Friday, 28 May 2010

A break from blogging!

I'm off on holiday as of tomorrow, and will thus not be blogging for a week.  Nevertheless, I want to wish Surrey the best of luck for Tomorrow's game with Glamorgan and the game next week with Leicestershire.  And of course England in this game and the game at Old Trafford!

Some good news, some bad. And Younus (not Younis)

Lets start with the good: Stuart Meaker and Chris Tremlett come back into play for this match, the former after a foot injury and the latter was probably just rested because of the completely stupid schedule.  And the bad?  Well Andre Nel has gotten himself suspended again, another ECB Code violation, this time apparently for throwing a ball at Niall O'Brien.

Some will say that's just Andre Nel, I'd say its just stupid whoever you are.  He's been around too long now to still be getting himself suspended like that.  He's now been banned for four Championship matches - a quarter of the season and he's really letting the side down.  Coming off the back of a particularly splendid performance makes it all the more galling.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand, the squad for the Glamorgan game is thus:

Younus Khan
Arun Harinath
Mark Ramprakash
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Usman Afzaal
Steven Davies
Matthew Spriegel
Gareth Batty
Tim Linley/Stuart Meaker
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach

12th man:  Chris Schofield

Perhaps a bit harsh on Schofield, who didn't bowl terribly at Northants, but he did only take one wicket bowling 21 overs in the fourth innings.  His 29 runs in our first innings were vital, but I think Batty offers more all round at the moment.  They should not, repeat not go for two spinners, the vast majority of wickets this season at the SWALEC Stadium have fallen to seamers.  The other decision to make is whether to play Linley or Meaker.  Linley bowled well at Northants and picked up his first five-for, but Meaker took a bunch before his injury, so its a tough call.  I think they'll go with Meaker, who also offers more with the bat, but I think either will do a decent job for us.  Of course they might elect to rest Tremlett with the Leicestershire game coming so soon after this one, and at the Oval, in which case they might play both Linley and Meaker.

The elephant in the room so far is that Younus Khan (it seems we're going with Younus rather than Younis) is finally in the side, though for how long remains to be seen!  To have Ramps, Younus, Afzaal, RHB and Davies in the side is an excellent mix of aggressive bats and accumulators, and if they can click we could be in for a big score.  Younus' arrival will probably mean Davies moves back to the middle order, which I'm more comfortable with, he looked very comfortable there at the start of the season.

However Glamorgan are a good side, coming off the back of consecutive innings victories followed by a ten wicket win, they will have bags of confidence.  James Harris, with 31 Championship wickets to his name already, will very likely take the field, Cosgrove got a hundred in the last match (and hit a massive 175 last time he played Surrey) and Allenby has been in good form.  Their full squad is as follows: GP Rees, MJ Cosgrove, JWM Dalrymple, BJ Wright, J Allenby, TL Maynard, MA Wallace, JAR Harris, RDB Croft, DA Cosker, WT Owen, DS Harrison and HT Waters.

Whatever the team and whoever the opposition Surrey have to continue in the positive frame of mind they showed for the last two days of the Northants game, no going back into your shell now boys!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Around the Grounds: Plays of the Day

Division One:

Adam Lyth completed a remarkable series of hundred-ninety-hundred-ninety today, he was out just two short of a hundred and instead of four consecutive hundreds he has to make do with two and two fifties.  Yorkshire declared just short of 300 giving Hampshire an un-chaseable target which their openers pointedly refused to even attempt to go for.

Ryan ten Doeschate scored a run-a-ball fifty as Essex set Lancashire 336 in about 80 overs, it petered out into a bore draw, the days of all the games in Division One producing results seemed a long way off!

Division Two:

Derbyshire did well to make it to 166 having been 15-4 at one stage, Jon Lewis, far too good for the Second Division came away with parsimonious figures of 4-25.  Derbyshire 130 short.

Surrey won a match, that's news enough.  But Ramprakash did an Adam Lyth impression completing a run of hundred-hundred-seventy-seventy, averaging 237.5 from the last four innings.  Andre Nel also took four wickets.

Rain ruined any chance of a result on the final day of Worcestershire's game with Sussex, Worcs ended the day on 205-6, Solanki reaching 61.  Actually even without the rain this almost certainly would've been a draw.  Monty Panesar took four wickets in the match to take his tally for the season to 16 at 31 apiece.

That's the last Around the Grounds before I'm off on a well deserved holiday, but fingers crossed Surrey keep the momentum going!

Consecutive wins...against Wantage Road

If I was a Northants fan I'd count myself a bit unlucky, the members at Wantage road have had Surrey, they of just the two wins in 38 matches, visit twice inside twelve months now, and seen their side lose on both occasions.

Surrey turned around what looked like it could conceivably have been an innings defeat if all had gone wrong yesterday morning into a pretty comfortable victory today.

At 210-7, still 38 short of the follow on target, Surrey could've capitulated and handed the initiative to Northants.  But they didn't, they showed immense character and resolve to win the key sessions - something they have this season thus far failed to do.  With six Northants wickets remaining this morning a draw looked marginally the most likely result but Surrey collected those notorious early wickets and had the opposition back in the hutch by lunchtime.  Andre Nel followed up his 96 yesterday with 4-61 to complete an excellent match for him.

With 241 the target we might reasonably have expected Surrey to start tentatively but both Harinath and Davies both started aggressively and their intent showed the rest of the Surrey batsmen the way.  Though Davies got out early for just 25, Harinath continues to contribute, 48 today and then Ramps, well Ramps is just incredible.  His last four innings read 223, 103*, 70 and 78*, averaging in the 70s for the season.

Rory Hamilton-Brown was his customary aggressive self with 45 at better than a run a ball and by the time he was out the target was below 100 for Ramps and Afzaal to shepherd the side home to.

We should be under no illusions, this is only a drop in the ocean and we are still rooted firmly to the foot of the table - there is loads of work still to do, but the character the lads showed in this game was outstanding, now to Glamorgan for two in two!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Around the Grounds: Plays of the Day

Division One:

Neil McKenzie continued to justify his position as my pick for the best Kolpak signing of the winter with 91 today, helping to lift Hampshire to 351.  Adam Lyth continued his impressive form, ending the day 64 not out, to get to within spitting distance of 1,000 runs before the end of May.  He should surely be firmly in the selectors' sights.

Essex continued to build a substantial lead against Lancashire, Jaik Mickleburgh recorded 64 before running himself out.  Lancashire's batting woes will be tested by Essex's young but impressive seam attack tomorrow.

Murali Kartik - an excellent example of an overseas signing who has a real impact (why didn't the spoilsports at the BCCI ban him?!) took 6-61 to all but take Somerset to victory.  They knocked off the 45 runs needed to victory in barely 10 overs for the loss of only one wicket.

Division Two:

The Gloucestershire-Derbyshire game saw another 400+ innings without a century, Chris Dent falling just two short on 98 to leave Derbyshire with a tricky 300-odd chase on the final day.

In an incredible game at Grace Road Glamorgan's Harris and Harrison took 4 wickets apiece to finish off Leicestershire for just 71 - the lowest total in the championship this season.  Glamorgan then showed how decent the pitch was by polishing off the 198 runs needed to win without losing a single wicket - lardy Cosgrove finishing with 113 off 111 balls - I bloody love Cosgrove.

Andre Nel's 96 was unquestionably the innings of the day, he and Dernbach rescued Surrey from complete embarrassment with comfortably the highest partnership of the match - well played lads.

Murray Goodwin didn't add many to his overnight score and was out on Nelson - 111, but retiree Robin Martin-Jenkins and Yasir Arafat dragged Sussex up to 328 with 66 and 40 respectively.  Almost certainly a draw this one, barring a major miracle!

Andre Nel: Superstar Hero

Surrey just about edged past the follow on target...and then once Spriegel had shepherded us past that target and got out, the lad obviously knew they had a free hand, and there then ensued a 100+ rapid-fire partnership between Andre Nel and Jade Dernbach, who both made comfortably their highest first class scores in the process.

Dernbach had never previously scored a first class fifty, he finished unbeaten on 56, but it was Nel who was the star, his 96 - agonisingly short of a maiden first class hundred - was easily the highest of his career.

That partnership improbably took Surrey to within 11 of Northants' first innings total of 397, and dragged them right back in to the match.  From it being touch-and-go as to whether or not Surrey would make the follow on, they've given themselves an evens chance of winning the match.

Tomorrow morning the bowlers need to get in amongst the wickets.  Nel, who took 2 wickets despite opening the bowling just 10 minutes after he'd made the last of his 96 runs, and hopefully a night's sleep will only add to his accuracy.

Chris Schofield also bowled exceptionally well - at one stage he'd bowled 7 overs for 7 runs, with a wicket along the way.  Tomorrow morning Boje and Hall, Northamptonshire's South African spine, need to be prised from their positions quickly - if they are, Surrey are well and truly in with a chance of finishing off the tail and then having a go at a target of 250ish.  Come on the 'Rey!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Around the Grounds: Plays of the Day

Division One: 

Kent completed a remarkable two day victory over champions Durham today, Ntini grabbed 6-51 to come away with match figures of 10-103.  That takes him to 24 wickets at 19 for the season.

Adil Rashid cracked 51 from 83 balls and then took two of the three Hampshire wickets to fall to underline his all round credentials.  His England time will come again pretty soon.

Young left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan took an impressive haul of 6-74 for Lancashire against Essex, his second 5-for of the season to take him to 16 at just 17 apiece.  His batting chums couldn't back him up though, Lancashire were all out for 184, given some respectability by Sajid Mahmood's fourth 50 in 8 innings - scored at a strike rate this season of 88 - has he turned into a genuine allrounder?  1-89 in the Essex innings says no.

