Friday, 30 July 2010

Sliding towards the inevitable

The inevitable defeat that is, Surrey ended the day today 110 for 6, and still a massive 146 runs short of making Middlesex bat again.  A combination of good batting, a lack of scoreboard pressure and better batting conditions made for a very bad day for Surrey.

As if we needed telling, Dawid Malan showed again why he is so highly rated with an accomplished 100 and that along with contributions from Shah, Newman and Dexter, plus useful lower order runs from Murtagh and Roland-Jones saw Middlesex snap up full batting points.  The only Surrey bowler who seemed able to keep the runs down and take wickets was the ever-impressive Chris Tremlett who ended with 4-90 from just under 30 overs.

The Surrey reply began well, Lancefield and Davies might not have broken the run of matches without a hundred opening partnership but they looked as comfortable as you can facing a 250 run deficit in getting to 75-0.  Thereafter though a cluster of wickets fell, 6 for 35runs to be precise and the game is now as good as lost.

This game and the game last Sunday with Somerset are bitterly disappointing for Surrey fans.  Its too easy to say 'one step forward, two steps back', but without question consistency is something this side is still searching for, and still some way short of.  It makes for a very frustrating time to be a fan of the club.

Middlesex should wrap up the win quite quickly and quite comfortably tomorrow and deservedly so.  The pair of Collins and Murtagh bowled well first innings and young Roland-Jones was quite excellent this evening with his 5-for.  They may have been severely depleted by England (Finn, Strauss, Morgan) and injury (O'Brien), but their squad players came in and have done the business, credit to them for that.

I'll admit something now, I did harbour very cautious hopes of promotion before this game after the good County Championship but I think that's now out of the window, and perhaps it might be no bad thing for this side to remain in Division Two for another season - Division One would expose them badly too early.  It might make it tough to attract the one or two quality signing we could do with though....anyway, that's for another time, for now the players need to knuckle down and find exactly what they had against Northants, because it went seriously AWOL in this game!

Thursday, 29 July 2010


One day's play is complete and Surrey's chances of a victory at the Home of Cricket are all but gone thanks to an abject batting performance barely a week after completely annihilating Northamptonshire with a virtuoso performance.

Such is the fate of a young and developing side, but we shouldn't just put it down to that.  There's no two ways about it, the batting today resembled the bad old days of early this season, nowhere near enough players taking responsibility for their wicket and the net result was a total at least 200 runs short - as Middlesex showed us later in the day.  Ramprakash was our top scorer as is often the case but no man is an island, even when he's as good as Ramps.

The opening issue is the biggest of all, it remains the only of the top 8 wickets this season to have not yielded a hundred partnership.  The return of Michael Brown cannot come soon enough, Davies belongs down the order and too much pressure is being heaped on the young shoulders of Tom Lancefield.  I wouldn't mind seeing young Kenyan international opener Seren Waters given a chance sooner rather than later either.

The bowlers were given a thankless task in defending such a low total and they started well, the first 10 or so overs going at barely 1 an over but it was always just a matter of Middlesex's openers seeing off the new ball and then bedding in.  All the top four contributed and Shah and Malan look set to grind Surrey into the dirt tomorrow, we have a massive fight on our hands to stave off defeat here.

Oh and another thing, though I believe the makeup of the side today is correct, I am concerned that the selection of Afzaal is wrong.  I like Usman and I am on record as saying I'd like to see him stay at Surrey, but I am at a loss as to identify what he has done in terms of run-scoring to justify his selection ahead of, say, Laurie Evans who's been scoring runs for fun in the Second XI.  I wonder if Usman's days may be numbered now in any case, he seems totally devoid of form and unable to claw it back.

Unless a bundle of wickets fall tomorrow morning we are staring down the barrel of a three day defeat.  As ever, character and fight are the order of the day, if we get that, who knows!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Three in a row? Dare we dream?

Surrey go to Lord's tomorrow in search of a third consecutive win the in the County Championship, something which seemed most unlikely even a couple of months ago.

Chris Adams has named the following 12 man squad, with the selection being my preference:

Tom Lancefield
Steven Davies
Mark Ramprakash
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Usman Afzaal
Stewart Walters
Matthew Spriegel
Gareth Batty
Tim Linley
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach

12th man: Stuart Meaker

I can only assume Andre Nel is injured, unless he's picked up another ban that I've missed completely, but its nice to see Linley and Dernbach returning from injury.  Both players were really hitting their straps before cruelly timed injuries and although Dernbach was loose against Somerset at the weekend, this game is a good opportunity for him to get some overs under his belt.  Whether Meaker or Linley takes the third seamers' slot is a toss-up, Meaker's four-for in the last game against Northants was an encouraging sign, but immediately before his injury Linley picked up a four-for as well, so I'd go with him.

