Sunday, 26 December 2010

So long Chris, it was a blast!

In my post-Christmas lunch haze I settled in to watch the start of Ashes Test number four last night, the Boxing Day Test at the enormous Melbourne Cricket Ground, and what a treat I was in store for.

Australia blasted out for 98, their lowest total at The G in Ashes history, a sub-100 innings total is a rare thing indeed in the annals of England in Australia history.  England's seamers put on a real show for their supporters, those at the ground and those recovering at home .  Anderson returned figures of 4-44, Bresnan 2-25 and the pick of the attack - statistically at least, Chris Tremlett with 4-26 taking him to 12 wickets in just two Ashes tests at an average of under 15.  The reality struck then and there, Perth was no fluke, Tremlett is there for keeps.

Steven Finn can count himself unlucky to have been dropped, or 'rested' for this game, but his time will come, it is clear to all who have seen him that he'll go on to take hundreds of wickets for England.  Finn is still raw though, he has areas to improve on, Tremlett is the finished article now.

Chris Tremlett is what a good friend of mine likes to call a "sh*t you up" bowler, like Harmison was in his pomp, he worries batsmen because of his sheer size and presence.  It was a joy to watch him bowl at the Oval in 2010, which brings me to my main point - in 2011 Tremlett at the Oval, and in fact in a Surrey shirt anywhere, might not happen very much.

England know now that in Tremlett, if he stays fit, they have a world class bowler who is at the peak of his physical prowess, and they should take advantage of that.  I think Steve Finn will have a hell of a fight on his hands to get into this side once Broad returns, what a delicious prospect for England, and there's Onions to come back too!

So Surrey will likely be a seamer for large chunks of the 2011 county season, the fitness of Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker, Tim Linley and the fragile Chris Jordan is all the more important suddenly.  Dernbach, Meaker and Linley took 88 wickets between them in the Championship last season, averaging 30 collectively, striking on average once every 54 balls and going at 3.3 runs an over.  Respectable figures no doubt - but Tremlett was a cut above, averaging 20, strike rate of 45 and going at just 2.6 an over.  He leaves a gaping chasm in our bowling attack, make no mistake.

Matthew Dunn might find himself called upon more regularly than he might've thought a few weeks ago but it'd be unfair to expect too much of such a young (though undoubtedly talented) player.

I am delighted for Tremlett, and England (country before county after all!), but he added a real cutting edge to our attack that will be sorely missed.  Dernbach and Meaker need to make a step up, which I think they are both certainly capable of, maybe the extra responsibility will be the making of them?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Stewart Walters leaves Surrey

Veteran of six seasons at Surrey Stewart Walters has departed the club by mutual consent.  He has one year remaining on his deal but he won't see that out, choosing instead to go into cricket clothing retail.

I am always reluctant to be too critical of a player who is released, it must be tough for the player to give up like that.  Having said that I was never really convinced that Walters was ever going to be a regular contributor at the level we needed him to be.  He was always lively in the field and despite dropping a couple of horror catches when I saw him this season he was reliable in the field.

Walters always scored heavily in the Second XI but the step up to first class cricket was maybe a bridge too far.  His average of 25 after 34 matches with only 2 hundreds, was nowhere near good enough and I'm sure he'll be disappointed with that return as well.  His uber-purple patch of June 2009 where he scored those two hundreds was never repeated.

It does however leave us another batsman short and with Michael Brown sounding not all that confident about making the new season in his injury diary, unless Chris Adams has another signing up his sleeve (Tom Maynard?) we are going to be really susceptible to an injury or two - not a great position to be in.  The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Tremlett would be pitch Perth-fect for the Waca

The morning after the night before, and what a night! The hour and a quarter or so of play last night was one of the most enjoyable I've ever had the pleasure to experience - I hope there's more where that came from.

The one cloud on the horizon is Stuart Broad's injury, an abdominal tear ruling him out of the entire Ashes series. Broad has bowled well on the tour so far without taking many wickets, and has barely had a bat, but his absence will nonetheless be keenly felt.

It will surprise none of you to hear that I think Chris Tremlett is the man for the job of replacing Broad. The pitch at the Waca might not be the terrifying prospect it once was, but there is word that its getting back to some of its former glory - and surely Australia's only hope is to prepare a pitch with a bit of green and try and blast England out. This would play nicely in to Tremlett's ample hands.

His height and high 80s pace will make him a real handful on a pitch with any sort of bounce. We've seen in this test the trouble that bounce can cause (for both sides!), and the addition of Phil Hughes at the top of the order (who Tremlett dismissed in the Hobart warm up game by the way) will only magnify that. To have Finn and Tremlett operating in tandem, with Anderson making use of the Freemantle Doctor and Swann twirling away as well would be a frightening prospect for the Aussies.

I have long been of the school of thought that you back your batters to get you the runs, and in two out of three innings so far this tour England's top six have delivered in spades. Swann might not be the ideal number 8 but he can do a job and Tremlett can fling the bat at number 9 to decent effect. Bresnan might, might, get you a few more runs but I just don't think he brings enough of a threat with the ball and I'm not sure Shahzad is suited to the Waca surface. Tremlett is the man for the job in Perth - he won't let England down.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

De Bruyns and De Brawn

Alright, its not a very good effort, but headlines aren't my speciality.  Zander de Bruyn, formerly of South Africa, Somerset and Worcestershire, and possessor of one of the most freakishly long necks in all of county cricket has signed a one year contract with Surrey as a kolpak player - he qualifies as a British citizen in 2012.

On the face of it he's not the most obvious of signings, but for a couple of reasons I think its quite a canny pick by Chris Adams and Co.  Firstly he does have a solid, if unspectacular, track record in first class cricket - 10,000 runs at an average of 40 and a healthy List A average to go along with it.  800 division one runs, 550 CB40 runs and 300 Twenty20 runs in 2010 speaks of a reliable middle order performer.  He can also turn his arm over to decent effect when required.

Secondly he will slot into a batting order shorn of the vast experience of Mark Ramprakash, his 170+ first class games will count double among such an inexperienced - albeit very promising - lineup.  Finally we missed a middle order hitter in the limited overs games last season, particularly the CB40, Hamilton-Brown and Davies often gave us rapid starts but once we got into number 4, 5, 6 and 7 there was a distinct lack of power - hopefully de Bruyn will address that.

I think de Bruyn can be a real success at the Oval, but my track record in predicting the quality of signings is distinctly average, so we shall see.  What is not in question though is the fact that our batting is well short of experience - too many times last season we collapsed and lacked application, hopefully the instalment of an experienced and quality player will help turn the tide.