langeveldt.

So what of England's players? Well its difficult to draw any conclusions because of the tiny sample, relatively speaking. For example Shane Warne and Dirk Nannes have both each bowled significantly more overs than all of England's representatives combined. English players have only bowled 14% of the overs Australians have, and have only batted 20% if the innings Australians have. No country has bowled fewer overs in the IPL, and only Pakistani players have batted fewer times - and they're not even in it this year! Australian players have scored almost as many fifties as English players have played innings (42 to 48).

Dirk Nannes: bowled lots of overs

This could have serious ramifications. Of course English players will play a few Twenty20 Cup matches (though the centrally contracted players, KP, Collie, Morgan etc. will play virtually none) but they won't encounter the quality of batting and bowling that they will in the IPL. With Twenty20 increasingly becoming the fulcrum of world cricket, its more and more important that English players are well versed in the requisite skills for that format, and the IPL has to be seen as a way to acquire these. Not that its especially likely that many more English player will be headed that way with the ongoing tensions between the ECB and the BCCI! Also, I'm not sure there's that many who could force their way in to the current sides.

With the sheer volume of Twenty20 cricket they're playing, I would suggest that Australia are well placed to improve their lamentable record in that particular format, and they may well dominate, just like they have all the others. Which is incredibly annoying. Anyway, This was done mainly to satisfy my own curiosity, but its at least partially interesting!

NOTE: The stats are accurate up to the end of the Kolkata-Deccan game yesterday evening, and while there mayb be a couple of players missing here and there, I'm pretty confident I've included 95% of the overseas contingent of the IPL.