Somerset are well on top against Warwickshire with a lead of 163 largely thanks to 131 from 198 balls from the in-form James Hildreth.  Yes it was another hundred at Taunton, but he is a very talented player indeed.

Division Two:

The burly chap who was 12th man when Derbyshire played Surrey in April scored an impressive hundred against Gloucester today.  Chesney Hughes from Anguilla, made 118 from 224 balls to give Derbyshire a handy 103 run lead.  Young Gemaal Hussain continued his good form with 3-65.

Andrew McDonald did indeed score the 14 extra runs required for his first Leicestershire knock, he was 9th man out for 113.  Hoggard then took 4-32 to help Glamorgan to 166 all out.  It didn't end there though, Harris and Harrison, Glamorgan's confusing new ball bowlers have reduced Leicestershire to 45-5, game on.

I don't want to revisit Surrey's performance, but suffice it to say Mal Loye's hundred remains the best performance of the match despite Linley's worthy 5-for.

Worcestershire managed to rack up 464 without anyone getting a hundred, 5 half centuries including a 98 from on-loan wicketkeeper Ben Scott, who was unfortunately run out presumably scampering for his hundred.  Sussex are behind in the match at 188-4, the returning (Irishman) Ed Joyce making a good 67, as long as Murray Goodwin is still there - he's 109 overnight - Sussex will harbour hopes of rescuing the match.

Another lone hand from Ramps

Unless Matt Spriegel plays a very unlikely hand tomorrow Mark Ramprakash will have recorded the top score in a Surrey innings for the 14th time in the last 31 innings that he's played in, incredibly that means he top scores for us 45% of the time.  Such an over-reliance on one player is not healthy!

To be fair, I don't know the extent to which other sides rely on one player, but I doubt anyone does to the extent that we rely on Ramps.  Again today batsmen lost their wicket when well set, Davies, Hamilton-Brown and Schofield all made it to 30 or thereabouts and failed to kick on.  Afzaal, almost needless to say, failed again, his average for the season of 19 is indicative of a horrible run of form and only lack of credible alternatives is keeping him in the side.

Surrey also endured a pretty terrible end to the day.  When it looked possible that we might end the day five down with Spriegel and Schofield at the crease and going nicely, two wickets went down in rapid succession bringing Andre Nel to the crease before the close.

38 more runs are still required if Surrey are to avoid the follow on, and the combined batting talents of Spriegel, Linley and Nel ought to be just enough to see us over that line, but we're still firmly behind the curve in this match.

With two days still remaining and a side looking devoid of the confidence of the weekend this will be a tough one for Surrey to save.

A quick Younis Khan update, the Times of India reports that he left Pakistan today and is winging his way to Surrey as we speak.  That will hopefully mean he's in place to make the trip to Glamorgan for the match starting on Saturday, and boy do we need him!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Around the Grounds: Plays of the Day

Division One:

Durham continued their distinctly average few weeks, collapsing to Amjad Khan (5-43) and Ntini (4-53) who shared 9 of the 10 Durham wickets between them.  Amjad now has 22 wickets @ 29 and Ntini 18 @ 23 to form a very potent new ball pair.  No Durham batsman passed 30 in their innings and as the day ended Kent's first innings lead was approaching 200 after a rapid 99* from just 106 balls from Darren Stevens.

Adam Lyth's form shows no sign of dipping as he cracked his second hundred of the season for Yorkshire against Hampshire. He now has 755 runs at 68 to top the Division One run scorers chart.  Yorkshire well in charge at 300/3.

Ryan ten Doeschate lived up to his unexpectedly high career batting average of 50 with an unusually sedate 85 off 173 for Essex against Lancashire.

At Taunton wickets tumbled - you don't hear that often - and for the second time in recent weeks Warwickshire capitulated for a derisory first innings total, this time 127 all out.  Alfonso Thomas excelling with 5-41.

Division Two:

19 year old Atif Sheikh impressed with 3-78, but off only 12 overs - his high economy rate largely accounted for by his faintly ridiculous 14 no balls, giving away 28 extra runs in the process.  Good talent, needs to work on his run up!

Andrew McDonald hit a maiden Championship fifty with 86 off 163 balls but was running out of partners with Leicestershire ending on 263-8 - he'll be hoping someone can hang around long enough for him to pick up those 14 runs.

I've covered Mal Loye's knock below, but his partner Nicky Boje warrants a mention with 77 at a very decent lick.  Alas no Surrey bowler is worthy of mentioning here....well go on then, Tom Jewell picked up his maiden first class wicket, and a good one too, Andrew Hall caught behind for just 5.

The innings that got away

A day of peaks and troughs for Surrey.  Well sort of, a poor first session with only one wicket falling was followed by a really good afternoon session with four wickets and back down to earth with an evening session with no wickets at all.

Surrey's new ball bowling has been both ineffective and a touch unlucky this season, the average opening stand after today's 90 partnership against Surrey is 47.3, as compared to an average opening stand for Surrey of 16.1 so far, is a major area where we are losing out.  This time Steve Davies, impeccable yesterday, was guilty of dropping Niall O'Brien off the bowling of Andre Nel.  O'Brien went on to make a rapid 44 of 54 balls.

After that, Jewell and Linley combined with Dernbach to remove four Northants batsmen in the afternoon session, before Mal Loye and Nicky Boje put together a huge 160 run sixth wicket partnership.  Before this match Loye was averaging 12 in the Championship with less than a hundred runs all season.  Surrey helpfully put him right back in form, just as they did with Strauss last week!

If the bowlers had rammed home the advantage with Northants five down we could've taken this game by the scruff of the neck, but as it is Northants are well in control.  Hamilton-Brown will be particularly disappointed having put the opposition in to bat.  Yet again, quick wickets in the morning session are the order of the day.  I fear that 450-500 will be too imposing a total for Surrey's batting to stand up to.

The inability to transfer the confidence and energy of the CB40 games over the weekend into the Championship game is very frustrating, and to be behind the 8 ball on day one of another Championship game is bitterly disappointing.  Hopefully (there's always hope!) we can get amongst them tomorrow morning and wrest the initiative back.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

No sign of Younis for the Northants game

Chris Adams has named the following squad for the game with Northamptonshire starting tomorrow, incredibly coming off the back of a four day game last week and two CB40 games over the weekend:

Matthew Spriegel
Arun Harinath
Mark Ramprakash
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Usman Afzaal
Steven Davies
Gareth Batty
Tim Linley
Chris Tremlett
Andre Nel
Jade Dernbach

12th man: Chris Schofield/Tom Jewell

The batting lineup and selection is of course my own estimation.  There is no Younis Khan as yet, and it looks increasingly likely that he will play very little part in our Championship campaign with only two further games between now and the end of his contract, which is frustrating.  It is disappointing to see Adams drop Evans after only one match.  Ok he was poor against Middlesex in a lineup that scored 500 in the first innings, but I thought his runs in the second XI showed he warranted at least a couple of goes.  It also means Spriegel is likely to return to the top, unless they go back to opening with Batty, neither of those options is desirable.

Meaker is still injured and I personally don't think Schofield is as effective in four day cricket as he showed himself to be in limited overs at the weekend.  I suspect when push comes to shove Adams will actually pick Schofield in Meaker's continued absence through a foot injury.  Jewell has scored plenty of runs in the seconds but he's in the squad as a bowler, I'd like to see Matt Dunn given a go, but that doesn't seem likely.

The fact that we're a batsman light persists which is another reason why Adams might go with Schofield because of his batting ability.  Hopefully Nel, Tremlett (heartening to see him play so much!) and Dernbach can continue their excellent work of today and the spinners won't have much work to do anyway.  Northamptonshire are a dangerous side, they beat Sussex by three wickets in the CC last week (their third win in 6 games) so have plenty of ability.

The results from Friday and today should give the Surrey players bags of confidence, not to mention the performance against Middlesex, so here's hoping they can carry that on and pick up a win - Northants are after all the only side we've beaten in the last 37 Championship matches!


Surrey dishing out batterings is a rare thing indeed, but today they did just that, beating Lancashire by 8 wickets with almost 100 balls to spare, a superb performance.

On a pitch with plenty of even bounce and carry Surrey were asked to bowl by the opposition, and got off to a real flyer.  Tremlett and Nel bowled fantastic lines and lengths with plenty of pace and aggression, and Dernbach at first change was even better.  The much-vaunted (by me!) Lancashire top order were made to look very uncomfortable indeed.  They duly reduced Lancs to 39-5 and but for an excellent 100 partnership between Chilton and Sutton it would've been far worse for them.  Dernbach's back-of-the-hand slower ball in particular was impressive, but the bowling unit as a whole deserves much praise.

The fielding was also superb, a huge improvement on Friday's performance. Nel, Afzaal, Dernbach, Schoey and Wilson made excellent saves on the boundary and elsewhere the lads were excellent.

Even when it looked like Lancashire could recover and post a half decent total, Nel and Dernbach came back in during the batting powerplay to successfully restrict them and the eventual total of 165 always looked short.

Davies and Hamilton-Brown, reunited at the top of the order, made it look silly though.  RHB came out blazing again and this time it came off for him, by the time he was unluckily bowled off his pads by Smith for 65 off 46 balls the match was as good as won.

Davies was there at the end, a quite superb 82* from 69 with three sixes and now averages 111 in the CB40 competition with three fifties in three innings.  He scored many of his runs behind square on the off side and bizarrely it took until the game was gone for Lancashire to bowl around the wicket to him instead of feeding the cut shot which he played incredibly well.  The first fifty for Surrey came off 37 balls, and the second two came off 44, superbly paced throughout.