In the end, given Spriegel's hundred in the last game, I wonder if Adams might actually go with four front line bowlers and put Spriegel in at six, Batty at seven and so on.  In which case both Linley and Meaker could play, and I would guess one of Walters or Afzaal - who is still yet to rediscover any sort of batting form - will make way.  I don't favour this approach as it puts a great deal of pressure on the top order.

I don't think having Davies opening is ideal, but until Brown returns we're still a player short in that position.  I hope Tom Lancefield can nail down the other openers slot, the failure of Harinath to convert a number of starts into anything was very disappointing, I hope his time will come again.

Middlesex are depleted somewhat, obviously Strauss, Morgan and Finn are away at Trent Bridge and Iain O'Brien is injured.  Their bowling attack looks a little inexperienced with young Roland-Jones having to shoulder considerable burden.  However with Dexter, Berg, Shah and Scott Newman (ok he's not scored loads, but he scored a few last time out vs Surrey) their batting is a bit healthier.  I think on paper Surrey have the slightest of edges, but that counts for nothing come 11am.

As is seemingly always the case with Surrey this season, this is a crucial game. If we could secure a third win on the bounce, promotion might start to look not quite so far fetched. Plus its always nice to beat Middlesex at Lord's!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Selection, bowling cost us dear in Somerset mauling

Were it not for the wedding of a good friend of mine, I'd have been at the Oval today to witness a horrible performance from Surrey and one from Somerset in which they thoroughly outclassed us.

We can't win 'em all of course, and I suppose Adams can be forgiven for sticking to the same basic principle of selection that has seen us go through the CB40 unbeaten so far and second in the table.  However a batting lineup which seems to stutter at numbers six and seven was always going to cost us sooner rather than later.

That said, it was probably the bowling today which was marginally the more damaging of the two.  When you have two bowlers going at around or above 9 an over in a 40 over contest, it is always going to be tough to make up the difference.

A side containing six bowlers (not including the part time spin of RHB) shouldn't really be conceding those kinds of totals, and its particularly confusing that Batty, the least expensive of the lot, bowled only half his full quota.  Spriegel too was left with two overs unbowled and he was (relatively) inexpensive.  Too many times this season our more economical bowlers have been left with overs un-bowled at the end.  These can be and have been costly tactical miscalculations.

Credit to Matthew Spriegel who I think is quite unsuited to batting at 5 or 6 in limited overs, he stuck at it while others fell around him.  However if Spriegel is the batsman who bats through, we are never likely to be able to chase 7.5+ an over for 40 overs.

We are still second in the table with a game in hand on those behind, so we're right in the mix, but I think we do need to re-evaluate the selection policy in limited overs.  I accept that the formula has worked so far, but I also think we need to acknowledge that an extra batsman in a side with plenty of bowling options gives us a bit of insurance.

There's no need to panic over this result, its a mauling, for sure, but this side is plenty good enough to get back to CB40 winning ways.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Back on the wagon

Apologies for the lack of blogging lately, I've been away with my real job which is most unfortunate as it coincided with probably the most comprehensive all round performance (and victory!) in three years from Surrey.

Surrey have now won consecutive Championship games for the first time since the end of 2007 when they won three on the bounce. We've also only lost one of the last five games, things are certainly on the up. Yet another hundred from Ramps, a sparkling hundred from the skipper and a second career ton for young Spriegel, combined with telling contributions with the ball from Batty and Tremlett contributed this week to a magnificent performance.

We now go into the weekend with a game on Sunday against Somerset in the CB40 and they'll be looking to continue their good form from earlier in the season in that format. Adams has named a 14 man squad, and I think the team should be:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Mark Ramprakash
Jason Roy
Tom Lancefield
Stewart Walters
Matthew Spriegel
Gareth Batty
Chris Tremlett
Andre Nel
Jade Dernbach

Bench: Gary Wilson, Stuart Meaker, Chris Schofield

I still worry about a 7 and 8 of Spriegel and Batty, there's absolutely no power there and should we need to biff a few in a couple of overs to win a game and we're 5 or 6 down, I don't think we'll win with that sort of batsman at the crease. That said, the pair of them are in good form and have earned the chance to play. Dernbach's inclusion is dependent on him making it through a club game, if he doesn't play I would stick Meaker in. He'll be on a high after four second innings wickets this week.

