Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Around the Grounds: Plays of the Day

Division One:

Durham set Warwickshire a gettable 354 to win after they managed to better their first innings score of 288 by a solitary run.  Imran Tahir looks likely to be the first man in the country to 50 wickets as he moved to 45 for the season with 6-69 - how Surrey could do with a spinner like him!  Di Venuto top scored for Durham with 92, Warwickshire had mustered 111 of those runs for the loss of three wickets at the close.  Troughton and Ambrose will need to shoulder much of the burden if Warwickshire are to reach the target.

In a bizarre coincidence, Yorkshire also finished the day on 111-3 having gained a 90 run first innings lead over Lancashire.  Lancs did a great job of clawing themselves back into the match, largely thanks to a first class best score of 88 from Kyle Hogg, while Adil Rashid picked up his first 5-for of the season.  Yorkshire lead by 200 runs and the game looks headed for a draw.

Division Two:

Middlesex's second innings never really got going and only Neil Dexter passed fifty as they reached 228 all out.  Gemaal Hussain continued his impressive season with three wickets and Gloucestershire's openers polished off the 45 runs needed in just 13 overs.

Leicestershire also wrapped up their win over Worcestershire inside three days.  Mitchell, Cameron and Gareth Andrew all hit 70s in Worcs second innings and in the end set Leicestershire a potentially tricky 182 to win.  However Will Jefferson, Paul Nixon and James 'Titch' Taylor saw them to the target only three wickets down.

In the balance

Today didn't quite go to plan for Surrey, the completed second innings of 253 was stuttering at best, 9 batsmen made it into double figures but only one, Andre Nel, made it past 30.  The result was a target of 408 for Derbyshire in comfortably over a day.

The number of overs is not a problem for Derbyshire, they have 9 wickets in hand and a hundred or so overs to get the remaining 272 runs tomorrow.  While yesterday morning the prospects of a Derbyshire win looked remote, Madsen, Rogers and Park have vastly increased that possibility.

A bowler down, Hamilton-Brown can only call on the services of two frontline bowlers - Nel and Tremlett.  The rest of the overs will have to be bowled by a combination of Batty, Younus, Afzaal and probably Hamilton-Brown himself.

We've been desperately unlucky to lose Linley completely, he won't bowl at all in the second innings apparently due to an injury to the arch of his foot (thanks to @karen_bradberry on Twitter for that one!), and for that reason the skipper probably would've wanted a bit more than 400 given the number of overs available.  Also hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the pitch doesn't look remotely dodgy at this stage.

Nel and Tremlett will want some bowler friendly conditions tomorrow morning and if we can nip a couple out quick, 250 runs with only four or five wickets in hand suddenly looks a lot more tricky for Derbyshire.  However, if Madsen and Park make it through the first hour unscathed, you'd have to say they should do it comfortably.

Having praised the balance of this side I can't complain that now we might not have the bowling, but that is largely down to rotten luck with an injury.  A defeat from here will really hit the confidence of the players, especially because they've done so much good work to get them into a good position.  I hope they come out fighting tomorrow morning, if they do that, we'll give ourselves a much better chance of turning Derbyshire over.  Come on the Rey!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Around the Grounds: Plays of the Day

Divison One:

After being bowled out for what looked a sub-par 288, Durham fought back well to polish off Warwickshire for 224, without Trott and Bell only ex-Surrey vice captain Rikki Clarke stood up with 68.  Wickets were shared around, Harmison picking up two and Callum Thorp four.  Durham ended the day 78 without loss and will look to score quickly to set Warwickshire a target.

A horror collapse against the legspin of Adil Rashid and the offspin of Azeem Rafiq saw Lancashire slip from 94-0 to 186-6 and turned what looked like a nailed on draw into a very probable Yorkshire win.  Rashid and Rafiq shared all six wickets between them and Yorkshire look increasingly a good all round package.

Division Two:

My suspicion that Middlesex's total of 236 was well short was confirmed when Gloucestershire racked up 404-8 on day two.  James Franklin, who was out in the 90s against Surrey earlier in the season, made it all the way to 99 before becoming one of Neil Dexter's three victims.  With their strong bowling attack a first innings lead of 168 already will have Gloucestershire eyeing up another win.

Worcestershire are just 34 runs ahead with six second innings wickets in hand against Leicestershire, but it could've been much worse, the Worcs top order collapsing again to 59-4 before Daryl Mitchell and James Cameron put on 109 to steady the ship.  Will Jefferson, Tom New and Jacques du Toit all scored 50s in Leicestershire's innings of 309, James Taylor failed with the bat having inexplicably not been picked for England Lions.

Ups and downs, but very good in the end

The Surrey of old, lets say, May 2010 might have let their heads drop when despite having been 81-6 Derbyshire clawed their way up to 218-6, thanks to a good counter-attacking 137-run partnership between Wayne Madsen and Lee Goddard, but the newer Surrey has a bit more about it.

You get the feeling that the string of victories, and convincing ones at that, in the Twenty20 Cup has given the players a new found confidence that is translating to better results on the field.  I hope I'm not getting carried away in saying that!

In the morning Chris Tremlett and Tim Linley had taken Surrey agonisingly close to full bonus points but Linley was last man out for 15 just 9 runs short of the 400 run target.  Linley made up for that though with a fantastic spell of bowling, 9 straight overs before lunch saw him take 3-13 before he returned to take one more straight after lunch.  Linley's improved massively over the course of this season, and could well be a key part of the attack if Andre Nel leaves at the end of this season.  Cruelly though he left the field part way through his 11th over, and I'm not sure he made it back onto the field, not a good sign at all.

Then came the Madsen and Goddard partnership, but Surrey fought back well.  The dismissal of the last four batsmen for 19 runs, Batty with three and Tremlett with one, gave Surrey a lead of 154.  The follow-on was available but with Linley being unavailable to bowl and with two and a bit days left in the game, Hamilton-Brown made the right call in not enforcing it.

Surrey ended the day 50-1, Hamilton-Brown having fallen to Groenewald for just four (he's not best used as an opener so the sooner Brown returns the better).  Ramprakash ended the day 17 runs short of the magic 1,000 run target for the season, he'll be keen to be first man there tomorrow morning.

I would think Surrey will be looking for another 180-200 runs, depending on how the pitch is looking.  That might seem overly cautious, but if they can collect those quickly that'll give them well over a day to see off Derbyshire for a second time.  That task will be tough if Linley remains unavailable, another reason that they'll probably want a bit target on the board.

Unfortunately one of our quicker scoring batsmen, Hamilton-Brown, is back in the hutch so it'll fall to Ramps, Afzaal and Younus to rack them up.  They're more than capable of doing that, and if they do it'll give us a massive opportunity to pick up a second Championship win of the season, and with Middlesex struggling in Bristol, it might just lift us off the bottom of the table!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Around the Grounds: Plays of the Day

Division One:

If I thought Surrey's batsmen failed to press home the advantage after getting set, Durham must feel even worse. Only two of their batsmen failed to pass 10 but just one, Ian Blackwell made it past 50, with 86 off 147 balls as they were all out for 288 inside day one.  Warwickshire will look to rack up 500 and hope to only bat once.

