Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Twenty20 Preview

Shockingly the Friends Life (not Friends Provident any more) Twenty20 Cup is almost upon us. Things get under way on Thursday against Gloucestershire, here's hoping we do a bit better in that fixture than we did in the corresponding one last year.

So what then should we expect this year? In terms of sheer power our top six is a match for pretty much any in county cricket. Hamilton-Brown, Davies, Roy, de Bruyn, Maynard and Ramprakash are six batsmen capable of batting any side out of a game, equally it's possible that we'll end up (as we did last year) 17-5, but it's worth the gamble if you ask me. I really can say no more than that about our batting, they are a collection of the most talented players currently playing the game.

I think where we do struggle a little is when it comes to the all rounders. Batty is very much a bowling all rounder (and has hit a rocky patch form-wise) and Spriegel, while I have no concerns over his form, can take a few deliveries to get into his stride. He has more than earned his place though and his knock against Scotland this year and against Worcestershire in the CB40 last year show him to have plenty of big-hitting ability once into his stride. His bowling will also be crucial. There is a question as to whether both Batty and Spriegel should play in the same side, as with de Bruyn and Hamilton-Brown in the team there is enough bowling to make up the shortfall in overs that leaving one out would create. I suspect Adams will select both, with Schofield in the mix as well, given that no batsman waiting in the wings is really kicking the door down for this format.

As for the bowlers, the loss of Tremlett and Dernbach to England is a blow of untold proportions. For all his prowess in the Championship people tend to forget quite how magnificent Trem was in the T20s last year, 24 wickets at 17 and an economy rate of 6.8. Dernbach would've been vying with him for top spot were it not for that injury at Lord's. We must make do however, and in Arafat and Dirk Nannes we have two of the most experienced (and successful) T20 bowlers ever. Should Stuart Meaker be fit to return he too will be a handful, perhaps even Matt Dunn too.

So in short we have a team capable of making the latter stages and yes, even winning this competition. Other sides have better bowling (Hampshire's frankly ridiculous battery of spinners springs to mind, and Somerset have an embarrassment of riches), perhaps some have better batting (Somerset again), but there is so much talent in this side that they should quite rightly be aiming very high.

Key players: Zander de Bruyn. His ability to stabilise an innings, or to biff a few to make a decent total into a great total, is something we were sorely lacking last season. His overs will also be crucial, expect full four over spells more often than not. Dirk Nannes. 90mph left armer with a lovely beard. Need I say more?

Game comes alive with a day to play

After the disappointment of losing a full day to the rain yesterday, a full quota was bowled today, and with another full day in prospect tomorrow the game is genuinely in the balance.

That is thanks to some excellent bowling late in the day from Tim Linley (who had earlier taken a career best 6-81) and Matt Dunn (who was called in to replace Dernbach who is joining up with the England test side - well done Jade!). Both bowlers took two wickets apiece in the final 12 overs of play including first innings centurion Chesney Hughes. Where the games against Glamorgan and Essex needed something extraordinary to happen on the final day there is a real chance of a result tomorrow, Redfern and Durston have a real fight on their hands tomorrow morning to keep Derbyshire in the mix.

Surrey were bowled out for what seemed a slightly disappointing 358 at the time, but there is clearly still something in the pitch. Hamilton-Brown, Davies, de Bruyn and Maynard all made fifties in very good time but none passed 80. The final five wickets collapsed in a heap for just 25 runs, including Chris Jordan for a six ball duck, he really has had a wretched game and his participation in the Twenty20s will now probably rely in injuries to others. Still, getting to within 42 of Derbyshire's 400-9 declared (and doing so in only 70 overs) meant we were still well in the game.

With Derbyshire 35-4 at the close of play, just 77 runs ahead Surrey are looking good. However with the two batsmen at the crease, Smith and Sutton still to come Derbyshire could quite conceivably add 150 to their score, chasing 220 in 50 or so overs on a helpful pitch will not be easy. The bowlers (and it will almost certainly require more than just Linley and Dunn) need to be right on the money tomorrow morning, Jewell and de Bruyn will have work to do and Batty might be called upon to tie up an end. Credit must go to the team who batted and bowled aggressively today to put themselves in with a shout. We've created an opening this evening, they must make sure they exploit it.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Another disappointing day

Under gloomy skies on a pitch with reportedly plenty in it for the bowlers, Hamilton-Brown was probably justified in sending Derbyshire in to bat this morning. And at 16-2 he must've been a very happy man, Linley's opening burst sending back both openers. But thereafter it was Derbyshire's day. I am struggling to think of times when we really pressed home an advantage this season.

