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.

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