Similarly Yorkshire will have hoped to be in a better position than 379-8 after Lyth and Rudolph put on 166 for the first wicket, Lyth notching his third ton of the season in quick time, it won't be long before he's on the selectors radar I would imagine.  Glen Chapple picked off four of Yorkshire's middle and lower order to drag Lancashire back into the game.

Division Two:

Anthony Ireland continued his impressive form for Gloucester with 5-25 to finish off Middlesex, he's now collected 20 victims at 16 from just four matches.  The Middlesex total of 236 looks a bit below par and it was one a player who I've never heard of, Josh Davey, who gave it respectability with 61.  Toby Roland-Jones, who has appeared for Surrey Seconds before, is also in their side, it'll be interesting to see how he gets on with the ball tomorrow.   Good on them for blooding some youngsters in the absence of the likes of O'Brien, Morgan and Finn.

Worcestershire had a horror day again, collapsing all out for 175 with only Ben Cox and Gareth Andrew with a 40 and a 50 respectively gave them any sort of total.  Leicestershire used six bowlers and each of them picked up at least one wicket, Nathan Buck continues to pluck top order batsmen from the crease and returned 2-29 off 12 overs.

Surrey v Derbyshire - Day One

I think Surrey might feel they have missed out on a great opportunity to have put this game to bed today, they ended on 364 with one first innings wicket in hand, but it could have been so much more.

Hamilton-Brown promoted himself up to open in the continued absence of Brown and the temporary absence of Davies, and he appeared to have forgotten that Twenty20 is on a one week break, smashing 24 from 16 balls before getting himself out.  He'd given Surrey a cracking start, but although none of the top six who followed him failed, none of them really cashed in either.

Ramprakash was one of South African Tim Groenewald's five victims, he was clean bowled for 99, just one short of his 112th first class century, will getting off Nelson prove as tough as getting off 99 for Ramps?!  Afzaal showed a timely return to form with a well paced 73, Younus fell five short of a half century and Walters needed the tail to stick around with him to see Surrey past the 400 mark, but none of them did.

At various points in the day it seemed like we were really going to press home the advantage but we didn't, which is very frustrating.  That said, we're not in the worst position in the world and the closer Tremlett and Linley can edge us towards 400 the better.  On a further positive note, I think Adams has found a good balance with this side, Wilson the stand in WK-batsman at number seven and Gareth Batty at number 8 is about right (though he didn't do much with the bat today).  If Davies, Dernbach and Brown were available, which they both may well be the next time we play a four day game, I'd be very satisfied with a batting order along the lines of today.  Progress!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Mid-Twenty20 Championship break...really

Tomorrow morning Derbyshire and Surrey face off at Chesterfield, no its not a weird morning start for a Twenty20 match, its the start of a four day game.  After four weeks of non-stop Twenty20, and with six Twent20 fixtures still to be played, a County Championship game has been plonked into the fixture list.

It won't be easy for the players to readjust only three days after their last T20 blast, going from 10-an-over to 3 (or hopefully 4 or 5!) an over will be mighty tough, but do it they must.  The squad hasn't been announced, but since Jason Roy, Tom Lancefield, Matthew Dunn, Stuart Meaker and Laurie Evans have all been named in the Second XI squad to play in a game starting tomorrow, we can probably safely count them out.  In the case of Roy and Meaker this is particularly disappointing, especially given Dernbach's injury.

Steve Davies is in the England Lions squad for a game with West Indies A on Tuesday, so he won't play and there's a chance Gary Wilson might be playing for Ireland on Tuesday, hopefully he'll be excused, if he isn't I've no idea what we'll do for a keeper!  Given Davies spectacular form in the last couple of T20s, that's a particularly poorly timed Lions game!

Given that, I think we can probably expect a team along the lines of:


There's a couple of things to clear up here.  I presume Andrew Symonds will not play, it was my understanding that he's only signed for the Twenty20s.  If not his appearance in the middle order would strengthen the batting a great deal.  The game will be played at Chesterfield, a small ground which Symonds might enjoy!

The second issue is the reappearance of Afzaal.  This is more out of necessity than anything else.  With the Lancefield, Roy and Evans in the Seconds, I don't see how they can do anything but recall Usman.  Hopefully he'll regain some form and might even slot back in for the remainder of the T20.  If he doesn't play tomorrow, there might be grounds to question his future at the club.

Chris Tremlett may well be rested given that he's played all our T20 Cup matches, but I'm not quite sure who would come in with Meaker and Dunn otherwise engaged in the Seconds.  The team above is a little bit light on the batting front.  Younus is unfamiliar as an opener and isn't in great form (although his last four day innings was a good, unbeaten 77) and Wilson and Schofield are at least each a place too high at six and seven.

I hope some last minute amendments will be made to the squad which will hopefully shore things up a bit.  If they aren't made, I think we could be over-reliant on a couple of senior players to get us through the next four days.

Stat attack: Bumble and the 'has been' players

On the 9th of June, David 'Bumble' Lloyd said on his Twitter feed that it was "madness" that counties were signing what he termed "has been" players (the specific Tweet is here).  At the time, I thought it was par for the course and that a lot of people were probably thinking the same thing, but with the mini break approaching in the Twenty20 Cup I thought I'd have a look at whether his fears have proved unfounded or not.

I sumarily decided that by "has been" players, he was meaning overseas players, above the age of, say, 33, so I looked at all those overseas players signed by counties who are over the age of 33, lets look at the batting first:

Herschelle Gibbs (Yorkshire, 36)
Sanath Jayasuriya (Worcestershire, 40)
Adam Gilchrist (Middlesex, 38)
Brad Hodge (Leicestershire, 35)
Simon Katich (Lancashire, 34)

I must confess, I too raised an eyebrow at the signing of Jayasuriya in particular, but have that collection of players proved failures?  No, not really.  They've collected 915 runs at a collective average of 26, which isn't great, it puts them just on the cusp of the top 50 averages in the country.  Their collective strike rate however is more impressive, 131 runs per 100 balls, and if you take out Hodge who's had a horrible season, that goes up to 141.  Not failures, but not spectacular successes either.

So what about the bowlers?  There are only three overseas pure bowlers signed by counties in 2010 over the age of 33:

Murali Kartik (Somerset, 33)
Dirk Nannes (Notts, 34)
Charl Langeveldt (Derbyshire, 35)

I don't think anyone would really call those three 'has beens', but I've set my criteria and I'll stick to it!  The three of them cannot said to be failures by any measure.  They've picked up 25 wickets at a collective average of 25, and a strike rate of 21.  Their economy rate has been good too, 7.1 which puts them comfortably among the top 50 county players.  I think a bowler who picks up wickets along those lines would be valued in most attacks, though it isn't spectacular.

And the allrounders?  Well this is where Bumble is proved bang wrong, the three allrounders who made it into my calculations are:

Chaminda Vaas (Northants, 36)
Scott Styris (Essex, 34)
Andrew Symonds (Surrey, 35)

What do you want from your Twenty20 allrounders?  Ideally quick runs, and cheap wickets without giving away too many runs.  These three have done that (mostly) in spades.  Their collective batting average is 29, at a strike rate of just a tick under 150.  And they've picked up wickets too, 36 between them (half of them from Vaas who is the leading wicket taker in the country) at under 18 apiece, and a strike rate of around 14.  The economy rate is good too, though Symonds' apalling figures in a couple of games has rather ruined that.