Three times we've sent teams in to bat this year and three times they've closed the day well in excess of 300 and never with more than 7 wickets down, that is pretty poor going. Linley should be singled out for praise today, another four-for against Derbyshire (4-71 to be precise) and Batty at least offered a modicum of control. Dernbach didn't have his best day although he did pass the edge of Chesney Hughes' bat early in the day.

That man Hughes, who is staggeringly only 20 years old, went on to score an impressive 124 to provide the backbone to Derbyshire's innings. Wes Durston and Dan Redfern provided ample support.

I am sure Hughes' knock was a very good one but we have only ourselves to blame for being under the cosh again. Principal among the offenders today was Chris Jordan, who to my mind is not ready for Championship cricket this year. He returned 0-72 off 10 overs. That's unacceptably expensive in a one day match never mind four day cricket. He has now taken 4 wickets at 64 in 2011, giving away 4.3 runs an over in the process. It's clear that the captain doesn't trust him as today he bowled just those 10 overs out of 96. I am in no doubt that Matthew Dunn would have been a more potent weapon today and was disappointed not to see him named. Tom Jewell did ok in only his second match with 1-68 off 16 overs and for much of the day his economy rate was far better than the 4.2 he ended with.

If the rain holds off tomorrow Derbyshire are well set to push for their final batting point and Tim Linley deserves to get his five-for, but then Surrey could be in trouble. Turner, Palladino, Jones and Clare are unlikely to be as profligate as our bowlers. In any case this looks likely to be another game which slips by without a win for Surrey unless things improve dramatically. Not good enough today.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Schofield dropped for Derbyshire game

After an underwhelming performance against Glamorgan at the Oval Surrey make the trip up to Derbyshire desperately in need of a win before the mini break that includes the Twenty20. With only one win from our first six matches we are going to have to embark on a pretty extraordinary run of results for a realistic chance of promotion.

Chris Schofield is dropped from the squad after disappointing against Glamorgan, and Matthew Dunn and Rory Burns come into the squad. It will be interesting to see what set up Adams goes for, but here's what I think he might do:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Jason Roy
Mark Ramprakash
Zander de Bruyn
Steven Davies
Tom Maynard
Gareth Batty
Tom Jewell
Jade Dernbach
Matthew Dunn
Tim Linley

12th men: Rory Burns, Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan did little against Glamorgan to suggest he should play, so I hope Tom Jewell is given a go, although I think there is also an argument for playing the extra batsman instead of the allrounder, especially given the amount of overs de Bruyn has bowled lately. I think its unlikely Adams will go that route as if he was to play the extra bat, it would surely have been Harinath, I suspect Burns is in the squad as a precautionary measure given Davies' sprained ankle against Glamorgan.

An attack including two such inexperienced bowlers as Dunn and Jewell is a huge gamble, but with Arafat and Meaker still out we don't have many other options. Dunn hasn't bowled his best for the 2nds this season but this could be his moment. Linley seemed to get better through the game at the Oval and he'll want to carry on the good work he started at Derbyshire last season - 4-13 before a foot injury cruelly cut him down in his prime.

Derbyshire are without Tim Groenewald who has 24 wickets this season, but they still have Palladino, Clare, Smith and Turner more than capable of taking wickets. They've lost Usman Khawaja but have gained Martin Guptill who I've always been very impressed by for New Zealand. Wayne Madsen tops their batting averages but Chesney Hughes is the more dangerous. Wes Durston is no mug either.

This won't be an easy game and again it's probably a story of two sides stronger in the batting that the bowling, certainly in our case, less so for Derbyshire. However our batting unit is the stronger of the two so if Dernbach can hit his straps, Dunn steps up to the occasion and Linley carries on improving, we should be looking at beating them, weather permitting.

Friday, 27 May 2011

(Some) Pride Restored

After being outplayed for three quarters of the game today was something of an exercise in redressing the balance, even if in the end it was another disappointing draw, the fourth such result in our six matches so far.

There was some good news today, Jason Roy scored his maiden Championship hundred and did so at more than a run a ball, bringing up his hundred with what must be his favourite shot, a straight six into the pavilion. He and Hamilton-Brown also constructed Surrey's second century opening partnership in consecutive matches.