Evans came in at three after Ramps was rested and looked a touch out of his depth, he was out to Croft's part time spin for 3 from 14.  I hope his time will come, but I'm not sure his time is right now.

The selection was still a bit odd if you ask me, Wilson, a man with a batting average of 17, picked as a specialist bat pencilled to come in at eight, very strange.  But that said, they steamrollered Lancashire and full credit to everyone.

I hope the side can take this sort of confident batting, bowling and fielding into the Championship game with Northants starting tomorrow.  The fact that the schedule over these three weeks sees Surrey playing 18 days of cricket in 22 days is ridiculous, but I won't harp on about it here!

Well played Surrey!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Rematch: Surrey vs Lancashire

Surrey make the long journey to Old Trafford in the hope that they can continue their 100% (excluding the Unicorns washout) record in the CB40 competition, and repeat their victory from Whitgift earlier in the season.

The Lancashire squad is as follows: Glen Chapple (capt), James Anderson, Mark Chilton, Steven Croft, Paul Horton, Simon Kerrigan, Sajid Mahmood, Stephen Moore, Stephen Parry, Ashwell Prince, Daren Powell, Luke Procter, Tom Smith, Luke Sutton (wkt).

That's a very dangerous looking side, Chapple and Anderson missed the game at Whitgift and it could be the first time Lancashire field their first choice attack featuring that pair and Mahmood.  That will be a tricky prospect indeed for Surrey.  It remains to be seen if Daren Powell will play as well, I hope so, because I think he's pretty average.  Tom Smith is a good young player who bowled very well at Whitgift and I hope he features.

Lancashire's batting is strong too, Moore has two CB40 centuries to his name already while the entire Surrey team have none between them.  Prince (who also has a hundred this season), Croft and Horton complete a very strong top order.  Hogg, if he plays, Mahmood and Chapple are more than capable of adding a few lusty lower order runs.  Lancashire could line up:


Smith's batting has been a bit lacklustre, so they may choose to open with Moore and either shift Smith down the order or bring in another batting option.  With the strength in that seam bowling unit, I fail to see how Surrey can risk going into the game with only four pure batsmen (Spriegel still has to be classed as an allrounder at this level and Wilson is unproven/not good enough - delete as you see fit!) as they did yesterday, and I hope the lineup will be:


I still wonder whether Walters is of the necessary quality at this level, but if two of the top four can put together a decent partnership, Walters and Spriegel should be able to cobble some runs together.  I still think Spriegel is a place too high, but unless Younis has arrived overnight there isn't a strong enough batsman to come in.

Someone needs to take responsibility for the innings as well, Surrey have has 26 innings by opening batsmen this season in all competitions and only 6 fifties have been registered by them, and no hundreds whatsoever.  That needs to be addressed.

The return of Davies at the top is a huge boost and hopefully his quick runs will provide the necessary impetus whether setting a target or chasing one.  Dernbach may be persisted with, and that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing despite his horrible four overs on Friday, but Linley has been performing well in the seconds and though not a wicket taker, could perform a more containing role than Dernbach can.

This will be a tough match for Surrey, on paper Lancashire look the stronger of the two sides.  The combination of Chapple/Mahmood/Anderson have plenty of experience (all internationals to a greater or lesser extent) and bags of ability.  I think it will be important for Surrey's top order to target Mahmood who is prone to leaking runs.  If they can do that and really kick off, they could just sneak it.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Chris Schofield: Matchwinner

I'd all but written my review castigating Surrey's laughable attempt at a run chase, and then Chris Schofield went and played probably his best innings for the club.

When Matt Spriegel got himself out with 98 runs still needed from 85 balls, and only four wickets remaining, it looked like Surrey's unbeaten run was about to come to an abrupt end, but Schoey was having none of that.  He proceeded to play some really quite superb shots in an innings of 64 from 55 balls to win the game, in spite of some stupid top order batting from Surrey.

Hamilton-Brown began the reply, needing just 5.6 an over to overhaul Glamorgan's 223, as if every ball needed to go to the boundary and after playing some nice aggressive shots was out for 21 off 11 deliveries trying to hit his fifth boundary.  Walters - Hamilton-Brown's opening partner - lasted barely six overs more before he missed a straight one to be LBW to David Brown.  Afzaal and Ramprakash looked comfortable in putting on 42 at exactly a run a ball before Afzaal played his now customary utterly stupid flash outside off and was well caught at slip.  His feet movement was extremely poor and having already hit a boundary in the over didn't really need to press the accelerator too hard.

But a multitude of batting sins, Afzaal chief among them with Wilson running himself out for a duck close behind, were hidden by Schofield's knock.

Surrey's bowling started poorly, Nel went for 22 in his first three overs and while Tremlett was able to keep it tighter at the other end, Dernbach leaked 30 runs from his horrible first three overs.

The spinners choked the middle of the innings nicely and after Cosgrove and Allenby put on 88 for the first wicket it could've been a lot worse than Glamorgan's final total.  For some reason though Gareth Batty, who was statistically the pick of the bowlers with 2-25 and was turning the odd one nicely, only bowled 6 of his allotted 8 overs.  Gary Wilson effected two impressive stumpings in a decent display behind the sticks.

Surrey's fielding was again poor, countless fumbles and a couple of drops from Hamilton-Brown and a particularly poor one from Schofield cost them plenty of extra runs - though he later did more than enough to make up for that!

Despite Schofield's heroics, I still think there was one too many bowlers in the side.  The management's insistence on continually stuffing the side full of bowlers is baffling, but what do I know, they're unbeaten so far!  I would expect Dernbach to be dropped for the game on Sunday, probably for Linley, but I think they'll go with the same sort of balance.  Davies back in at the top of the order does shore up the batting somewhat in any case.

Another resilient performance from Surrey which is good to see.  If we can continue to grind out those results with Brown, Jordan and Younis, not to mention Symonds still to come in our limited overs sides, we could spring a surprise come the end of the season.

Surrey vs Glamorgan - squad named

Surrey have named their squad for the game today and Sunday's with Glamorgan and Lancashire. Its a considerably weaker squad today for the absence of Steve Davies who has been excellent at the top of the order - but he will return for the Lancashire game.

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Stewart Walters
Mark Ramprakash
Usman Afzaal
Laurie Evans
Matthew Spriegel
Gary Wilson
Gareth Batty
Chris Tremlett
Andre Nel
Jade Dernbach

Bench: Chris Schofield, Tim Linley

I have a real concern that if RHB, Ramps and Afzaal don't fire, or even if only one of them fires, that this side will be taken to the cleaners pretty rapidly. Walters did a good job of shepherding the side home against Lancashire, and it remains to be seen whether he'll slot back into the middle order with Afzaal opening or vice-versa, perhaps even Evans might open up if he's picked. If Ramprakash can continue his stunning week and RHB can carry on with his rapid-fire starts, we could post a decent total.

The Glamorgan squad is a pretty strong one: Allenby, Cosgrove, Dalrymple, Maynard, Wright, Rees, Brown, Wallace, Harrison, Owen, Cosker, Ashling and Waters. The absence of James Harris, who is on Lions duty, is a big blow for them - both sides are down one star thanks to the Lions! Cosgrove and Maynard are bot averaging 50+ in the CB40 and Allenby found some form in the championship game this week. Their bowling doesnt on paper look very strong, but neither does our batting, so it should be a fairly even match. Though the fact that Surrey haven't won in Cardiff since 2003 and the last match saw a comfortable win for Glamorgan doesn't bode well.

The game is live on Sky too, so its a good chance for Hamilton-Brown to show off his captaincy in front of the cameras! The game starts at 4.30pm and will be shown on Sky Sports 3.

Around the Grounds - Plays of the Day

Division One:

Ben Stokes followed up his impressive first innings hundred with a quickfire 42 from 22 balls to hurry Durham to victory over Kent by six wickets. Definitely one for the future, and probably not the too distant future!

One of the finest Kolpak pick-ups of the winter was in my opinion Neil Mackenzie who proved his considerable worth by edging Hampshire over the line against Notts yesterday. His excellent unbeaten 115 from 228 balls saw Hampshire to victory by two wickets.

Unquestionably the innings of the day from James Hildreth in Somerset's game with Yorkshire. A fixture between these two last season saw Peter Trego hit a rapid hundred to take Somerset home, and this time James Hildreth hit a brilliant 102 from 70 balls to win the match. He might be back in the selectors minds if he can continue that kind of form. Joss Buttler also warrants a mention, continuing his rich vein of form by hitting 31 from just 17 balls alongside Hildreth at the end.

Jonathan Trott couldn't single-handedly hold off Lancashire, his excellent 150 from 282 balls was ultimately in vain, but nonetheless a timely return to form with the international summer about to start (the same cannot be said of his Warwickshire colleague Ian Bell) Jimmy Anderson did picked up two scalps and got 26 overs under his belt ahead of the first test with Bangladesh next week. Glenn Chapple took four second innings wickets to give him impressive match figures of 9-96 - denied a ten wicket haul by Saj Mahmood who took the wicket of Trott, the last man to fall.

Division Two:

Sussex ran Northants close but a very patient 51 from 127 balls from Alex Wakely ensured Northants reached their victory target of 171, though he did get out with 10 runs still required! The wickets were shared round the Sussex bowlers in a very egalitarian fashion.

Glamorgan completed a second consecutive innings victory for the first time since 1948, dismissing Gloucester for 162, Rob Croft taking 2-51 and in the process becoming Glamorgan's fourth highest wicket taker in their history, he's now just 8 wickets short of 1,000 for the club.