So was Bumble right to call it 'madness'?  No, I don't think so.  I agree that counties should be looking to invest in their youngsters before splashing the big cash on star names who bring questionable amounts on the cricketing front, but in one way or another almost all of the above players have contributed.  And I haven't even taken into account the catching and fielding of the likes of Gilchrist, Gibbs and Symonds, not to mention that positive impact they might have on the young players at clubs.

I think a balance needs to be found in Twenty20, was it Tendulkar who said that the younger players bring a brand of fearless cricket in T20, that is true but circumstances sometimes require an experienced old hand to bring a side home. So basically I've written all that guff and just come back to the fact that to succeed you need a mix of youth and experience, which most of us already knew. Oh well!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Scott Styris, pain in the arse

We were beaten by an extraordinary innings from Scott Styris tonight, 106 off 50 balls is good by any measure, but to be there at the end and see his side home, it has to be up there with the best Twenty20 Cup innings.

Symonds' bowling, 45 off 2.5 overs, and the incredibly costly drop of Scott Styris in the penultimate over, could be said to have cost us the match, but Styris got his team into that position with some superb power hitting and nothing should be taken away from him.

You always felt that with wickets in hand and a man with the talent of Styris at the crease that it was possible Essex could pull it off, but with the rate up and around 13-14 from about the 14th over onwards it didn't look likely.  Tremlett's third over went for 27 and that really ignited things for the Eagles, even though his excellent fourth went for just three, the damage had been done.

Leaving Symonds to bowl the last was a tactical misjudgement from Hamilton-Brown, his economy this season has been terrible and he was never likely to restrict such a well set batsman.  Chelmsford is a small ground and a batsman will always fancy his chances going into the last with six wickets in hand, even if the target is 22 runs!

It was a poor defeat, a couple of huge overs cost us dear.  It seems odd that in recent games the skipper was so keen to bowl himself and yet today if he'd given himself one in the middle, we'd have had a front line seamer to bowl the last.  Or alternatively Batty could've bowled more than his two - I hate to harp on about it but he's not in the side for his batting, so why does he often not bowl his quota?

That said, there are positives.  Again we batted well, Davies is back in some spectacular form his 89 off 50 was excellent, although somewhat overshadowed by the Kiwi later on.  Roy and Ramps contributed as well and if we had a bit more firepower in our lower order the extra 10 or so runs that might have brought would've been the difference.

We're in a good run of form and I know you're not supposed to change a (largely) winning formula, but it seems to me that in dropping Batty, as worthy a player as he is, and bringing in a batsman, we'd solve a major issue in our lower order.  The quarter finals are still within reach, and we shouldn't lose too much heart from this, it will have been hard on the players to lose this so its important that they put it behind them and go and win the next one.

Consistency personified, same squad

Is that right? I'm not sure if I've used 'personified' correctly there, but I'm no English scholar so I don't really care that much, you get the picture anyway. The same 13 man squad will travel to Essex tonight for a pretty key match. We're currently won 5, lost 4, and a win tonight would make progression to the quarter finals stage all the more likely. Did not think I'd be saying that a few weeks ago!

Given the disastrous start we had to the tournament, to have won more games this season as we have in the last two is good (although there are many more games this year). For that reason I have no objection to taking the same personnel, especially as Dernbach, Brown and Jordan (remember them?!) are still injured. This is the side I want to see:

Rory Hamilton-Brown (Captain)
Steven Davies (Wicket Keeper)
Mark Ramprakash
Jason Roy
Younus Khan
Andrew Symonds
Stewart Walters
Chris Schofield
Andre Nel
Chris Tremlett
Tim Linley

Bench: Gareth Batty, Matthew Spriegel

Its fair to say that bowling has been our strongest suit so far (though the batting is catching up fast I am delighted to say), and the strength has really laid in our seam attack. Tremlett and Nel have really set the tone up front and in the games he's played, Linley has done a decent job of containing in the middle. Batty has played well and if he played in Schofield's place I'd have no objections, but I don't think we can afford them both (sorry for repeating myself) especially since in the last couple of games Hamilton-Brown himself has taken on a fair bit of the spinning duties.

I'd like to see Symonds bowling his spin rather than slow seam. In the game at Lord's I think he was bowling his off-spin, and likewise at Kent he was apparently bowling that too. Both times he's picked up wickets - in the case of Kent, a hatful.

I think with that batting lineup and the bowling to boot we can beat a good Essex side at Chelmsford, quite a tricky place to go and win. Their squad is as follows: James Foster, Ravi Bopara, Alastair Cook, Grant Flower, Matt Walker, Scott Styris, John Maunders, Tim Phillips, David Masters, Danish Kaneria, Chris Wright, Maurice Chambers, Jaik Mickleburgh.

There's plenty of strength in that batting even without the brilliant ten Doeschate, and although Kaneria hasn't been firing on all cylinders with the ball we know only too well what a class act he is.

The side should have bags of confidence, Jason Roy especially off the back of that scintillating hundred and in view of the small boundaries at Chelmsford. Keep up the good work lads!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Jason Roy, take a bow

What did I tell you?  Roy and Roy in the middle order is the way forward, and today they delivered, but the younger Roy stole all the limelight.  The pair of them put on 63 in around 5 overs to really propel Surrey to their second 200+ total in two days and Jason Roy etched his name into the history books by becoming the first Surrey player to score a hundred - 101* off 57 balls in the end - in Twenty20, and there won't be many who do it at younger than his 19 years I bet.

200 runs on the board is always going to be tough to chase down and Kent, despite an excellent innings from Surrey's bogeyman Martin van Jaarsveld of 82 off 49 balls, fell well short.  The bowling up front was exemplary, Tremlett picked up another couple to give him 11 for the tournament and Symonds ended the match with career best figures, mainly because he was on during the tail end slog, but wickets are wickets!

Again we played two spinners, and plus another couple of overs from Hamilton-Brown all told spin went for 88 runs from 9 overs, while the seamers went for 69 off 11 overs.  Its ok when we've got 201 runs on the board, but that won't always be the case.

Today belongs to Jason Roy though, yesterday he displayed an ability to hit big but today he showed that and the ability to make big scores.  Add to that his electric fielding and he's almost tailor made for T20, he could be just what our middle order is looking for.  I think we should consider dropping a bowler to slot Ramps in, although Younus isn't looking to hot at the moment either so he's a candidate for the chop.

That result gives us 5 wins from 9 matches which given the nature of Twenty20 is pretty decent (and given our horror-show start to the competition).   If we can pick up a win at Chelmsford on Friday - no mean feat - we will be looking good for a quarter final spot, and who'd have thought that two weeks ago?!  Well played lads, we're on a roll!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Four wins, four losses, evens....

In Southampton back on the 13th of this month, 201 played 191 in Hampshire's favour, today at the Oval 200 played 189 in Surrey's favour.  These two sides have been closely matched in the last couple of seasons, the margins of victory from the four matches amounts to just 40 runs.