Gary Wilson showed signs of turning into a good little cricketer with those three quickfire boundaries at the end of the T20, so maybe he should get a go, but I think the side above has plenty of batting down to number six. With RHB, Roy, Lancefield and Davies, there's plenty of power in the top order.

Our limited overs form this season has been very good and now there are signs that the Championship form is going a similar way. I'll say again, you have to credit the skipper and the coach for much of that, but I suspect the senior players have played their part as well - the Battys, Ramprakashes and Tremletts have probably been a big influence too.

Its important to keep this form going and there's no reason why they shouldn't. Keep it up boys!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

A valiant effort, but ultimately in vain

Surrey's best Twenty20 performance of the season was not enough to see them through to the quarter finals of the Twenty20 Cup today as Hampshire and Middlesex both won as well.

As has been the case almost throughout the entire tournament Surrey's bowlers, led by the simply brilliant Chris Tremlett, were top notch.  Each time it appeared that Gloucestershire were getting a handle on the game, Surrey dragged themselves back into it and while at one stage they looked like posting 170-180, Surrey in the end would have been disappointed to let them get to 147.

Tremlett was faultless in picking up 3-18 to take him to 24 wickets in 16 games, he's been by some distance Surrey's standout bowler, and probably player, of the tournament.

From the word go Davies and Hamilton-Brown made a mockery of the total and raced to 112 in the 9th over before Hamilton-Brown was out trying the reverse sweep.  The last time we played Gloucestershire the powerplay overs yielded 18 runs for the loss of 5 wickets, not this time!  Davies kept rattling along and by the time he was out for a stunning 73 from 30 balls the match was in the bag for Surrey.  When the side comes out and puts in a performance like that, one wonders how we hadn't qualified already.

Ultimately though the 196 Hampshire totted up on a postage-stamp sized ground was too much for Sussex, and Essex fell short in their chase of 173 against Middlesex (why did Scott Styris save his best for us?!). There was an enormous amount of fight and no little talent out there for Surrey today and they can be proud of the way they threw the kitchen sink at everything.  However, careless defeats against Essex away and particularly Glamorgan at the Oval, not to mention the dreadful efforts against Gloucester and Essex at home, really put us on the back foot and made it very difficult to return from.  It is nice to have beaten Middlesex to fifth place, but that counts for absolutely nothing!

Eight wins and eight defeats is a substantial improvement on four wins in the previous two years, but to have come so close will weigh particularly heavily on the captain and coach.  It is without question a massive disappointment, but we should try at all costs to look at the positives here.  We need to put the T20 behind us now and focus on showing that kind of improvement in the Championship, and sustaining the good form we've shown in the CB40.  Well played today lads, cracking effort.

The must win to end all must wins

Even though it is still just a Twenty20...

Surrey travel to Bristol today to play Gloucester in a game they absolutely have to win, and win healthily, to have any chance of progressing to the quarter finals of the Twenty20 Cup.  Middlesex, who play Essex in Chelmsford and Hampshire who play Sussex at the Rose Bowl, also have to win to guarantee progression, but their superior run rates make their jobs ever so slightly easier.

Adams has named a 12 man squad, which is as follows with my preference for a starting XI:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Tom Lancefield
Stewart Walters
Andrew Symonds
Gary Wilson
Matthew Spriegel
Chris Schofield
Chris Tremlett
Andre Nel

12th man:  Stuart Meaker

Its a tough call to go with Schofield over Meaker, because as the Somerset game showed us Meaker is capable of coming up with that ball that can change a game, but he is also prone to spraying it around a bit because of his pace.  His time will come, of that I have no doubt, but it isn't today.

The rest of the team picks itself really.  I presume Ramps must be suffering with his shoulder injury still and I would question the value of picking Wilson ahead of someone like Laurie Evans, but that's the squad we have.  The fact that Wilson is in ahead of Afzaal too does not bode well for Usman's future at the club, which is very disappointing.

Gloucestershire haven't named a squad as yet but they've been in poor form, losing 3 of their last four T20 games, but they'll be keen to salvage some pride at this stage.  There's nothing more dangerous than a wounded 'Gladiator'....