Mark Ramprakash completed twin hundreds as Surrey declared on 207-3 setting Middlesex 370-odd to win. Andrew Strauss hit his second fifty of the match in the reply but a draw was always on the cards.

After his 92 in the first innings, Phil Jaques went two better with 94 off just 57 balls in the second innings to see Worcestershire to a comfortable victory against Derbyshire by 8 wickets. After a disastrous start to the season Worcestershire fans will be hoping that Jaques is now back in form - it looks a lot like he is! Some pretty horrible bowling figures for Derbyshire in that innings too, Tom Lungley's three overs of medium pace went for 29 runs.

Not a win, but a positive draw

In the end it did indeed peter out into a bore draw, the captains shook hands not long after 5pm with Middlesex only three down and with no hope of a result either way.

Without the star of Surrey's County Championship campaign, Steve Davies, there was a real chance that a Middlesex side containing Strauss, Shah, Finn and Udal could've run riot at the Oval. However a dead pitch and one Mark Ravin Ramprakash put paid to any designs Middlesex had on that sort of result. It was a resillient rather than rampant performance, but with more positives than negatives.

In different matches this year certain players have excelled, so if they could all excel in the same match, we'd have a chance of winning some games! Dernbach was excellent, Ramps is back in glorious touch, Meaker was good last time out and Tremlett has been impressive throughout. Nel needs to regain his knack of taking wickets before his place becomes vulnerable, if it isn't already.

My major gripe from this match is the pitch. The pitch for the Gloucestershire game, though we lost, was excellent - a good contest between bat and ball. This time though it was dead as a doornail, absolute rubbish. I do hope they heed the advice of a lot of fans and start producing more Gloucestershire-type wickets through the remainder of the season. We might lose more than we win to begin with, but we give ourselves a better chance of picking up maximum points by preparing more sporting pitches.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

County Plays of the Day

I'm determined to gorge myself on the day to day shenaningans of county cricket ever more, and I always find myself electronically flicking through the scorecards at the end of a days play and thinking "hmmm, that was a good knock" or "6-20, that's not a bad effort" and "who on earth is Anthony Ireland?".

So with that in mind I am doing my first County Cricket Plays of the Day feature. I'll try and complete one each day where there's a significant number of county fixtures. I'll just be picking out performances which I think deserve merit, no technical analysis or "I was there when..." just pure numbers. Here is my first, an amalgamation of the three days so far in this week's County Championship fixtures:

Division One:

Rob Key: 261 from 270 balls versus Durham. Against an attack featuring Steve Harmison Key rampaged to within 9 runs of his highest score at nearly a run a ball. No other batsman in the Kent innings of 424 passed fifty. Harmison's 4-52 warrants a mention too.

Ben Stokes, England's latest and brightest batting hope joined his former captain Dale Benkenstein in scoring a hundred in Durham's reply which took them to within six of Kent's total. His 161 off 202 balls hints at what a talent he is.

Makhaya Ntini took 5-84 to record his best figures this season.

In the Hampshire-Nottinghamshire game James Tomlinson took 5-66 in the Notts first innings and young Alex Hales made an impressive 136 from 254 balls in Notts' second innings - his maiden first class ton.

In the Yokshire v Somerset tie, Adam Lyth has been dominant at the top of the Yorkshire order, registering 142 from 255 balls in the first innings and just missing out on twin centuries by getting out on 93 in the second innings.

The Warwickshire-Lancashire game has seen some topsy turvy play. Glen Chapple grabbed 5-27 in Warwickshire's first innings of just 113, Neil Carter top scoring with 69 from 77 balls and not a single other batsman making double figures. In the Lancashire first innings Steven Croft was left stranded on 89* as he ran out of partners, and the Lancs second innings was only given a veneer of respectability thanks to Saj Mahmood crashing 72 from 85 balls to haul them up to 199. Chasing some improbable target Jonathan Trott is 102* but Warwickshire are six down and still need 177 runs to win.

Division Two

Stephen Peters did a sort of Rob Key-lite in racking up 136 from 251 balls, no other Northants player made it past 25.

In a palrty total of 175 from Sussex it cannot be said that Chris Nash didn't do his bit, his 78 off 116 was the only thing holding it together.

Glamorgan's Ben Wright lifted them to a mammoth 500+ total with 172 off 219 balls, Anthony Ireland the only man to make inroads for Gloucestershire with 5-114.

In Gloucestershire's reply both Alex Gidman and James Franklin managed to fall in the 90s, for 97 and 95 respectively.

Similarly Scott Newman and Andrew Strauss fell for 92 and 91 respectively in their first innings against Surrey. Ramprakash's 223 doesn't need mentioning again, but I thought I would anyway.

Darryl Mitchell hit 148 from 260 balls and Alexei Kervezee clobbered 130 from 175 in Worcestershire's first innings against Derbyshire. Incredibly Phil Jaques did not get a duck, but 92 runs. Robin Peterson continued to pick up wickets for Derbyshire though with 4-130. In Derbyshire's reply Steffan Jones came to the crease with his side tottering on 172-9, by the time he departed he had battered 86 runs off just 70 balls to lead his side (ably assisted by 35 from Tim Groenewald) to a more respectable 295 all out.

Back later with a round up of any impressive final day performances!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Surrey's best day of the season

All ten Middlesex wickets fell for a paltry 161 runs to leave them all out for 324, 166 runs shy of Surrey's mammoth first innings total and after Rory Hamilton-Brown declined to enforce the follow on Surrey piled on a further 165 runs to end the day 331 runs ahead with 8 second innings wickets in hand.

Had the lead breached the 350 mark today I think RHB would've been tempted to declare overnight, but as it is I think he'll want to add another 50 or so runs tomorrow morning, as quick as possible and then hope to pick up two or three Middlesex wickets before lunch.  But I don't think the pitch holds any devils so I would expect Middlesex to be able to bat out the day.

I was initially surprised at RHB's decision to decline the follow-on, but I suspect there was something in the back of his mind which wanted to avoid another home defeat at all costs, which is fair enough I think.  The decision was probably vindicated by the fact that Surrey progressed relatively untroubled to the close.

Jade Dernbach, after a decidedly indifferent bunch of figures yesterday came back strongly today, picking up 5-35 and ripping the backbone out of Middlesex's batting.  The other wickets were shared around Nel, Tremlett and two for Batty.  Its a measure of how below-par Dernbach has been that he's still only third in the Surrey batting averages, but hopefully today's haul sparks a permanent return to form!

On the batting front Harinath registered his third fifty of the season in assured style but will be disappointed again to have denied himself the chance of getting a hundred, bowled by Owais Shah of all people before the close.  Evans was out for 7 from 30 balls, one more than he faced in the first innings for 10 runs, and may be a bit out of his depth at this level.  I wonder if he'll get another chance because Younis is due to arrive before the next Championship game and Brown will be back after the Twenty20 break, so he'll be disappointed not to have seized his opportunity.  I hardly need mention that Ramprakash carried serenely on to 86* from just 102 balls, he really looks back to some superb form.

I would still anticipate the draw tomorrow, but today has given us many positives.  We know Tremlett's quality, now Dernbach has made a major contribution as Meaker did last game so now if Nel can find his wicket-taking rhythm the bowling might begin to take shape.  With Ramps back in form, Davies returning and Younis arriving the batting will look much stronger too.  Despite absolutely chuff-all points on the board, the rest of the season should be a good deal better than the first bit!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Ramprakash dominates...until Strauss and Newman dominate

Mark Ramprakash, not satisfied (as if he ever could be) with scoring his 110th first class hundred went on today to score his 11th first class double hundred for Surrey and in all his 16th first class double hundred - drawing him level with the greatest of Surrey batsmen Sir Jack Hobbs in the all time list - he'll have to go on for a few more years yet to approach Sir Jack's 199 first class hundreds though!

Yet another piece of humble pie is due to be delivered to my gob as well, "run machine" Gary Wilson did, to his great credit, notch his highest first class score today with 62, putting on a substantial partnership with Ramps and edging Surrey up towards 500 runs.  One swallow does not make a summer though, and 62 runs when the side already has 350+ on the board is not herculean, but what more can he do than score runs when called upon, well played Gary.

So 490 looked a formidable score, and it will be tough for Surrey to lose it from here, but Strauss and Newman displayed adequately quite what a docile pitch (and I'm told it is a docile pitch rather than terrible bowling) this is while putting on 148 runs in 36 overs, Dernbach continuing his worrying dip in form bowling 6 overs for 33 runs.  Nel's figures are also less than flattering and only Tremlett and Batty could keep the runs down, though no wickets for them either.

I've said this before and been proved desperately wrong, but this game has got draw written all over it, two days left and a very placid pitch, it should be a formality, what happened to the livelier pitches?!  Middlesex look certain to rack up something approaching Surrey's first innings score barring a collapse early doors tomorrow, and either side forcing a result from there would be miraculous.

An update on the Younis Khan situation, it turns out its not all that long term a deal, in fact he's only with us until mid-July, so perhaps they have another in mind for after that date.  It has also been confirmed that Piyush Chawla has been denied permission by the BCCI to come and play, spoilsports that they are, and also that Brian Lara won't be joining in any capacity.

Younis Khan to sign for Surrey

Something of a bolt from the blue, but it would appear it has been confirmed this morning that former Pakistan captain and alleged trouble maker Younis Khan has signed for Surrey and subject to visas may well be in place for Surrey's CB40 game with Lancashire at Old Trafford on the 23rd of May.