We've only won twice at the Oval in the last two years in Twenty20, and the losing side both times has been Hampshire, so they might feel somewhat hard done by.  But today it was a comprehensive T20 batting performance from Surrey and a couple of players in particular.

Davies finally delivered that big innings we've been waiting for, he brought up his fifty off just 18 balls which according to him was his quickest ever (including garden cricket).  The innings was packed full of shots which oozed class and he thoroughly deserves the plaudits.  The other innings of note came from Andrew Symonds who stood up to be counted at the Oval again with 63 off 33 balls.  And guess where he batted?  Yep, number six, and he should stay there.

Hamilton-Brown was out cheaply as was Roy, despite hitting a massive six into the top of the pavilion.  Younus played the anchor role and perished while trying to go big at the end of the innings.  Credit to Andre Nel who brought up the 200 with a six off the final ball, given the situation I think he should've come in above Spriegel.

The bowling was less good but it was a cracking pitch in perfect batting conditions.  Again Nel and Tremlett were excellent, Tremlett collecting another 2 wickets.  Schofield was expensive in his three overs and the skipper probably gave himself one too many overs, despite picking up two wickets.  Batty bowled well for his 1-28.

Despite an excellent performance you won't be surprised to hear I've still got something to whinge about.  On what was a lovely batting track we played three spinners, and between them the spinners went for nigh-on ten an over.  We rightly strengthened the batting, but in the process we weakened the bowling.  I think a balance can be struck but it might involve dropping one of Schofield or Batty, a tough choice to make without doubt.

That win takes us to four wins and four losses, but with a net run rate still well in the negative.  We're right in the mix in the southern division and if we can maintain this sort of performance, progression is well within our grasp.  Come on the Rey!

Note:  I forgot, I made a mental note to specifically mention Jason Roy's fielding, I knew from 2008 that he was a class fielder but tonight he was a cut above.  His ground fielding, one particular pick up and throw with one hand in one movement was breathtaking.  His throwing from the deep was arrow straight, and I'm sure he has the ability to save us 10-15 runs in the field in some matches.  If he can continue to develop with the bat, he'll be a real gem.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Surrey's middle order issues

This is just a short one, because I don't want to go on an on about the batting lineup.  I've made it abundantly clear that I think Andrew Symonds is better suited to number five or six than number four.

But to illustrate why I think we need a big hitter like Symonds coming in slightly lower down, I thought I'd have a look at how the performances of our numbers 5, 6 and 7 in the order compare with a significant sample from other teams.

I looked at 28 games and 50 separate innings from this season's Twenty20 Cup, as well as Surrey's six matches so far where the lower order have batted.  From the 28 games not involving Surrey, although there aren't too many big scores, the average scoring rate across the lot of them is just over 120 runs per 100 balls delivered.  From Surrey's six games, the scoring rate is just 103 runs per 100 balls delivered.

The positions 5, 6 and 7 in Twenty20 are very often the difference between a gettable total and a total just out of sight.  A lower-middle order power house is a virtual must for Twenty20s (think Morgan and Wright for England, the Husseys and White for Australia, Dhoni and Morkel for Chennai), and while they are worthy cricketers in their own right, the likes of Spriegel, Walters, Batty and Schofield do no constitute a sufficiently powerful power house.

I'm not suggesting that dropping Symonds down the order is the magic bullet, but we've got such a talented (not to mention well paid!) player on our hands it seems sensible to use him in the best way possible.

Same again for Hampshire game

Chris Adams has named the same 13 man squad for tomorrow evening's game with Hampshire as we've seen in the last few games, selection policy showing admirable consistency where the team doesn't!

As I said yesterday I see no reason in playing three seamers if the third of those, in the case of last night Linley, is only going to bowl half his allotted overs, but in truth I would expect Adams to go with the same side as faced Sussex.  Jade Dernbach is unfortunately out for perhaps another month which is very disappointing for him and the team as a whole.

The most intriguing aspect of this game may however lie with the opposition.  According to the excellent Hants and What Not blog, Simon Jones could be poised to make his long-awaited comeback.  Nothing on the official site as yet, but I read a month or so ago that he'd got onto the field in a Second XI match.  I do not think I'm the only Surrey fan who would be delighted to see Jones back on the park.  Five long years ago he proved himself one of the finest exponents of reverse swing in the world, and was for a time one of the best fast bowlers full stop.  As a man who has suffered with a dodgy knee I can sympathise with a tiny part of what he's been through, the last few years must've been very tough on him.

We proved in the fixture at the Rose Bowl, although we came up short in the end that we can compete with Hampshire and we'll have to be on the money if we are to beat them tomorrow.  Whoever is on that Hampshire teamsheet I want to see a fearless performance for Surrey, if we get that, Hants have got a fight on their hands.

UPDATE:  Simon Jones is, alas, not in the Hampshire squad named on their website this morning.  They've named just 11 players, so I presume this lot will be the team we face tonight: Jimmy Adams, Michael Lumb, Sean Ervine, Liam Dawson, Nic Pothas, Dominic Cork, James Vince, Michael Carberry, Danny Briggs, Chris Wood, Neil McKenzie.

Sunday, 20 June 2010


Up against a side who have only lost once in their last 15 or so Twenty20s, Surrey came up well short today.  In numbers terms, we were 39 runs shy in the end but the gulf in class was in truth a bit bigger.

Again we bowled OK, the pitch was a good one for batting and although we probably gave away 10-12 runs in fielding lapses, a total of 160 looked about par to me.  Tremlett continues to pick up wickets here and there and bagged another 2 today but it was Schofield who was the star, without his 2-21 the innings could have raced away from Surrey.  His two scalps were key players too, McCullum and Smith, both of whom were looking to really kick on before Schoey intervened.

Again we used 7 bowlers and Linley, despite bowling decently enough, was given just two.  If he isn't going to act as our third seamer then we can probably afford the extra batsman.

And Surrey's innings pointed towards us needing just that.  Sussex opened the bowling with Chris Nash's off spin and Hamilton-Brown sought to punish, cracking him for two massive sixes into the OCS Stand.  The captain perished though at the appearance of James Kirtley, going for one big shot too many.  Steve Davies still has yet to produce the big innings we're expecting, he found Dwayne Smith in the deep off the leg spin of Will Beer.

Ramprakash was perhaps slightly unlucky, he over balanced and was smartly stumped by Hodd and thereafter Surrey were dead and buried.  Symonds, Younus and Walters all went playing not especially clever shots.  Younus was particularly disappointing, a much vaunted sub-continental batsman looked all at sea against the spin of Nash and Beer.

This Sussex side is a class act, make no mistake, and they dispatched Surrey with disappointing ease today.  I  would consider making a couple of changes at this stage.  I think we have to acknowledge that this side has done well to come back from the disappointment of the early results, but a couple of tweaks would improve things in my opinion.

Symonds is not best used as a number four.  Walters should come in up the order, and if his particular brand of cricket fails to come off, we still have some real class and power to come in.  Not to mention the fact that most of Symonds' best knocks in the IPL came from the number six slot.  The second change I would make, although he's done nothing wrong, would be to consider dropping Linley, especially if the skipper doesn't fancy him to bowl four overs.  He doesn't offer the same kind of wicket taking threat that Dernbach does, and the batting needs shoring up.  Jason Roy might be worth a go in the middle order.