Can we qualify?  Yes, obviously, and Hampshire and Middlesex both have tough games.  However they are also both playing sides who have already qualified for the quarter finals.  We have a very tough task on our hands and its not ideal that we're relying on the results of others to make it through, but such is life.  All Surrey can do is go out today and play to the best of their abilities - if they do that, we can win for sure, and that's how we give ourselves the best opportunity!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A captain's innings to beat Sussex

Whenever you go away to top-of-the-table and come away with an eight wicket win with 10 balls to spare you know you've done well, but Rory Hamilton-Brown can be particularly pleased with himself as the skipper saw the side to victory with 71% of the runs in the chase.

I still think we're the under dogs to qualify, we've played a game more than Hampshire and still have an inferior run rate, but if Hampshire were to lose to Middlesex on Friday and Glamorgan won against Somerset on Wednesday, the four side would go into their final games on 14 points.  Glamorgan then have to play Kent, Middlesex have a tough game against Essex and Hampshire play Sussex.  We meanwhile travel to Gloucestershire.  All to play for, but its not in our hands.

Back to today, we were in the box seats ever since Symonds (yes, Symonds) and Tremlett each took two wickets in their first two overs to leave Sussex 20-4.  Some lower order hitting dragged them up to 121 which was never going to be enough.

Rather than come out all guns blazing the skipper and Davies elected to go the cautious route, putting away the bad balls and accumulating the rest.  The strategy didn't pay off for Davies who was out for a subdued 9 but it paid off in spades for Hamilton-Brown.

Credit to Symonds today, his bowling has been dreadful in recent games but given the new ball today ahead of Andre Nel he did the damage.  An interesting move by Hamilton-Brown and boy did it pay off.  He can still justify his selection next weekend by helping us to a big win over Gloucestershire and sneaking us into the quarters.  Seven wins from 15 games isn't champion form, but it is a vast improvement and I don't think any Surrey fan would deny that this is a far superior side to last year's.

The game next weekend is absolutely huge, the lads could either crumble under the pressure or they could step up and put in a super performance.  I'm going to plump for the latter, but I still fear it might not be enough, nevertheless fingers crossed!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The dream dies

While I was enjoying a glorious evening at the Oval watching a thriller of a match involving Kent and Essex, Surrey were toiling in Cardiff and came up 10 runs short against Glamorgan - a second loss against the Welshmen inside a week and a third consecutive Twenty20 defeat.

We are still fifth in the table and one of four teams on 12 points but while Middlesex and Glamorgan are just hitting their straps now and Hampshire have a superior NRR, we are falling off the pace and have only two games to go.  Middlesex and Hampshire play a double header today and tomorrow and one of those two really has the chance to get a tight grip on the fourth spot.  The quarter finals don't look terribly likely right now for Surrey.

Last night wasn't a terrific performance, though after Glamorgan raced to nearly 80 in 8 overs our bowlers came back well to restrict them to 164.  Surrey's reply was on the rocks impressively before a legitimate ball had even been bowled, the returning Steve Davies was stumped off a Robert Croft wide first ball.  Thereafter only the impressive Stewart Walters made any impression with 53 off 36 balls.

The lower middle and lower order was again exposed for a lack of power, I see no reason why Spriegel who has hit just a single boundary in seven innings, is in ahead of Schofield, Meaker and even Nel.  Spriegel has the second lowest strike rate of any batsman who has faced 50 or more balls in all 18 counties (bizarrely the lowest is Michael Carberry!).  Spriegel has many talents and I rate him highly, but boundary hitting is not one of them.

That leaves us with six wins and eight defeats from 14 matches, and to be perfectly frank I'd have taken that at the start given the abysmal performances of the last two years.  Two games remain, on Sunday at Arundel against Sussex and then a week later (why the week delay?!) against Gloucester at Bristol.  I'm not doing the maths, but even two wins is very unlikely to leave us in with a chance.  Its a disappointing end to what had become quite a hopeful campaign, but Twenty20 is all about peaking at the right time, and we didn't.  Onwards and upwards!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Late homework

Apologies for the late post on this one, I was left drowning my sorrows yesterday evening after Middlesex returned the favour by giving us a comprehensive 7 wicket thrashing with a couple of overs to spare last night.

There was a moment early on, when Surrey were 9-2 after three overs when I thought we might even approach the performance of the Gloucestershire game, and if it wasn't for Spriegel and Wilson at the end picking up a few, we may well have been staring down the barrel of our lowest total ever.