Suddenly his fallout with the Pakistani authorities is looking like a very handy thing indeed! Younis has played for Notts and Yorkshire before so has plenty of experience of England, and it hardly needs saying that he is a class act at this level.

5,200 test match runs at an average north of 50, 16 hundreds including a mammoth triple against Sri Lanka early last year mark him out as world class. He's also added the small measure of 5,600 ODI runs to boot.

According to Jason Cobb, faithful attendee at a members meeting this morning Younis was originally signed for the Twenty20 Cup (on the face of it an odd choice, but remember he did skipper - impressively - Pakistan to the World T20 title last year and was a source of good runs for their middle order), but has been persuaded to open the batting for Surrey in the County Championship. What an opportunity for young Harinath to have a modern master alongside him opening the batting, a fantastic proposition.

The initiative shown in addressing the overseas issue in the (presumed permanent) absence of Piyush Chawla by altering the signing of Younis to a long term one is welcome so credit to Adams and Mackay for that.

I would liken this signing to that of Ashwell Prince at Lancashire. A good test match player (or a great one in Younis' case) who has the requisite qualities to succeed in all forms of the game at this level. He is proven in international and county cricket and should be a real success. Well done Surrey!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Ramps back in the runs, Afzaal gives it away

The biggest positive of a fairly even first day against Middlesex at the Oval was that one M. R. Ramprakash got back to his hundred scoring ways.  Only Ramprakash could be said to be having a slump in form when he's averaging 50 with two hundreds from the first 5 games of the season, such is the regularity with which he scores his runs.  His 110th first class hundred was a while in the making, labouring for some time over notching the hundredth run, but his tiny dip in form was only ever likely to last a few innings and woe betide county attacks from here on in!

Both openers failed today, Evans fell for just 10 to some very tight seam bowling up front, and Harinath, having faced his customary 100+ balls was out caught behind off the bowling of Udal.  Ramps then set about rebuilding the innings with substantial 80+ partnerships with Hamilton-Brown and Afzaal, the former having promoted himself to number four in the order and looked very comfortable there.  He will be disappointed to have raced to fifty and then got out.

Afzaal, who looked to get back to some semblance of form in the tour match with Bangladesh struggled early in his innings, taking 26 deliveries to get off the mark where he is more used to battering boundaries early on.  He was foolishly out just before the close trying to hit Udal to the fence for 42.  Must do better than that Usman.

Still, Surrey are in a pretty decent position going in to day two with Spriegel coming in next and Batty and run-machine Gary Wilson still to come.  Meaker didn't play because of an injury, but Nel returns and Tremlett incredibly started his second consecutive championship game for Surrey.  Dernbach completes the bowling lineup and if it were not for Wilson's lack of runs in the past I'd say that this is a much better balanced side to avoid losing games - something which we need to start doing!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

World Twenty20 Select XI

After two weeks of some genuinely thrilling games, incredible performances and a thoroughly satisfying result, I thought I'd have a go at a team of the tournament:


Mahela Jayawardene
Craig Kieswetter

The inclusion of Jayawardene (302 runs @ 60) requires no justification, he carried a mediocre team to the semi finals but no man is an island and there was only so much he could do.  Kieswetter (222 @ 31) might be more controversial though, as his strike rate was an almost pedestrian 116.  However two things persuaded me that he was a better pick than Salman Butt, firstly he can keep wicket, so that frees up a slot lower down, and secondly in the final he proved himself a man for the big occasion.

Middle order:

Kevin Pietersen
Suresh Raina
Eoin Morgan
Mike Hussey

That is some engine room.  The value of KP (248 @ 62) to England, while not quite on the level of Mahela's to Sri Lanka, is immense.  He loves big games, and he was quite sublime throughout this tournament.  Suresh Raina (219 @ 44), while still incapable of playing the short ball, is a special talent and hits it as hard as anyone. Morgan (183 @ 36) is such an intelligent cricketer, he is able to revive an innings or keep the momentum going.  Hitting the ball in areas so many other can't, he'd make it into any side in the world right now.  Mike Hussey's (188 @ 94) knock of 60 off 26 balls in the semi final was one of the best Twenty20 innings I've seen and at times he single handedly dragged Australia to competitive totals.  His strike rate of 175 was comfortably better than any other.


Tim Bresnan
Graeme Swann
Saeed Ajmal
Dirk Nannes
Ryan Sidebottom

The choice between Bresnan, Cameron White and Steve Smith was a tough one, but England with their five proper bowlers prevailing over Australia in the final persuaded me that Bresnan's (3 wickets @ 52, econ rate 7) more reliable bowling would win him the slot.  The fact that he's not the best batsman in the world is off-set by the firepower up the order.  Swann (10 wkts @ 14, ER 6.5) barely bowled a bad ball through the whole tournament and offers a genuine wicket-taking threat without going for loads of runs.  Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait bowled rapidly and aggressively in every game, but I can't overlook Saeed Ajmal (11 wkts @ 15, ER 7.5).  But for that final over in the semi-final where the freakish Hussey took him for 17 in 5 balls, his figures would've been even more impressive.  He also possesses one of the best doosras in T20 cricket.  Nannes (14 wkts @ 13, ER 7) ended the tournament top of the wicket-taking charts and was 90mph+ on a regular basis, nice to see a Dutchman included too.  I was incredulous at the selection of Sidebottom (10 wkts @ 16, ER 7.4) in the squad, never mind when he was picked ahead of Anderson for the first game.  However I will be chowing down on some humble pie later because Sidebottom was really impressive, reliable, accurate and aggressive from first to last.

Players like Langeveldt (11 wkts @ 9), Nathan McCullum (7 wkts @ 17) and Kamran Akmal (180 runs @ 30) probably deserve a mention, for performing above expectations apart from everything else - so there is their mention.  I think the side above accurately reflects the players who contributed most to their sides performing well.  Perhaps Bresnan doesn't completely deserve to be in theri, maybe Raina didn't do quite enough and there's absolutely no runnings coming from that bottom three, but its the best I could come up with!

World Champions!!!

What a performance, England delivered an absolute battering to Australia today, winning by seven wickets with three overs to spare.  England have been the best team throughout the tournament and deserved to win, and produced a really first class Twenty20 performance.

They put Australia in to bat, knowing that Australia are very confident chasing almost any total, and duly reduced them to 8 for 3.  The Husseys and White propelled them to 147, but England made sure that total looked at least 25 runs short.

There was a tiny wobble when KP and Kieswetter got out in quick succession and maybe in the olden days England would've gone into their shells, but who should come to the crease?  Sir Eoin of Morganshire - he doesn't even have a shell to go back into.

It was a ruthless performance of the sort that England just haven't produced in the past.  Much credit should go to Collingwood, superb captaincy throughout, and also Andy Flower who has proved himself an excellent coach.  

Player of the tournament for England?  Very tough one to call, Kies and Lumb's impetus was vital, Morgan's runs were important and incredibly skilful likewise and Swann's bowling was right on the money throughout, but one man really imposed himself on every opposition he played against, step forward Kevin Pietersen.  Runs, buckets of them, and quickly too, he is a critical part of this team but it is by no means a one man team.  England won this as a unit, and a bloody good one at that!

Rao departs, Spriegel returns

Utterly useless bed-blocker Rao Ifthikar Anjum has now departed these shores having contributed just six wickets at 40 apiece in three matches, I don't think they'll be desperate to have him back any time soon.  We know about Davies' absence for the match this week with Middlesex which brings Gary Wilson in for the first time this season and Matt Spriegel returns after his accomplished hundred against Bangladesh.

The squad for the game with Middlesex, with my team preference as usual, is:

Arun Harinath
Laurie Evans
Mark Ramprakash
Usman Afzaal
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Matt Spriegel
Gary Wilson
Gareth Batty
Stuart Meaker
Chris Tremlett
Andre Nel

12th men: Chris Schofield, Jade Dernbach

Dernbach has been a bit wayward this season and hasn't taken the wickets we've needed him to at the times we've needed him to, so I think he has to make way for Nel (who also hasn't been terribly impressive, but marginally more so than Dernbach).  A three-pronged seam attack of Tremlett, Nel and Meaker if he can keep his decent form going, with back up spin options from Batty, Spriegel and Hamilton-Brown is plenty of bowling.

I hope they will open the batting with Evans rather than Spriegel, both of them scored their runs against Bangladesh at the top and in the middle order respectively, so why change a winning formula?  Afzaal's (hopeful) return to form is timely and what better moment for Ramps to get back to scoring hundreds than against his old club.  In reality, Batty and Meaker are more accomplished batsman than Wilson, but I didn't want to shame him by putting the wicketkeeper-batsman in below the bowling allrounders!

Hopefully the pitch at the Oval will resemble that for the Gloucester game, i.e. plenty of life.  I wouldn't fancy our chances against Finn, O'Brien and Murtagh, but a results pitch is the order of the day.  This will be a tough game against a team really on the up - their last two games have seen a convincing win inside three days and a win against a crack Sussex outfit.  Now would be an ideal time for Surrey to pick up our first win of the season!

Note: Just realised in advocating dropping Dernbach for Nel I've completely contradicted what I've said in the past about persisting with homegrown players!  I wouldn't be disappointed to see Dernbach given another game, and in reality there has been little to choose between the two of them this season.

Friday, 14 May 2010

The news all Surrey fans were all dreading...

Bad news I'm afraid, Steve Davies has been selected for the England Lions squad. Well its bad news for us, great news for him and just reward for a superb start to the season. This means Davies will be playing in the Lions game from 19th-22nd of May and will therefore be unavailable for selection for the Middlesex game presumably.