Today wasn't a disaster, but it wasn't great either.  The nature of Twenty20 means that a side at this stage of development will be very unlikely to string lots of wins together, so we shouldn't panic.  The Southern Division is so close, that we're not out of it by any measure, but we need to continue improving if we are going to compete in the latter stages.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Two on the bounce

Its a long time since Surrey have won two consecutive Twenty20 matches, but the win tonight secured just that, a thumping nine wicket win last night and today a comfortable 15 run victory by the Duckworth/Lewis method.

Kent chose to field first and it looked a good decision as last night's hero Hamilton-Brown, Steve Davies (he now has just 81 runs in 6 matches), Younus and Ramprakash all failed to leave Surrey flailing at 35-4.  But this isn't the same team who played Gloucester, this is Surrey Cricket 2010 v.2 so Symonds and Stewart Walters set about repairing the innings.

That Surrey clambered to 150 is largely down to that pair who put on 94 together.  Initially they dealt only in sixes, both hitting two each before going along the ground.  Both were particularly harsh on the spin of Bandara and Tredwell, who looks a shadow of the player of last season.  By the time they were both out 139 runs were on the board and Surrey had recovered very well.

The Kent reply started well for Surrey, again Tremlett was accurate and aggressive, conceding just 8 from two overs and along the way both Key and van Jaarsveld were run out.  Regular breakthroughs were made and by the time the rain came in 13th over only Darren Stevens was offering any resistance and Surrey were well on top.

At the time of the rain break, Kent required more than 10 an over and with 5 batsmen back in the hutch, I think they'd have found it tough to come back.  On the back of the cake walk last night this proved more of a test for Surrey but they passed, if not with flying colours then comfortably nonetheless.  There was plenty of fight about the players today and I must say I was particularly impressed with Tim Linley who came straight in having played none of the other T20s.  His bowling was tight and consistent and he gave very little away, well played The Viscount.

This is now a good platform for Surrey to build on.  Fingers crossed for a completed game on Sunday and three wins out of three might just start to silence the doubters.  The Southern Division is really tight, incredibly Surrey are up to third in the table, level on points with Middlesex.  If we carry on like this, the quarter finals are in our sights.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Victory is Ours!

Everything that had failed to click in unison in the first four of Surrey's Twenty20 games, spectacularly clicked into place tonight in front of a packed house at Lord's.  Its a shame we couldn't have done it in front of the home fans, but I'll take it!

Jason Roy didn't start the game as I had hoped, Matt Spriegel missed out and Stewart Walters was drafted in.  This meant the twin spin of Batty and Schofield again, but the batting was a little stronger.  Middlesex chose to bat first and we were at them from the word go.  Tremlett bowled well to return 1-20, the important wicket of Dexter his one scalp.  Andre Nel was more expensive and less impressive, but he did pick up David Warner.  The only real concern was the apparent injury to Jade Dernbach who went off after bowling 1.3 overs apparently with a side injury - not good for a bowler.  Jade has been a key part of our attack so to lose him would be a big blow.

Pick of the bowlers though was Batty, who at long last bowled his full four over spell and picked up 4-23 including Gilchrist who was curiously subdued in his 12 from 12 balls, three of his wickets were towards the tail end but he bowled well nonetheless.  Andrew Symonds chipped in beautifully with the ball with 2-8.  For once it was the opposition who failed to muster a partnership, the final wicket pair of Shah and Collins notching their highest pairing with 25.

128 looked well below par and at last Surrey were ruthless in making it look so.  Davies again played some nice shots but got out when well set on 20, caught off the slow left arm bowling of Tom Smith.  But thereafter it was all Surrey.  Hamilton-Brown played beautifully, he took it upon himself to be the aggressor but never looked reckless, he more than deserved to hit the winning runs and end 73* off just 49 balls.  Ramprakash played extremely well too with a beautifully paced 36, precisely what was needed in the circumstances.

This is what our players are capable of.  Tonight, at long last, we looked the sum of our considerable parts and the captain fully deserves all the praise I hope he gets.  If we can take this form into tomorrow and then Sunday we'll be well back on track.  Well played boys.

Roy and Roy in the middle order

I'm very pleased at the news announced today that Jason Roy is in the Surrey squad for tonight's game with Middlesex at Lord's. I first saw Roy a couple of seasons ago and when the Oval still used to sell out he was a favourite with the crowd. His batting wasn't up to much then, but his fielding was electric and that counts for a lot in T20.

Two years on and given his performances in the Second XI and particularly a ridiculous hundred from 30-odd balls in a recent match he has more than earned his opportunity. In the past the youngsters have been given a go at the back end of the T20 when we're already dead and buried. Good to see Roy given this opportunity now, when we're not quite out of it!

It also represents a good opportunity for him to join Andrew Symonds in the middle order, Symonds' nickname is of course Roy, so that's all jolly good fun.

The 13 man squad and my preference is:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Mark Ramprakash
Younus Khan
Matthew Spriegel
Andrew Symonds
Jason Roy
Chris Schofield
Andre Nel
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach

Bench: Stewart Walters, Gareth Batty.

I know I've been harping on about getting Walters in, but I think Roy represents a better prospect so as worthy as Walters might be of a place, I'd plump for the youngster. Chris Schofield or Gareth Batty is much of a muchness, but I would urge the management in the strongest terms that if Batty does play, please dispense with this policy of batting him at number three! I have a sneaking suspicion he might get in ahead of Schoey.

Again I hope that Spriegel bats up the order, and bowls his full quota of four (unless he's totally collared), but I suspect neither of those things will happen. Middlesex will field a strong side but Eoin Morgan will not play as he is away with England. As a knowledgeable friend expressed to me, Morgan has been the rock of their middle order and they will miss him. He's been replaced by Scott Newman, who may be nowhere near the quality of Moggie, but he'll be keen to show Surrey what they're missing.

The Middlesex top order of Gilchrist and Warner will be key and we absolutely have to keep them quiet.  Dexter and Shah in the middle order can be dangerous too.  I will be very annoyed if the ex-Surrey pair of Murtagh and Collins tak a bundle of wickets too!

Come on now boys, a win tonight and we can carry the momentum into the two matches which follow soon after, its not over yet!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Many issues, but I've found the big one

Those of us who have watched Surrey in Twenty20 cricket, be it live or on the TV, in 2008-2009-2010 will have endless opinions on why we've gone from being a crack outfit in T20 in the early days to a relative basket case in that period, but I think I've found the main one.

No, it isn't that we've had crap players, I've tried to come at it from a slightly more constructive angle than that!  Is it that we've failed to move with the times?  Maybe, but that's not the killer for me.  Have we recruited below-par overseas players who can be game changers in T20?  Undoubtedly yes in some cases, but I still don't think that's it.

From looking at every Twenty20 we've played in the last two and a half seasons, the real problem is...drum roll please...partnerships.  Guess how many hundred partnerships Surrey batsmen have put together in that time?  One.  A single hundred partnership, between Afzaal and Ramps (who else) at Lord's last season - I was there to see this rare feat and surprise surprise, we won!  I know hundred partnerships in T20 aren't exactly ten a penny, but you'd expect more than one every 24 matches.