It wasn't just that our best batsmen got out, it was the manner in which they got out. Ramps and Rory ran themselves out before the seventh over was out, on both occasions there was no run. Younus and Symonds were both tamely caught and bowled off the bowling of Smith and the most culpable of all was Stewart Walters, treading on his stumps while flicking a single to square leg. Jason Roy was out caught behind, I have to say I didn't hear a thing, but I was rather a long way away.

It was just utter stupidity and in complete contrast to the vast strides the team have made over recent weeks. I wish I could say it was down to inexperience but Hamilton-Brown aside, all of the above are experienced first class cricketers. They should not be popping up caught and bowled chances when the side is already deep in the mire.

The bowlers were again left with a thankless task. Nel bowled quickly and accurately, Tremlett was his usual self although a touch on the expensive side, Schofield was economical if rarely threatening and Spriegel picked up another couple of wickets. On the down side, Symonds' bowling seems to have regressed to the point where he can barely be termed an all rounder any longer, two four balls an over (at the very least) is not what you expect for a man of his considerable experience.

I imagine that now puts the kibosh on our hopes of reaching the quarter finals. It further reduces our net run rate and puts us well behind the curve. It goes without saying that a win tonight is a must, but even that might not be enough.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Tough game in prospect for Surrey

Surrey may well have battered Middlesex by nine wickets in the game at Lord's, but I don't think a similar result is in prospect tonight. Though Middlesex may have been marginally weakened in the opener's slot by the loss of Adam Gilchrist, they have in return the all round talents of Tyron Henderson.

Surrey on the other hand still have major injury concerns. Dernbach is still missing thanks to the injury sustained in that very game at Lord's, and Linley, Batty, Brown and Jordan are still out, though Schofield seems to have recovered from what looked like a sore knee on Sunday. The squad and my preference is as follows:

Tom Lancefield
Mark Ramprakash
Jason Roy
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Stewart Walters
Andrew Symonds
Gary Wilson
atthew Spriegel
Stuart Meaker
Andre Nel
Chris Tremlett

Bench: Younus Khan, Chris Schofield

Gary Wilson at number seven is not ideal, but I think the extra bowler is necessary given the performance of our bit-part bowlers of late. Younus is available but Walters has been performing far better with the bat lately so he's earned his place. I wonder if Andre Nel might be rested as he was on Sunday, in which case Schofield will almost certainly come in, and indeed may play in Meaker's place in any case depending on conditions.

Middlesex's 15 man squad has also been named, it is as follows: Neil Dexter, Gareth Berg, Pedro Collins, Josh Davey, Tyron Henderson, Dawid Malan, Tim Murtagh, Scott Newman, Iain O'Brien, Toby Roland-Jones, Ben Scott, Owais Shah, Tom Smith, Jackson Thompson, David Warner. A couple of relative unknowns in there, I'm thinking of Davey and Thompson in particular, but there's also some quality. Murtagh and O'Brien will make a very tricky seam pair to negotiate, Tom Smith has been in good form lately and Dexter, Berg and Henderson make for some very handy options too. On the batting front we all know how destructive Warner can be and there's the potential of Shah, Newman, Dexter, Henderson and Berg to consider too. All in all, that is a very nicely balanced and potent looking side.

I think we will struggle to win tonight, the result against Glamorgan probably knocked the players a bit and it could go one of two ways, they'll either want to hit back hard, or they could be rolled over easily. I obviously hope its the former and there's plenty of ability in that side, but Middlesex are a tough prospect.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Can we qualify?

Tomorrow night sees the visit of Middlesex to the Oval, in the fixture at Lord's we totally battered them, but I don't see that being repeated.  Middlesex have the pugnacious David Warner at the top of the order who can destroy county attacks even on an average day, but more of that tomorrow.

We currently lie in fifth place having lost two out of the last three T20 fixtures, one away defeat and one home defeat, sandwiching the win over Somerset.  Sussex are more or less nailed on to qualify, and Essex and Somerset, each with a game in hand over us and Hampshire.  Middlesex, who also have a game in hand over us, and Glamorgan lie two points behind and also have worse net run rates than us.  So, what are our chances?

We have four games left, the home game with the 'Sex tomorrow night, then three away games at Glamorgan, Sussex and Gloucester.  That isn't an easy run in.  Two of the teams right around us, then the division pace setters, and then finish with the bottom of the table Gloucestershire.  We've beaten Middlesex before, we should've beaten Glamorgan on Sunday and we're a different side to the one that got trounced by Gloucestershire early on.  Hampshire play Middlesex twice and then either side of that they go away to Somerset and face Sussex at home, pretty similar to our set of games.