I'm not sure if the captains agreed before the day's play that the target would be 400, but if they did then chances of a result were all but knackered there and then. The teams went into lunch with Glamorgan 320 ahead and a very brave skipper might have sent Surrey back out right after lunch, but Petersen elected to bat on. I personally think 350 in what would've been roughly 55 overs would've been ideal, but they pressed on before eventually declaring, leaving Surrey needing a desperately unlikely 395 runs in 50 overs. Roy and Hamilton-Brown motored along at the required 8 an over for close to 20 overs, playing with the freedom that comes with an almost unattainable total. Given the rapid start it was a bit disappointing to see them give up the chase as soon as one wicket fell, it was perhaps worth pushing Maynard or Davies up the order to have one last dart. That may be nit picking because it would have been even at that stage an incredibly unlikely win.

We are never going to be fighting for promotion by drawing two thirds of our matches, yes its better than losing every game but we've got to be creating opportunities to win games. Over the past few years we've been able to look at the pitches as the culprit but I don't think we can blame the pitch this time. It wasn't a raging green top, zipping about all over the place, but there was a bit of life in it, hence Glamorgan's rookie seam attack dismantling our batting for less than 300 runs in the first innings. We failed to win this game, and in reality we were never in a position to win it, because we didn't play close to our best cricket and that is a concern.

The next game against Derbyshire comes hot on the heels of this one, beginning on Sunday. They're no pushovers but we should be looking at beating them, especially if Meaker is fit again. Many a positive word has been spoken by Adams and Hamilton-Brown this season about taking opportunities when presented, and pressing home the advantage, but that hasn't been backed up on the pitch sufficiently. That needs to change, and quickly, if we are to make any progress.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

New Jack Hobbs biography reviewed - and two to give away!

To my eternal shame I am no Surrey County Cricket Club history buff, anything before about 1990 is something of a mystery to me, partly because of my age and partly because of my laziness. Which is not to say I know nothing of the history of the club, I do know a bit but not as much as I should. One man in particular looms larger than any other in that history, that man is Jack Hobbs.

He is unquestionably Surrey's greatest ever batsman and arguably England's greatest ever batsman. In fact Leo McKinstry's new biography of him proclaims Jack Hobbs as England's greatest ever cricketer.

I will for a moment set aside my feelings as regards Mr. McKinstry's politics which are, shall we say, not in line with my own, and review what is an excellent biography.

The story of Hobbs' career is extraordinary. He started playing first class cricket in the early 1900s, firmly in the shadow, as was the rest of English cricket, of W.G. Grace, a man whose record of 126 First Class hundreds he would eventually eclipse, and then obliterate. The book explains Hobbs' humble beginnings and how they influenced his entire career. There are interesting asides such as the story of how he offered his services to Essex who rejected him sight unseen, the rest is history.

The passage which is set against the background of the First World War gives a fascinating insight into the Britain of the time, and into cricket at the time which was full of conflicted players. Hobbs himself worked in a munitions factory and served in the RAF at home but he never saw action overseas.

It charts Hobbs' career post-war when he really began to churn out the runs aged 36 (he was a late First Class starter, not debuting for Surrey until age 22). Including the 1925 season during which he scored a scarcely believable 3,000 runs and 16 hundreds, and his quest to reach 200 first class hundreds which he never quite managed (not bad to be left in the nervous 190s on that count). Of course it also charts his success with England and in particular his partnership with Herbert Sutcliffe. It tells the story of a great cricketer who was so shy he even worried whether he should accept the knighthood the Queen awarded him in 1953.

The book is clearly meticulously researched, I have difficulty dredging up records from the early 2000s never mind 1905. Occasionally it proved a tough read because of the sheer weight of statistical information, but it would be hard to truly appreciate Hobbs' greatness without them. If you're a fan of Surrey it's a must-read, but even for the casual cricket fan it is more than worth a look.

I have also very kindly been given two copies to give away by the publishers, but I'm not just dishing them out for nothing. If you fancy a chance of winning one email me the answer to this (pretty easy) question:

How many hundreds did Hobbs score for England?

Email your answer to SurreyCricketBlog@gmail.com, and I'll randomly select a winner in due course (let's say the deadline is midnight June 3rd)! For those that don't win, the book is available from all good book sellers. Well it's on Amazon anyway.

Saved by the weather

There's not much to report from today with only about 25 overs playable in the day because of some distinctly inclement weather, but it does seem that barring some very enterprising play tomorrow, we have at least saved the draw.

It's hard on Glamorgan who have comprehensively outplayed us over two days and 25 overs. This morning Gareth Batty and Schofield should've set about attaining the follow on target before anything else, but Batty disappeared early doors and the rest of the batsmen were gone within an hour of the start of play.

In the process we did manage to creep past the follow on, by all of 15 runs, and Glamorgan were sent out to bat again. Only 12.4 overs were managed but they safely negotiated them and ended 46 without loss, 181 runs ahead and if the day hadn't been curtailed we'd have been in deep trouble.