I don't know how this compares to other counties, I don't have the time or the inclination to go through their results, but the following is the average partnership for the first five wickets from the last 24 games for Surrey:

1st: 21.4
2nd: 22.8
3rd: 22.2
4th: 18.7
5th: 21.8

One thing that sticks in the mind having watched many of those games is that we always seem to be on the back foot early on.  We've mustered just four opening partnerships of 50 or more in 24 matches and what you can see from the numbers above is that we're never giving ourselves a platform.  We've got no power in the middle order, but even if we did have they wouldn't be given license to hit out with no runs on the board.

In those 24 matches no single batsman has scored a hundred (no Surrey batsman has ever done so as I recall).  We haven't managed a total north of 200 runs even once (our next opponents Middlesex have done it in consecutive innings inside a week recently!), our highest score being the 191 we managed against Hampshire, and that was with the aid of six penalty runs.  If we bat first on average we score 148 which might not sound too bad given that I think the average total last season was around 155, but if we bowl first we concede on average 175, that says a lot (I'm aware that building partnerships won't fix the problem of conceding too many when we bowl first!).

And it'll come as no surprise to fellow supporters that we've recorded just 5 wins in the last 24.

But what it always comes back to is the lack of partnerships.  Big totals are built on big partnerships, and we get neither.  I don't have a solution for it, but it does strike me that on a number of occasions batsmen have failed to play the situation. If there was one positive from the Gloucestershire game this season, it was that Hamilton-Brown recognised his role and actually played pretty well, but the feeling is that is the exception rather than the rule.

I don't doubt that we've been on the receiving end of some very good cricket, but that doesn't explain the situation we're in.  Tomorrow night at Lord's will be tough, the all-Aussie top order of Gilchrist and Warner are potent in the extreme, but if we can just string a couple of good partnerships together, we give ourselves a much better shot.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Back to losing ways, but progress is made

A strong Hampshire side featuring Lumb, Carberry and Pietersen triumphed by ten runs at the Rose Bowl today, and while in truth we were further behind than that, it was a decent effort in chasing a mammoth total.

Hampshire won the toss, chose to bat and probably the least vaunted (but most in-form) of their batting lineup, Jimmy Adams, cracked an excellent 101* from 65 balls following up a half century against Somerset on Friday.  201/2 was the result after 20 overs with Sean Ervine also contributing an impressive 54 from 34.  Surrey's bowling today was less impressive than the last two games, Dernbach went for 36 runs before being forcibly withdrawn from the attack after two no balls for height.

Nel and Tremlett also went for 9 and 10 an over with only one wicket between them but Symonds two overs in the middle of the innings were most costly, they went for 32 runs and his bowling has been well below par so far.  Gareth Batty was only given a single over for 9 runs, more on this later.

Surrey's top order batting was brittle again, in the four games so far our top three batsmen are out for just an average of 12.3 runs, that doesn't make for impressive starts and does not constitute exploiting the powerplays.  Davies did today pass 20, but only made it to 24 but again seemed in good touch, although the manner in which he got out - trying to hit a second consecutive six - was perhaps unnecessary.  The Batty-at-three experiment continues but will surely end there, he was run out for a second consecutive duck.

Thereafter though the news is better.  OK Symonds was out for 26 which is well below what he's capable of, but he did start to middle a few and will hopefully kick on.  Ramps continued serenely on with 61 before getting out when trying to press on.  Younus perished similarly in the pursuit of quick runs and when he was clean bowled by veteran Dominic Cork, the game was up.  Hampshire were penalised 6 runs for a slow over rate, but even that wasn't enough to bring us close enough.

The selection of Batty and Schofield in the same side continues to confuse me.  I'm no master tactician, but Batty is not a pinch hitter and has never shown himself to be, he hasn't bowled more than two overs in either game (and is going at 10 and over) so he's clearly in for his batting, which is very strange.  Stewart Walters waits in the wings, he is a batsman able to hit a long ball and is also an excellent fielder.  Walters has to come in for the match on Thursday if we are to win.  The employment of Spriegel in the lower order again confused me, its unfair to expect him to hit big, he isn't that sort of player and suits a more accumulator-type role.  The fact that his strike rate this tournament is 80 runs per 100 balls (no one in the top 50 run scorers has a srtike rate below 105) would seem to suggest he's not playing in the correct role.

The batting though is slowly starting to slot into place, RHB and Davies' propensity to get out cheaply is frustrating and will have to stop if we are to post/chase big totals, but Ramps in this form and Symonds and Younus scoring decent (and quick) runs around him will see us bag plenty.  Three losses out of four is a rubbish start to the Twenty20 Cup, and we'll not be progressing far, but consistent improvement through the next 12 games and we might be a force to be reckoned with at the back end of the month.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Off the mark with an impressive win at Taunton

After two galling defeats in the week Surrey showed a great deal of character, and no little talent, in beating Somerset (comfortably in the end) by 21 runs at Taunton today.

Trescothick won the toss on a beautiful pitch in perfect conditions, clearly confident that his batting lineup could chase anything, and when Surrey were reduced to 47-4 it looked like it might have been the right move.  However for the first time in the T20 this season two batsmen stood up to be counted, Ramps and Younus both scored 59, off 38 and 41 balls respectively and put on 84 quick runs at a crucial time.  Davies again looked in very good touch at the top but got out for less than 20 for the third successive game, very frustrating - not least for him I'm sure.

Nonetheless Surrey's 160 at a ground where the par score in T20s is 178 looked short.  However our bowlers continued the good work started against Essex.  Nel and Tremlett picked up two apiece and Dernbach picked up just the one but only went for 19 runs from his four overs.  His economy rate in the tournament this season is 5.7 and his slower ball (quickest ball today was 89mph, his slower ball is about 73mph, very tough to play) is right up there with the best - it comprehensively accounted for Buttler - his career economy rate is over 9 so its fantastic to see him improving so much.

Bizarrely after giving away just three runs from a powerplay over, Spriegel was given just one over while Symonds and Batty gave away 40 from 4.  Which leads me on to team selection which to me seemed very odd.  After two games where our batting really struggled we dispensed with an (admittedly out of form) batsmen in Afzaal and replaced him with an off-spinner - Batty, who wasn't introduced until the 14th over and only bowled 12 balls.  And then promoted him to number three, whereupon he absorbed 11% of the powerplay in getting out for a duck, a very strange move, but not punished, which is a relief.

Again Spriegel was wasted in the batting order, down at number 8 which if he isn't going to bowl much is strange, but on a day when we finally picked up maximum points, perhaps I shouldn't be dwelling on the negatives!

But the best thing to see today was the character showed by the players.  It must be difficult for them to come out after two terrible performances and hold your head high but they did just that.  The bowling remained good, the fielding was excellent and although some of our top order failed again, we still posted a good total against a good side.  Well played boys, some pride has been restored.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Afzaal dropped for weekend Twenty20 fixtures

After his laborious 12 from 26 deliveries on Thursday night, and a season which has singularly failed to ignite, Usman Afzaal has been rested for this weekend's games with Somerset at Taunton and Hampshire at the Rose Bowl (including one Kevin Pietersen).