Glamorgan might feel they're in the box seats, especially if they can get a result against us on Friday.  After that they face Kent twice who have been in poor form and they also have Somerset at home to play.  Apart from the games I've already mentioned Middlesex have Gloucester at home and Essex away, they've got a good chance with the game in hand, but they will probably feel a win against us tomorrow is essential.

We can beat Middlesex, Glamorgan and Gloucester, I don't fancy our chances against Sussex, but three out of four might just do it.  We can't afford to have Hampshire beat Middlesex twice, but we can't really afford to have Middlesex beat Hampshire twice either, so we'll have to settle for a win apiece there.  That means we'd have to hope Hampshire lose against at least one of Sussex and Somerset to be sure of qualifying, our net run rate is substantially inferior to Hampshire's so we'd probably miss out if we were level on points.

Of course that all relies on Middlesex and Glamorgan results going our way too!  Because we're not in fourth as it stands, the situation is out of our hands to a degree, any hope of qualification will rest with other results one way or another.  All RHB and his troops can do is go out there and be at their fighting, classy best - something they have shown on six occasions already in this competition, just need three more big performances boys (not asking much is it?!), come on the 'Rey!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Bad calls Rory

Your first two overs go for 28, coming in to the last over the opposition require 10 runs to complete a victory which at one stage looked pretty unlikely, so would you bring yourself on to bowl that over?

That's just what Rory Hamilton-Brown did today, whether it was a case of over-confidence or just a big old miscalculation, I don't know, but it was the wrong call.  On a pitch where spin had played a significant part, Glamorgan's spinners kept Surrey on a leash and Matthew Spriegel had already taken two wickets, it might not have seemed such a bad call, but Hamilton-Brown's bowling today was poor.  The first ball of the final over he speared down the leg side to concede two wides, and the next ball went for six, leaving Glamorgan a very simple task.

The batsmen got us off to a rollicking start, Lancefield and Ramprakash making the most of the powerplays and going along at better than 10 an over.  However Lancefield's dismissal signalled a quieter period for Surrey and Roy and Symonds (again, at least a place too high in the order, when will they learn?) both departed cheaply.  Hamilton-Brown contributed 18 and credit to Stewart Walters who despite collecting a couple of fortunate boundaries did well to batter 31 off 19 balls to lift the total to a competitive looking 168.

The Glamorgan innings began well for Surrey, Spriegel and Tremlett were tight but it soon became clear that Surrey were a bowler light (Tremlett was unlucky to pick up a wicket in his first over too as Hamilton-Brown shelled a sharp chance at slip).  Meaker might have that fantastic ball in his locker somewhere, but today he was too erratic and the captain had no confidence in him.  Symonds was given three overs and rarely threatened, offering up a couple of boundary balls an over which were gratefully accepted, Schofield too was expensive despite picking up the key wicket of Cosgrove.

Tom Maynard batted superbly, we've been on the end of some cracking innings this season, his was certainly one of the best, but we lost a game today we really should've won.

That puts us on the back foot, and Glamorgan now have an outside chance of picking up a quarter final spot.  Despite there being four games still remaining for us, our negative net run rate may ultimately count heavily against us in the final reckoning for a quarter final place.  Disappointing show today Surrey, and Schofield looks to have picked up an injury too, not an ideal Sunday afternoon!

Dragon slayers?

We've had to wait till 5 weeks into the Twenty20 contest this year to get a Glamorgan match, and this is the first time the two sides have ever met in the T20 contest, so which way will it go?

The last game I saw Glamorgan in was the televised Hampshire game in which Jimmy Adams scored a brilliant hundred (no shame in having Jimmy Adams score a hundred against you!) and they looked desperately poor, both with the ball - Croft aside - and in the field, but we shouldn't under estimate them.

They've been unlucky to lose Tait, he was superb for them in their early games but he's now moved on to destroying England (for the record, I think the bowlers lost us that game yesterday, not the batsmen) and their bowling stocks aren't terribly strong.  Their squad is J Allenby, MJ Cosgrove, JWM Dalrymple (captain), TL Maynard, BJ Wright, GP Rees, DO Brown, MA Wallace (wicket-keeper), DA Cosker, RDB Croft, CP Ashling, HT Waters and WT Owen and on paper you'd say there are bowlers in there who could be targeted.  Cosgrove, Maynard and Allenby are all talented batsmen who could get at us though.