Our batting unit has been fragile in the extreme and he's been the only consistent run-scorer, his absence will be keenly felt especially against one of the finest seam attacks in the country (unfortunately Finn has not been selected for the Lions - presumably because he'll play in the first test anyway).

I've been a frequent critic of Gary Wilson and his performance in the game with Bangladesh did nothing to persuade me that he's a worthy deputy. I think even Wilson himself would struggle to make an argument that his performances were of the necessary quality.

The Lions team to face Bangladesh from the 19th is as follows:


Interesting that Moeen is in, deservedly as he's had a superb start to the season for Worcester, holding their batting together in much the same way as Davies has ours. Also it looks like Woakes will be tried at 7, he's had a good season with bat and ball so far so deserves a go, likewise Harris who has already clocked 30 championship scalps before May is out.

Intriguingly Monty Panesar returns. He has been reliable if not stellar for Sussex so far, but it'll encourage him to know that the selectors haven't forgotten he exists completely. I do like Steve Kirby as well, very good county cricketer who probably deserved a go at the England set up before now.

The batting unit might be one light, though if Woakes steps up that won't be a problem. Cook gets a chance to build on his 70 for Essex this week, Carberry has been in very good form as has Gale for Yorkshire. Taylor hasn't been scoring bucketloads of runs, but I think its fairly well acknowledged that he's a star.

In any case, that side should comfortably beat anything close to the side that drew with Surrey, even allowing for some of their bowlers adapting to the English conditions. A good chance for some youngsters (and some not-so-youngsters!) to boost their chances.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The England juggernaut rumbles on

They could at least have made it a nailbiter, some sort of top order collapse or a sudden flurry of wickets towards the end, but no, it was a thoroughly professional annihilation of Sri Lanka by seven wickets with four overs to spare.

The bowlers did their bit, Swann and Yardy tied down the batsmen in the middle overs bowling 8 overs straight for just 41 runs. They were able to tie SL down quite so well because England's three seamers each picked up a wicket in the first three overs.

Then the batsmen came out and just went about the total very sensibly but aggressively. Kieswetter in particular was excellent, his footwork against the spinners is quite excellent, and he continues to hit sixes while being incredibly lucky!

The form book says that England will almost certainly be playing Australia come Sunday, and it will be tough on that harder pitch in Bridgetown, but who's to say Lumb and Kieswetter won't enjoy that extra pace on the ball. And surely Tait has to implode at some point, he's been far too economical for my liking so far!

There are still little niggles, Bresnan's final over was messy, three wides did his figures no favours at all, and there were a couple of near-runouts early in the England innings when poor Sri Lankan fielding let them off in hilarious style.

England will have to be right on top of their game against a crack Aussie outfit on Sunday (no disrespect to Pakistan, I hope they make it, but I don't think they will). The Aussie bowlers have been superb, and though their top order has failed twice, in Warner, Watson, the Husseys and White they have some of the most destructive and in-form batsmen anywhere in the world. It will be a massive challenge, but this England side, more than any other in recent memory, is capable of taking the game right to them, good luck lads!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Dear Giles...

Right, I'm going to stick my neck on the line here with my proposal for the future of Twenty20 cricket in England. I would like to add a few caveats here; it is not a comprehensive proposal, because there are men in the ECB who know more about it than me, so they can do the leg work. And before anyone accuses me of abandoning the traditions of county cricket, I would say that this Twenty20 setup would not prejudice the current county structure, that would carry on regardless alongside it. Finally, its just a suggestion, I'm sure its riddled with many a problem!

Ok, so now the Terms & Conditions are set, here is my suggestion. There are nine test match grounds in England, so lets say we'd have a 9 team competition. There are some issues already because two of them are in London, so one ground outside of London that is not currently a test ground would have to be used. Currently there are 18 counties, so that works nicely, each one has to combine with another to create a city franchise. I know there are local rivalries, but Surrey-Middlesex isn't exactly El Classico is it? This is likely to annoy a lot of county members, but this is how I'd do it:

London (two teams - it is a city of 10 million people!) - Surrey and Middlesex combine with games to be played at the Oval and Lord's, and another team formed of Kent and Essex with games to be played at the Olympic Stadium or the Oval and Lords. Not sure what to do about the naming of two London teams though!

Cardiff - Glamorgan and Somerset combine with games to be played at Cardiff.

Nottingham - Notts and Leicestershire combine with games to be played at Trent Bridge.

Birmingham - Warwickshire and Northants combine with games to be played at Edgbaston.

Southampton/Portsmouth - Hampshire and Sussex combine with games to be played at the Rose Bowl.

Manchester - Lancashire and Derbyshire combine with games to be played at Old Trafford.

Leeds/Durham - Yorkshire and Durham combine with games to be played at Headingley & Chester Le Street.

Bristol - Gloucestershire and Worcestershire combine with games to be played at Bristol - the one non-test ground on the list - a possible major issue!

I would suggest that all proceeds are pooled and then shared between the 9 franchises and then filtered down into the county system. Now I know this sounds suspiciously like a certain other competition, recently finished in India, but that has brought a decent amount of success, even allowing for Modi's transgressions (alleged!).

I haven't really thought through the format, but I think the IPL consists of too many games, so perhaps three groups of three, followed by a Super Six group and so on. That actually makes for a pretty short competition, but if the games were played on Friday nights through the summer I think they'd draw big crowds starting at 6.30 or 7pm (allowing people to get there from work, the 5.30pm starts at the Oval are crazy, I work 10 minutes away and can't get there on time!) - and big crowds are precisely the goal of this operation.

I haven't quite worked out how the players' contracts would work, but it could either be that the teams combine and select a single T20 squad from their combined squads, or we could go down the IPL auction route. As for the overseas slots, perhaps three or four, and a requirement to play two or three England qualified players under 23.

What we do know is that the current county structure doesn't make all the counties enough money and they are beholden to Sky's TV money. This system might make more money - overseas investors might even be tempted, and you never know it might spark a renewed interest in domestic cricket. I refuse to accept that making it a city franchise system would detract from the County Championship - those who go and watch that will still go and watch that, it would still prepare players for England and we might even earn extra fans.

It might be workable, it might not, but I don't think its wise to just continue muddling on with the system we have as it isn't doing much good for the smaller counties, and it isn't doing as much as it could for the bigger ones.

So....over to you Giles...

Praise be, Afzaal remembers how to bat!

The Bangladesh game predictably ended in a draw, three day games are difficult to get a result out of even with generous declarations. But if this match only serves to have kicked Usman Afzaal up the arse and put him back on the road to his best form, then it'll be well worth it.

Afzaal is one of those players, he goes at the ball hard so sometimes he will get out for naff all but this season he'd been taking that to new heights. No hundreds and only one fifty will hopefully be banished to the memory banks by his barnstorming 159 from just 165 balls 98 of them coming in boundaries. The Bangladeshi bowling was lacklustre by all accounts, but maybe that was just what he needed to get back on the right track, I certainly hope so.

Laurie Evans made an assured 98 as well before being unluckily run out backing up, and probably cemented his place in the team for the game with Middlesex at the Oval on the 17th of May. Lancefield fell for 11 and Harinath only made it to 20, but there are plenty of positives to take from this game, please Surrey lets use this as a springboard!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Eight bowlers, six wickets - tough day for the youngsters

Surrey weren't completely outplayed by Bangladesh, but Jahurul Islam and Mohammed Ashraful with 158 and 89 respectively showed their class. Surrey's eight bowlers toiled through over 100 overs and it was only late in the day that wickets fell in any significant numbers.

Tom Jewell bowled 16 economical overs for just 22 runs, and Matt Dunn had a promising outing picking up 3-48, his wickets coming towards the end of the day and dragging Surrey back from the brink.

Meaker bowled just six overs for some reason, I don't know if it was an injury or if Schofield just preferred to bowl himself and Simon King. King was expensive throughout and only picked up a single wicket, I would be very disappointed to see him drafted into the first team on the basis of that performance.

Shakib is still at the crease and Rubel and Shahadat can fling the bat about, but Surrey should look to finish them off sharpish. Whether that happens or not I wouldn't expect anything other than a draw in this one.

Surrey will come out of it with some credit. Lancefield and Dunn are the standout performers for me (Spriegel and Meaker have already shown their talents before now) and I would not be disappointed to see the pair of them featuring plenty in the remainder of our season. Incredibly, our County Championship season is close to a write off already, so we might as well give Dunn, Meaker and Jewell plenty of overs and assess their performances as we go along.

England - unbeaten but for the vagaries of D/L

The only thing standing between England and a 100% record is the Duckworth/Lewis method, and they have been impressive throughout. I said that the lower middle order was a concern for me, and the main target of my ire, Tim Bresnan, delivered in spades today with a match winning 23 not out. I would still prefer him a place lower in the order, but today the Yorkshire boy did good. He also bowled four overs for only 20 runs, picking up the key wicket of Jesse Ryder along the way.

Morgan put in another vital contribution, his partnership with Wright went some way to winning the match for England and allowed Bresnan to finish it off in style. The semi-finals will be played on this ground as well, it looks to favour the teams with variety rather than extreme pace. England will face one of India, Sri Lanka or West Indies (most likely Sri Lanka if you ask me), and that could be a tough task.

Whatever happens, I think England have enough to overcome their semi-final opponents, and given that Pakistan will be playing Australia on this ground too, there is still a chance that it could be an England-Pakistan final - that's what I'm hoping for anyway because the final will be played at Bridgetown and Australia have already shown how destructive they can be on that harder pitch. Onwards and upwards!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Spriegel cashes in, Meaker misses out

A close to full strength Bangladesh began their tour of England against Surrey today - Ashraful, Shakib, Mahmudullah and Rahim all made an appearance today and when Chris Schofield (captaining the side) was dismissed leaving the side 135-6, it looked like the test team were a little too strong for their county opponents.