At his best Afzaal is a talented, wristy and destructive batsman but I am sure he himself will admit that he's been well short of his best all season, so maybe a rest is what he needs to rediscover some form.

The 13 man squad for the weekend is:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Mark Ramprakash
Matthew Spriegel
Andrew Symonds
Younus Khan
Stewart Walters
Gareth Batty/Chris Schofield
Andre Nel
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach

Bench:  Tim Linley

The bowlers kept it tight against Essex so if they're all fit, I think the seamers probably pick themselves.  Tremlett may be rested for Saturday's game I suppose, in favour of Linley, Tremlett will be very keen to make the trip back to Hampshire to show his old side what they're missing (at least I hope he will).  Schofield's batting has been a disappointment but he did bowl OK and picked up a couple, so they might stick with him.  I'd be tempted to give Batty a go for one of the games though, they're very similar players in terms of what they bring to the team.

I expect Walters to slot in for Afzaal and after his performance in the first two games, I don't think it'd be the worst idea to stick Spriegel up the order.  He's not a power hitter so is wasted in the lower order, and Symonds has more regularly won games coming in at six rather than the four he has for Surrey so far.  Spriegel in at four, depending on the situation, might allow him to accumulate at a strike rate of 100-110 or so and allow those around him to hit out.

I also want to see more bowling from Spriegel, his only over in the competition so far went for just two runs, and I think a combination of him and Symonds doing the fifth bowler job would be a good way forward.  Its all well and good Hamilton-Brown picking up a couple of wickets, but if he goes at 10 an over in the process he almost negates the good effect.  Rory's bowling was too short on Thursday and he actually got away with a few I think.  That said, he's a good option to have up the sleeve if a partnership needs breaking.

What more can I say about the issue of needing improvement?  Steps were made in the right direction as compared to Tuesday night, but nowhere near far enough and the players must themselves know that.  Symonds is due a score now and perhaps his season will follow that of Gilchrist - two failures followed by a spectacular hundred.  A few more runs from Younus and the rest of the top order wouldn't go amiss either.  Its worth noting that not a single six has been scored by Surrey in two matches - that must change.

I'm not sure of the opposition squads for the games, but the likes of Trescothick, Kieswetter, Pollard, Lumb, Pietersen and Carberry are likely to present significant obstacles to Surrey.  In the face of that kind of power Surrey will have to improve out of sight to give them a game, but they are capable of it, it just remains to be seen whether they will.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Well, it was an improvement at least...

Here I am, yet again, a few pints down and I'm writing about another Surrey defeat.  This was no Tuesday the 8th of June, or 8/6 as it will forever be known among Surrey fans, but it wasn't very good either.

We won the toss, elected to field first and our bowlers restricted Essex's pretty decent batting lineup to 121 runs, with our main bowlers restricting the runs and by and large taking wickets.  Nel, Dernbach and Tremlett bowled accurately and with good pace in excellent bowling conditions.  Hamilton-Brown gave himself three overs, the third of which conceded the runs which ultimately made the difference.  Another over from Symonds was probably more appropriate, but Hamilton-Brown's spin it was.  He did pick up two wickets in his three overs, but I don't think the third was the right way to go.

Then the batting, well the was poor again.  No one passed 24 (neither did anyone in the Essex innings mind you), and Symonds and Younus have now totalled 10 runs from their four innings so far, not what we'd expect for handsomely paid overseas players.

Ravi Bopara ended with 3-13, Symonds and Younus among his victims, and Scott Styris did well in choking the runs as well.  Throughout the innings Surrey conspired to keep themselves behind the curve, wickets fell at regular intervals and when it came to the crunch, the 9 run margin actually flattered us a little bit.

I did say I wanted an improvement, and I got that, so I shouldn't whinge too much, but I want - and we all expect - so much more from this team.  As I'm sure the players expect more from themselves.  Two defeats from two, it hardly needs saying, is the worst possible start and the manner of the defeats will be crushing for morale.  Back to back games over the weekend present a good opportunity to fight back, but given the quality of the players in the weekend's opposition - Tres, Kies, Pollard, Lumb, Pietersen and so on, that will be very, very tough.

Admirable show of confidence from Adams

I wonder if Chris Adams was tempted to overhaul the side which turned out on Tuesday? Probably not all that tempted, because the risks involved in that would be great given the untried nature of many of those players in the background, but the thought must have occurred to him.

In any case, he's selected the same 13, plus Tim Linley for tonight's game. Conditions are very similar today to Tuesday, if there's a shower this afternoon things will be getting particularly hot and sweaty under the covers and bowling first could well be the order of the day. The side I would go for is:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Mark Ramprakash
Andrew Symonds
Younus Khan
Usman Afzaal
Matthew Spriegel
Gareth Batty
Andre Nel
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach

Bench: Chris Schofield, Stewart Walters, Tim Linley

When push comes to shove, I wonder if Linley will play since he's been added and given the success of Gloucestershire's seamers on Tuesday, Adams might gamble on winning the toss and go with the extra pace bowler.

The bowling wasn't great on Tuesday, but they were only defending a total of 97, so the opposition had plenty of license to go hard at it, so I would persist for this game. The exception being Chris Schofield, seems harsh given the contribution he's given to us in limited overs in recent years, but I just think Batty should be given a go. No need to panic about Symonds' bowling either, by the time he was brought on the Gloucs openers were well up and running.

As I said yesterday, that batting lineup is simply too talented to fail so spectacularly twice in three days, and they say there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. The players will still be smarting and will want to prove the (many) doubters wrong.

That will be tough though, because the Essex squad is strong, really strong: Mark Pettini, Ravi Bopara, Graham Napier, Grant Flower, Ryan ten Doeschate, Scott Styris, Matt Walker, James Foster, Michael Comber, Tim Phillips, David Masters, Danish Kaneria, Chris Wright, Maurice Chambers.

Masters, Kaneria, Napier, ten Doeschate and Styris, not to mention Ravi gives them plenty of quality bowling options. Pettini, Napier, Flower and the aforementioned triumvirate of Bopara, Styris and ten Doeschate gives their batting a powerful look. Add to that the expert keeping of Foster and you have a very nicely balanced side.

A win tonight would banish the memories of Tuesday 8th June 2010 to some degree, but a vastly improved performance almost irrespective of the result will do wonders for morale amongst the team.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Disappointed, frustrated, but what now?

24 hours on from the horrible performance against Gloucestershire the result smarts no less, but where does the team go from here?  It is very easy to call for people's heads at a time like this when the team seems to be going backwards, but I don't think that is right at all.

As people who know much more about cricket than me have said, the team is at that incredibly infuriating stage of taking one inspirational step forward only to take two clumsy steps back.  I don't doubt that the frustration is felt all the more acutely among the players than among the fans, this can't be an easy time for them to come out and play.

But come out and play they must!  The collection of players we have is too good to fail like that on a regular basis, but the team at the moment is not the sum of its parts.  Adams and Hamilton-Brown have an enormous job on their hands to fix things and unite the team behind the young skipper.  Younus, Ramps, Symonds...they are all massive names who have played with the likes of Ponting, Hussey, Atherton, Inzamam and so many more, and now they are operating under a 22 year old captain with very little first class experience but is without question a prodigious talent.  That is just a snapshot of the tricky task for Adams and RHB.