Hopefully we'll have Symonds back in the side, his lower order power is essential even if it wasn't necessary on Friday.  There's no announcement of the squad on the official website but I would expect Younus to be the man to drop out since Davies is not available and Lancefield is a better option opening up.  Spriegel has probably earned himself another go, his bowling was excellent on Friday and I would assume Batty and Nel will not be risked.

I hate to say it again, but this is an important game, we're equal on points with Essex, Somerset and Hampshire but behind on run rate and the former two have a game in hand.  Middlesex, two points behind, also have a game in hand and are also ahead on run rate (damn that Gloucestershire game!).  Its so close in this division and we'll have just four games left after this one, two at home, two away, clearly we need to bank the two points today and ideally in emphatic fashion!

Friday, 2 July 2010

One of those games

Yep, it turned out to be one of those games, and it went in our favour.  Hamilton-Brown won the toss and elected to bat.  Given the very cloudy conditions overhead he might've been tempted to bowl, but because it was a used pitch he thought getting runs on the board was the best bet.

And so it proved.  The makeshift opening partnership of Ramprakash and Lancefield got the side off to a good start.  Although Lancefield, on debut, probably only completed one genuinely confident stroke, he can be forgiven a few nerves and at least he went hard at the ball.  He got himself out for a rapid 16 but Surrey managed to hit 50 before the powerplay was out.

Ramprakash played steadily while Jason Roy, in at number three looked to hit out from ball one, and more or less did so.  He's clearly in spectacular form and is without doubt a precocious talent.  By the time he was out today for 74 off 50 balls including three terrific sixes, Surrey had mustered a solid 171.  I thought at the time we might be 10 or so runs short, but that proved to be complete rubbish.

Hamilton-Brown elected to go with the spin of Spriegel for the first over, which was economical and after Compton fell in Tremlett's first it was encouraging to see the captain toss the ball back to Spriegel for a second.  He was richly rewarded as the allrounder picked up two key wickets.  Somerset captain Trescothick and the dangerous de Bruyn were accounted for.  Tremlett then collected the wicket of Hildreth thanks to a stunning catch from Hamilton-Brown, and Somerset were on the ropes.

Pollard briefly threatened but he was done in by a beauty of a yorker from Stuart Meaker who's first over was pretty dreadful, but the first ball of his second was both vital and pin-point accurate.  Thereafter Somerset never looked like recovering and the decision to play just two front line bowlers really paid off for the skipper.

There was plenty of character in the win tonight, incredible energy in the field, flashes of brilliance with both bat and ball and in the end a result that was thoroughly deserved.  I can't praise Hamilton-Brown enough tonight, we were without  Nel, Davies and Batty, and for some reason Symonds was dropped as well but the players who came in, Lancefield, Meaker and to a lesser extend Wilson really stepped up to the plate.  This was an exceptional result which really keeps us in the hunt for a quarter final spot.  Well played boys.

No excuses, but....

According to Somerset skipper Marcus Trescothick, it is "barmy" to play a Twenty20 match the day after a four day game. I couldn't agree more Marcus and it may well count against Surrey in their game with Tres's side tonight.

Trescothick insists that Somerset will be "fresher and sharper" after their break, and when you look at the injury list after the Derbyshire game, you'd make him bang right. Batty, Nel, Wilson and Linley all picked up injuries and surely won't feature tonight. Dernbach is already ruled out and Meaker may or may not be back to full fitness. Add to that Jordan and Brown (any others?!) and we've got ourselves a right pickle.

Unsurprisingly the Surrey squad hasn't been named yet, Adams will want to leave it as long as possible to assess the fitness of all his players. However I think it very likely that we'll see the likes of Jewell, Lancefield and maybe even Dunn given a look in tonight. We badly need the England Lions to release Steve Davies for this game, I hope they're sympathetic!

This is not to say that those players don't have the necessary quality to beat Somerset, it could be the case that the youngsters come in and really turn it on, but it'll be tough against a good side.