But...Matthew Spriegel, returned to the middle order at my behest scored a very smart hundred and put on just shy of 200 with Stuart Meaker, who will be disappointed to have missed out on his maiden first class hundred when he was dismissed for 94 just before the close. His dismissal triggered a very competitive declaration from Schofield, but Bangladesh survived the five overs they had to face before close - I must say I was particularly disappointed that Matt Dunn wasn't given one of those overs though.

Spriegel celebrates his hundred (image courtesy of James Cannon Photography)

So plenty of positives, Tom Lancefield played very positively before falling short of his maiden fifty on debut and although Laurie Evans didn't make a score, he will surely get a chance in the County Championship soon. Usman Afzaal continued his miserable form and I wouldn't be surprised of disappointed to see him banished to the seconds in favour of either of Evans or Lancefield (I'd play both and drop a bowler, surprise surprise!).

So a pretty positive day for Surrey apart from the brittle top order, Harinath just needs to get a big score I think and he'll go on to make more, and Evans and Lancefield can be excused given their inexperience and the fact that they were facing a test-class (albeit a low ranked one) attack. Hopefully Meaker, Dunn and Jewell will get amongst the wickets and give us Surrey fans something to smile about!

How good is this England side?

England waltzed to another victory in the Super 8s yesterday, making it two impressive victories in two, but just how good is the team at the moment?

It goes without saying that Pietersen and Morgan have been superb, KP yesterday especially looked like the man of old, playing with aggression and freedom that we haven't seen for perhaps two years. But the rest of the batting leaves a little to be desired. Have the opening pair provided the impetus we craved? Well yes and no, Michael Lumb has recorded an impressive strike rate of 150, but averages just 17, and though Kieswetter averages 9 higher, he has a strike rate of only just 100. He needs to play with a bit less fear and a bit more freedom and he'll be just right.

That said, twice in the tournament we've put on 60+ in the powerplays, and previously that would've been unheard of, so lets just say that the openers have worked and should be persisted with. So leaving aside the brilliant KP and Morgan, the next issue is the middle order.

Yes Wright performed well in that first match, but has been suspect ever since, and Collingwood has been a disaster, he has now recorded 185 runs in three World T20 tournaments at an average of 13, a lamentable record by any measure. Never has a man been so due a score, and without KP in the final Super 8s game, he'll need one.

Then my real bugbear, Tim Bresnan at number seven is insane, he is neither a big hitter or a clever maneuverer of the ball, give me Yardy or Swann or even Broad higher up the order - but the fact remains that our lower middle order is weak and should - god forbid - both KP and Morgan fail in future, we will be in real trouble. And the Sidebottom/Anderson debate is being had at length elsewhere, but I think Sid might have settled that one decisively yesterday.

All of that said, we have performed well in the tournament and we are on the cusp of our first World T20 semi-final, so I shouldn't be complaining at all. I think should we make it to the semis, we're looking strong. Australia look awesome, but our batsmen love pace on the ball and aren't so hot against spin. If it comes down to a match up between those two, I would be curiously confident of England's chances!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Surrey squad to face Bangladesh

That's not a title I'll write very often - this weekend Surrey have the privilege of hosting the Bangladesh side as they play their first warmup match ahead of the test series against England which begins at Lords at the end of the month.

Chris Adams has taken the opportunity, rightly in my view, to give some of the youngsters who have been performing for the Second XI a chance in what will be a full first class match. The squad for the game starting on Sunday is as follows, the team selection is my own work!:

Arun Harinath
Laurie Evans
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Usman Afzaal
Tom Lancefield
Matt Spriegel
Gary Wilson
Stuart Meaker
Matthew Dunn
Simon King
Tom Jewell

12th Man: Chris Schofield

It isn't the strongest looking side with Afzaal being the only man in the batting order with any first class experience to speak of, and for that matter the bowling is extremely raw as well, but if we can't try out new players in a match like this then when can we? Evans and Lancefield have been scoring plenty of runs for the Second XI and deserve a start, Spriegel should be returned to the middle order where I think he's always looked more comfortable, and for the umpteenth time, he should bowl more overs.

We are unfortunately back in the Gary Wilson era. A tally of 213 runs in 13 first class innings so far (and most of them against weak opposition) is indicative of his ability and without wanting to be too harsh on the bloke, I have barely seen a scrap of ability from him. I keep expecting him to prove me wrong because the management persist with him, but I just do not see it myself. I hope I am wrong.

Matthew Dunn went to the Under-19 World Cup with England so is a very bright prospect and it'll be good to see how he gets on. You never know, Meaker, Dunn and Jewell could form a completely homegrown pace attack for Surrey in the not-too-distant future.

I would fully expect that side to be beaten by a Bangladesh side that has yet to be named, but will surely have its fair share of quality players. But this will be a good test for them, and you never know, it might provide one or two of them with the springboard they needed to go on to bigger and better things.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

England win a full game of cricket (it didn't rain)

First things first, we did not have any rain interruptions, so I can (temporarily at least) stop moaning about ICC scheduling and Lalit Modi - I emphatically do not rule out returning to that though!

England brushed aside the reigning T20 world champions today by six wickets, Pakistan looked a little bit disinterested, but take nothing away from England, we batted, bowled and fielded well. KP hitting his stride just in time for him to bugger off home to see his wife is also ideal...oh wait, no its not. The thought of replacing KP with Ravi Bopara is a bit upsetting though.

Anderson still couldn't get in the side, and Sidebottom didn't disgrace himself, so there's little chance of poor old Jimmy getting in the side for the next match either, who has he upset exactly?! Yardy bowled well, and since they seem reluctant to have him bat too much, its a good job he's proving his worth with the ball!

Aamer, Asif and Razzaq should've proved more of an obstacle than they did, but they were dispatched with relative ease. Depending on which way the pitches go, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Shane Bond will prove more of a challenge in the coming matches.

But all you can do is win the games you play, and England didn't even need a Morgan-inspired escape act to do it today, so there is much to be happy about after game number one of the Super Eights stage for England.

Where should I start? One step forward, several back

Let me start with the positive, well done Stuart Meaker on your maiden first class five-for, I sincerely hope it is the first of very many! That is, as ever, where the positives end. I suppose I should feel fortunate that we even had one.

Inside three days Surrey have been rolled over comfortably yet again. It was a low scoring match, but really that has to go down as the most abject batting performance yet, once more only Steven Davies scored anything of note, though Harinath again proved himself to be a doughty competitor, he will go far.

Otherwise though no one batted with any responsibility, the likes of Afzaal and Ramprakash ought to take a long, hard look at themselves, they are providing little towards the team at present. The positives of the Worcestershire game, i.e. positive - but sensible - batting and plenty of runs seem to have all but disappeared.

We let the Gloucestershire tail wag far too much, we had them reeling at 139-7, and yet they clambered up to 248 before dismissing them, leaving our out of form and out of confidence batting lineup a mammoth 300 to chase. In the end the margin of victory flattered us, if it wasn't for some lusty hitting from Tremlett and Rao, we would've been even further off the mark.

Another of county cricket's classy overseas players did the business for our opposition while ours floundered (and credit to the rest of the Gloucs side, they bowled well). James Franklin is a mediocre test match allrounder, but a top class county one, and he scored 130 runs and took wickets too. Chris Rogers did for us against Derbyshire, Rana Naved against Sussex, and now Franklin here. Rao on the other hand was barely bowled and only registered three wickets in the match, I hope this is the last time we see him, he looks disinterested and has not performed.

To be perfectly honest I'm not sure if there is a solution to halt the seemingly inexorable slide to the foot of the table...again. Our batting is weak and lacks depth, and our bowling is fragile, expensive and inconsistent. Laurie Evans will likely come in for the next match, please let it be at the expense of one our our panoply of bowlers, but he's no world-beater. Unless we get a class overseas player in sharpish, we will continue to lose heavily, and even then one man does not make the team. We are in deep trouble, and I don't envy Rory Hamilton-Brown just now.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A match turning this way and that

Sixteen wickets in the day and a match that is still very much in the balance - one that could very well reach its climax tomorrow and Surrey are in with a great chance of pulling off their first win since June of last year.

I'll level with you reader, I forgot quite what an excellent seam attack Gloucestershire have, probably the best in the second division; Franklin, Lewis and Kirby might not be potent enough to be stars on the international scene, but they're more than good enough for the second division of the County Championship, as Surrey found out today.

On a pitch with plenty of life in it and in conditions conducive to swing, Surrey capitulated for 178, with only Harinath passing 50 and Steve Davies left stranded on an unbeaten 23 - I think there is merit in moving him up to open until Michael Brown returns.  Faced with a first innings deficit of 51, Surrey came out and initially leaked too many runs through Rao, though Tremlett was parsimonious as ever at the other end.

Meaker and Dernbach came on and at least stopped bleeding runs like Rao, but until Meaker's late three wicket burst, Gloucestershire looked the likely victors.  4-29 represents Meaker's best first class performance and hopefully he can use this as a platform to kick on from.  I don't really see the value in continuing to select Rao though if Meaker is taking wickets though.