Way back when Hamilton-Brown was signed and appointed captain I posted that I hoped the supporters would get behind him and back him to succeed, I still think that is important now.

To say 'it can only get better' after yesterday is trivialising the situation too much, but the team does need to come together and put in a much improved performance against a very decent Essex side tomorrow night.  Gone is the optimism of Tuesday morning, I'll settle for a fighting performance with bags of character thank you!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

A New Low

That might not be quite statistically accurate, Surrey surpassed their lowest ever T20 total of 94 set in 2008 by a paltry three runs, but the performance was quite probably the worst I've ever seen in this format - by any team!

Five batsmen were out for one run, three were run out and in the entire innings only 8 boundaries were scored - none of them sixes.  Surrey were reduced to 17-5 as Ramps, Davies, Younus, Symonds and Afzaal - hundreds of tests and ODIs between them -  mustered just 7 runs.  Hamilton-Brown scored a valiant 41 from 39 balls but no one else looked up to it, or up for it for that matter.

A couple of dismissals angered me in particular.  Tremlett's run out was woeful, he didn't even try and get his bat down and was just cruising, he couldn't be bothered.  The other was Schofield who lamely propped forward to Franklin and was bowled through the gate.

Its slightly unfair to single out those two in an innings where everyone was rubbish, but I just had to mention them.  Gloucester raced to their target in under 10 overs and the match was done and dusted before 8pm.

My optimism before the match has been replaced by utter embarrassment and anger with the side.  Gloucester were good, make no mistake, but they are by no means a top quality side in this format.  The same old issues were apparent, batsmen not valuing their wicket and bowlers not doing the basics.  Nel opened the bowling with a wide and at least twice Dernbach bowled on the batsman's legs and went for four both times.  Tremlett also bowled a no ball, which with only 97 on the board, is criminal.

That was our strongest side, perhaps Brown might sneak in somewhere but I'm not convinced, and we were battered, absolutely annihilated.  It will be tough for the team to come back from this and they deserve a rocket from the management, I'm very worried about Thursday's game after this performance.

Twenty20 returns - Surrey vs Gloucestershire

This very evening the Twenty20 behemoth rolls into town with Surrey hosting Gloucestershire at the Oval - assuming the heavens don't open too much this afternoon.

Gloucestershire lost to Glamorgan on Friday, Jim Allenby and Gareth Rees helping to chase down 149 with 5 balls remaining. Gloucs' new signing Ian Butler had an inauspicious start, he took just the one wicket for 47 runs fromhis full quota of four overs. The extreme pace of Glamorgan's overseas signing Shaun Tait proved too good for them as well, he took 1-19 from four overs.

Interestingly the old 'open with a spinner' tactic was employed by Glamorgan, Rob Croft ended with 2-21 so Surrey might be tempted to pack the spinners in. The squad is as follows with my usual team preference:


Bench: Batty, Walters

To be able to boast two quality overseas batsmen in the middle order is a real boon and in Younus and Symonds Surrey have two players capable of hitting big scores (indeed I think it was for Gloucestershire that Symonds hit a world record 16 sixes in a single innings way back in 1995 - albeit in a four day game!). The option to go with three spinners is tempting, perhaps dropping Dernbach for Batty, but I think overhead conditions this evening might lend itself to picking three seamers. In any case the side has a number of other spin options in Afzaal and RHB should they require. Symonds' versatility in being able to bowl medium or spin is very useful too, and in fact they may well drop Spriegel and go with the extra out-and-out batsman in Stewart Walters. Jim Allenby's dibbly-dobblers got him 3-23 against Gloucestershire last week so Symonds could come to the fore.

The top order is strong, as strong as Surrey have had in T20 for some while and I would hope the strength there gives RHB and Davies license to play with some freedom. I would hope to see Ramps, Younus and Afzaal build the innings in the middle to give Symonds license to do what he does best and hit out towards the end.

Gloucestershire's side is packed with good seam options, their squad is as follows: J Franklin, W Porterfield, A Gidman, H Marshall, I Butler, C Taylor, S Snell, J Lewis, A Ireland, V Banerjee, C Dent, Abdul-Kadeer Ali, J Batty.

Franklin, Ireland, Lewis and Butler is a good seam attack (despite Butler's analysis from the last week) if they choose to go down that route and Marshall, Gidman and that man Franklin again gives them some quality in the batting. Fortunately for Surrey Steve Kirby is still injured and interestingly Gemaal Hussain, who's been in good form in the Championship, is left out in favour of Jon Batty who never quite clicked for Surrey in the T20s.

Man for man, Surrey have the stronger side to my mind and should the weather relent for long enough to get a game this evening I'll be there to hopefully watch Surrey start their T20 campaign in style!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Around the Grounds: Plays of the Day

Division One:

Chasing 328 runs in not many overs, Essex nearly contrived to lose against Hampshire, ending the day on 99-6, Ravi Bopara with 61 of those. He's coming nicely into form in time for Surrey's T20 game with Essex this week!

Samit Patel, after bowling an impressive 37 overs, taking only one wicket in the process, then came out to bat out 186 balls for 76*.  Not bad for a fat lad!

Division Two:

Ben Howgego, who I could've sworn played for Middlesex (turns out that's Dan Housego - you can see why I was confused), instead helped condemn them to a 9 wicket defeat, chasing 53 in just 7 overs largely in fact thanks to his batting partner Rob White.  Andrew Hall had done the damage earlier, following up his first innings hundred with 4-44.  Man of the Match I'd say!

Despite having taken a lead of nearly 100 into the second innings, Sussex look like continuing their poor form (and after such a flying start too).  They've stumbled to 71-7, with a lead of just 163, Derbyshire have a whole day tomorrow (weather permitting) to force a victory.  Robin Peterson continued his impressive season with 4-10, to take him to 36 wickets for the season at an impressive 25 runs each.

A return to blogging - an air of depressing familiarity hangs...

I was away only a week (Sicily, since you ask), and Surrey seem to have regressed further into 2009 than I ever thought possible.  It seems the rain rather spoiled the game with Glamorgan, but another abject batting performance spoiled the game with Leicestershire.

Its not even as if Leicestershire are flying high in the four day game either, coming off the back of an innings defeat to Glamorgan themselves, admittedly they did follow that up with a very strong batting performance versus Middlesex.  James Taylor's double hundred reaffirming what we already knew - he is some kind of talent.

There were one or two pluses - Dernbach now has 32 wickets at 25 apiece in the championship - nearly twice that of the next highest wicket taker, and of course Younus played an impressive lone hand in the second innings and if he can take that kind of form (at a higher strike rate!) into the T20 we could surprise a few.

However that doesn't disguise that it was a horrible result.  Our two spinners weren't given a chance to bowl by our batsmen but nevertheless I do worry about our lack of a genuine matchwinner in the spinning department.  Batty and Schofield are very valuable players, but I don't think they are going to be picking up hatfuls, raging bunsen or no raging bunsen.  Perhaps the break from four day cricket will do the players good, though it hasn't in the past.  Oh and finally, Younus' ban has indeed been lifted, but it isn't clear at the moment when he will next be playing for Pakistan, I'm hopeful that we'll have him for the entirety of the T20 Cup!