The Somerset squad is as follows: Trescothick, Compton, Hildreth, de Bruyn, Pollard, Buttler, Suppiah, Phillips, Kartik, Thomas, Turner and Waller. Trescothick hasn't quite scaled the heights we know he can in the T20 this year, but Compton looked in decent touch when I saw him against Essex, and Hildreth, de Bruyn and Pollard need no introduction. In Thomas and Kartik they also have two of the best T20 bowlers around and Pollard has been a revelation with the ball for them as well with 14 wickets already (all three bowlers are in the top 20 best economy rates in the competition so far, Thomas is the leading wicket taker in the country and Pollard is fourth in that table).

If we do lose heavily tonight it will be easy to fall back on the excuse that the schedule cost us, and I actually have a great deal of sympathy with that. However I still hope we can put in a fighting performance with maybe some flashes of brilliance from the youngsters, I'll be satisfied with that.

Update:  The Surrey squad has been announced and is as follows:  Rory Hamilton-Brown, Andrew Symonds, Younus Khan, Mark Ramprakash, Stewart Walters, Chris Schofield, Gareth Batty, Andre Nel, Jason Roy, Tom Lancefield, Tom Jewell, Chris Tremlett, Matthew Spriegel, Stuart Meaker.  I'd be surprised to see Nel and Batty on the field, but you never know!  I'd be interested to see Lancefield, he's been in cracking form for the Second XI, can he follow in Roy's footsteps?

Update 2: The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed the lack of a wicket keeper in the above squad!  Gary Wilson has now been added which means the miserable sinners at the England Lions have not released Davies.  Expect therefore Lancefield may well come in to open, and Wilson will bat down the order, doesn't look a very strong side to me, but we shall see.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Around the Grounds: Plays of the Day

Division One:

Well I said yesterday that Troughton and Ambrose would have some batting to do to save Warwickshire and....they didn't.  Troughton was the only man not to fall victim to Steve Harmison as he raced through Warwickshire's batting lineup, taking 6 wickets for only 8 runs, ending with 7-29, his best figures for Durham.  Warwickshire fell a massive 219 runs short.

Rain spoiled the Yorkshire-Lancashire match which ended in a draw, although with Lancs 7 down at the end they were doing their best to make it exciting anyway. Only Steven Croft offered any resistance with 85 as Rashid picked up another three wickets to go with his first innings five-for.  Earlier in the day he'd hit a quick fire 42* as Yorkshire looked to set a target.  Young Simon Kerrigan, Lancashire's slow left armer took four Yorkshire wickets and Adam Lyth fell cheaply, leaving himself 18 runs short of 1,000 for the season and 7 runs behind Ramprakash.

Division Two: 

Surrey won.  That's all that matters.

Two wins, and we're not bottom!

After a rather lacklustre day yesterday where we both failed to seize the initiative with bat and ball, today, and this afternoon in particular Surrey came back steadily and managed to snatch the win by 42 runs as the final 10 overs approached.

With Linley out of the attack completely and Andre Nel suffering late yesterday with a hamstring problem, in a particularly ironic twist Chris Tremlett was left as our last frontline bowler standing - he finished the day with 4-94, not outstanding figures by any stretch, but enough to win the game.

But not before Wayne Madsen completed an excellent match with a hundred to match his one from the first innings, though he'll be disappointed to have been dismissed when he was, with him at the crease a Derbyshire victory looked likely.  He and Gary Park put on a stubborn partnership of 150 but thereafter no Derbyshire batsman was really able to get set.

25 and 33 overs from Nel and Tremlett respectively is an impressive effort, particularly if Nel was carrying an injury and although Batty's return of 1-99 on a fourth day pitch is disappointing, there are things to be pleased about from this game.

It wasn't the best batting or bowling performance we'll see but we still won, and we're now third from bottom in the table, we'll be getting nosebleeds soon.  I fear the consequences of the injury to Linley might lead Adams and RHB away from a four man attack in the future, but in reality what we were missing in the last day and a half was a front line spinner.

The main positive from today is the the side knuckled down, and in general I think they are becoming a more 'together' unit, the win today will only have helped that.  With so many players out injured (Linley, Dernbach, Meaker, Jordan, Brown) we've done a cracking job to pull off the win, even if it was against fellow proppers-up of the table (remember what Derbyshire did to us earlier in the season?!).

Given the impact this game has had on the squad though I do worry about our prospects for tomorrow night's game with Somerset, yet another reason (as if another was required) against crow-barring a Championship fixture in between Twenty20 matches.  Anyway, lets focus on the positives, we won, which means we've won as many games this season as we did in the two previous seasons combined.  The team is surely now on an upward curve, and long may that continue!