Surrey need to finish off the Gloucestershire tail which proved belligerent yesterday, chasing anything over 230 will be very tough, even 200 is going to be a challenge.  Either way, we're going to get a result at the Oval - something we don't see too often, and it should be a thrilling end!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

England through, Ireland hard done by

Three and half hours.  210 minutes.  12,600 seconds.  That's the amount of time I wasted on the game tonight, all because the utter incompetents at the ICC have scheduled a Twenty20 CRICKET (as sport which can't be played in the rain) tournament during Guyana's rainy season.  A cursory glance at some website I got to from Google will tell you that 50% of Guyana's total annual rainfall falls in May and June.  I'm going to revert to type here and blame that pesky Lalit Modi.  The ICC couldn't possibly schedule something to clash with Lalit's jamboree, so now we're stuck with these farcical 'matches'.  I realise that might be a touch irrational, but its my blog and I'll say what I want!

So that all resulted in Ireland being very hard done by and cheated out of running England very close and it cheated the fans and viewers out of what would very likely have been a close finish.  For the second night in a row the weather has ruined the cricket.  I understand that is the last game that will be played in Guyana, which is something of a relief.

England were a changed team, none of the fearlessness which they showed last night was on display, but in their defence it was a much trickier target, and they didn't have Ravi Rampaul's pies to put away.  I have a feeling England would've won anyway tonight given the full 20 overs, but either way they were again indebted to Eoin Morgan who played sensibly rather than spectacularly for 45 off 37 balls.  He is already completely indispensable.  Paul Collingwood's form is slightly troubling, but I'll leave that for now.

So England progress, and we'll be in a group with New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa I think, and they should fancy their chances against all of them.  New Zealand are a worthy side but beatable, Pakistan are too mercurial for their own good and South Africa seemed all at sea with their order against India.  I'm looking forward to the rest of this tournament!

Arise Sir Christopher of Tremlettshire

Figures of 4-35 confirmed that Chris Tremlett, if he stays fit, will be a potent force for Surrey this season.  Only Franklin, Snell and surprisingly Banerjee offered any resistance for Gloucestershire and I'm told that Tremlett bowled with real pace and aggression to register his first wickets for the club.

Rao also picked up a couple but was still a bit expensive, Meaker picked up a solitary wicket but was economical, Dernbach didn't register in the wickets column but similarly didn't leak too many runs.

But the real interest came when Surrey came out to bat the final half hour of the day, with six bowlers named in the side I was expecting to see RHB at the sharp end, but lo and behold Gareth Batty came out to partner Arun Harinath to the end of the day.  Unfortunately he fell before the close, but by then he'd already put on 50 with the youngster and the experiment had gone quite well!  Don't think it'll last though....

Tomorrow Surrey need to come out fighting, the weather looks less overcast than today so slightly better for batting.  We need to post a huge total, and given the size of our tail, Harinath, Ramps, Afzaal, RHB and Davies are going to have to add the bulk of the runs - they're more than good enough to do so and some lusty lower order blows from Meaker and Schofield can take us to a formidable total.

Today's play has continued the turnaround since the dreadful performance at Hove and I firmly believe tomorrow Surrey can continue that, come on lads!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Duckworth and Lewis beat England

There are plenty of positives to take from England's game today, in fact the only negative is that the Duckworth Lewis rule is imperfect...not to sound too much like a whingeing Englishman!  When Gayle and Chanderpaul came back on they required 30 off 22 balls, completely in powerplay overs when England had racked up the biggest total of the tournament, and then wickets didn't impact the total the Windies had to chase.  If someone has a sensible and rational explanation as to why the number of powerplay overs aren't reduced proportionally when the innings is reduced then I'd like the hear it!  A little silly, but thems the rules and we lost.

The openers gave us a cracking start, OK, they both got out before getting to thirty, but they made it to the mid twenties off 14 and 18 balls and up to the fifth over or so we were going at 10 an over.  Pietersen looked good and will kick himself for getting out, lovely shot but straight to the fielder.  Collie's innings was unusual, he scratched around and played a couple of shots he wouldn't normally early in his innings, and then got out.

And then.....Morgan and Wright, just shy of a hundred partnership off 50-odd balls, they really paced it beautifully, played themselves in and then just went mental.  Morgan's reverse paddle off Rampaul, which just bounced inside the boundary rope was particularly special.  He is a magnificent talent and should be our finisher for a long time to come.

When we dropped to 80-4, the old England side would've panicked and crawled to 130 if we were lucky, but this new fearless England just did the necessary and it was really impressive.  If we play anything close to that against Ireland tomorrow we'll batter them, and it doesn't impact the next round anyway, so no bother!

Surrey win...but I'm confused

I'm in the strange position of being very pleased with a second consecutive CB40 win and yet a little bemused by the team selection.

It hardly needs saying that Tremlett didn't play, but staggeringly six other bowlers did.  Rao, Linley, Dernbach, Meaker, Batty and Schofield were all crammed in to the same side and while we restricted Worcestershire more effectively than we did Lancashire last week, we were still left chasing 236 to win.  In the end Surrey came out on top comfortably on the D/L method after a very special knock from Davies (how many times have I said that already this season?) with good support from Afzaal (how many times have I wished I could say that?!).

However, my confusion remains.  Meaker was selected but bowled a solitary over, which disappeared for 11 runs.  He is certainly not ready yet to be selected on his batting alone, and yet RHB doesn't seem to trust him with the ball?  It will do nothing for his confidence to keep him almost entirely out of the game.

At present, a top four of RHB, Davies, Ramps and Afzaal is fantastic, but with Spriegel coming in at five (he batted well today to be fair), it cannot be said that we bat deep!  We have plenty of bowlers who can bat, but I would like to see Spriegel at least one place lower, ideally two, and Laurie Evans or another of the youngsters given a go.

In other news, the following squad has been selected for the LVCC game against Gloucester tomorrow:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Arun Harinath
Mark Ramprakash
Usman Afzaal
Steven Davies
Chris Schofield
Gareth Batty
Stuart Meaker
Andre Nel
Rao Iftikhar Anjum
Jade Dernbach
Chris Tremlett

I've highlighted one name in bold, Tremlett is in the squad, and according to the website "could" play, I think that's a very crucial qualification, and I'd still be surprised to see him walk out tomorrow!

Five bowlers, ten batsmen - England have a chance

England start their World Twenty20 campaign today, even though Pakistan and India have already played two games and two sides have effectively been eliminated, against the host nation in Guyana.  Do they have any chance whatsoever of making the semi-finals or better?

In a word, yes, they've come a long way even since their Champions Trophy performance in September.  Swann is a crucial weapon today on a surface that will provide little for the pace bowlers.  There has been some talk of Broad being dropped in favour of Sidebottom who bowled well in the warm up game against South Africa, but I would expect - given the nature of the pitch - Broad's pace-changes and other variations will be more useful.  Broad's presence also gives us 10 players who can swing a bat.

Bumble on Twitter said he thought they'd chuck Bopara back in to the openers slot, but I can't see them doing that.  I think Lumb/Kieswetter is already England's 15th opening partnership in less than 30 Twenty20 Internationals, and it would make a great deal of sense to give them the tournament to perform, unless its completely disastrous.

I've said before that I think Graeme Swann should be promoted up the order if the situation dictates.  If we've got a bunch of runs on the board Swann can add plenty in 9 or 10 balls, and he's not going to die trying so he won't take up balls unnecessarily.

England have a great chance if they play the same fearless cricket they've shown on and off in the last 9 months or so.  The West Indies are not to be under estimated, Gayle and Chanderpaul at the top are really dangerous and a middle order containing Bravo and Pollard can turn a match in a few balls.  On the bowling front, Sammy and Miller can be effective and England will be grateful that Benn is injured.  I would question the value in T20s of the likes of Deonarine, Sarwan and Ramdin (although at least Ramdin's presence means Fletcher won't play!), but this won't be easy for either side.

I'm going to stick my neck out and say England will post 160-170 and should have the bowling to defend it - five bowlers in Yardy, Bresnan, Swann, Broad/Sidebottom and Anderson is a good T20 attack and Pieterson-Morgan-Collingwood is as good a middle order trio as you'll find in the tournament.  Whatever the totals, England should have enough about them to come out on top tonight.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Tremlett named in a Surrey match day squad!

Not much to report for the back-to-back Pro40 matches over the bank holiday weekend, save for one crucial thing...Chris Tremlett is in the squad, and will surely make his debut if the weather holds for the game against the ECB Unicorns on Sunday.

It'll be interesting to see how he gets on, he came through the Seconds game mercifully unscathed having bowled 20 overs and picking up two wickets along the way.  Clearly the fact that he bowled exactly 10 overs in each innings in the Seconds means the management were preparing him for Sunday and they ought to be confident he can bowl his full eight over quota.

The squad and the side I expect to appear is as follows:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Mark Ramprakash
Usman Afzaal
Matthew Spriegel
Laurie Evans
Gareth Batty
Stuart Meaker
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach
Rao Iftikhar Anjum

Bench: Stewart Walters, Chris Schofield

Given that its against the minnows of the group I would like to see them give Laurie Evans a go, and he'd presumably come in at the expense of Walters or Spriegel, my preference would be to drop Walters.  They may also elect to play Schofield, possibly in place of Batty who has batted and bowled an awful lot already this season!

One thing for sure is that the top order will stay the same, and it is some top order.  Davies, RHB, Ramps and Afzaal have got a perfect blend of youth and experience and if they fire, we'll post a big total.  My one concern is that once we're through them, there is no one to take advantage during the slog.  Lancashire blasted 36 runs from their final two overs last week, I don't see anyone in our lower-middle order even remotely capable of that.

Still, its a winning side and they do seem to be finally clicking, I'm quietly confident we can come out the other side of this weekend with two more wins under our belt (weather permitting!).