We've not been good enough this game, not in the batting nor the bowling, it is as simple as that. If there isn't a major upset now we will draw this game, but a solitary win (albeit an impressive one) from our first six games is a pretty poor return, especially as today was the first time we've lost a significant amount of overs to the weather. With all bowlers fit and firing we would surely have fared better, but Adams should resist falling back on this as an excuse - up against an equally depleted Glamorgan side we've been second best by a distance. There is still plenty of work to be done to make us promotion challengers.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

We were either very bad today, or yesterday, or both...

A day that started supremely well for Surrey, with Glamorgan's last six batsman falling for just 73 runs, and that included an 8th wicket partnership of 51, ended pretty badly with Davies and Maynard getting out in the final 10 overs of the day.

It was a fine comeback from Surrey's bowlers, Linley had one of his mornings, dismissing Owen, Wallace and Croft inside five overs for 12 runs. Dernbach added Alex Jones to his list of victims and a much improved Chris Jordan took two more. Enormous credit to them after a poor day yesterday.

So while Glamorgan's first innings total was still a daunting 419, it was nowhere near as daunting as it might've been. Surrey's reply started poorly though, both Roy and Hamilton-Brown were gone before the score had reached 20, Adams will be scratching his head as regards the openers yet again. Arun Harinath's stock is rising by the day.

Mark Ramprakash carried on his merry way but de Bruyn was gone with the score barely at 50. Ramps and Davies put on 90 in 23 overs before the former was bowled by the pick of Glamorgan's bowlers, Chris Ashling, for 67. Davies and Maynard staged something of a mini comeback with a 60 partnership before they were both dismissed during a very decent spell of Will Owen bowling late in the day. Davies is still to make three figures in 2011, scores of 77 and 94 will do little to cheer him up.

The follow on target is still 30 runs away and the prospect of a positive result for Surrey has now all but disappeared, again. Yes we have a makeshift bowling attack but so do Glamorgan, we've just been outplayed for the best part of two days and that's hugely disappointing. Without seeing two full days play it's difficult to be sure if we bowled really poorly yesterday, allowing their batsmen to pile on the runs, or batted pretty poorly today, allowing their bowlers to tie our batsmen up. Either way we're in a poor position. Schofield and Batty have a big job on their hands to even make the draw possible tomorrow, I don't know if 9, 10 and 11 are going to provide many runs. Another day of Championship cricket slips by where we've failed to assert ourselves completely on the opposition.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Runs galore, and it's nothing to do with the size of the ground

We've been on the receiving end of a few very impressive hundreds in the last few days. Last week it was Graham Napier's faintly ridiculous 196, then Benny Howell's mature 122 on Sunday and today Alviro Petersen hit his first hundred for Glamorgan, and ended the day 178 not out.

Petersen had scored just one fifty in the 11 innings before today and had received a bit of stick from some Glamorgan fans, notably on Twitter, but I had a funny feeling his first really big score for them might just come against us, and so it proved. Mike Powell batted well too, only to be bowled on 99 by Chris Jordan, his only wicket of the day. Some idiot (me) suggested Ben Wright was "in form", he was out for a 23 ball duck this evening and looked particularly uncomfortable throughout.

We were always likely to struggle today with an almost entirely second-string seam attack, but it is nonetheless disappointing to have ended the day with Glamorgan in a fabulous position to push on towards the 550-600 mark tomorrow. I saw 12 overs play at the end of the day and we bowled pretty well, though Glamorgan were clearly trying to make it through to close. Dernbach looked sharp and better than figures of 2-103 suggest. Chris Jordan didn't look threatening and unless he is right on song, as he was back in April against Northants, Tim Linley can be left appearing a bit one-dimensional. He hasn't taken a single first class wicket since that game. We badly need him to find that x-factor which he undoubtedly has from time to time.

The pitch looked very green but there didn't appear to be any extravagant bounce or movement on offer for the seamers. Schofield and Batty bowled only 16 overs all day, with just three for the former. Zander de Bruyn again did a sterling job returning 1-32 from 14 overs but he shouldn't have to do so much bowling in a five man attack.

We are looking at conceding a second consecutive first innings total of over 500 and again it will make it difficult, if not impossible to push for a win unless we really get amongst them tomorrow morning. On paper at least we have the superior batting unit so if Glamorgan can rack up a big total, so can we, we can't afford to throw this away.

Congratulations should go to Jade Dernbach though, not for his bowling return today but on receiving his county cap. If it were down to me I'd have given it to him before now, he gives his absolute all for Surrey whenever he goes out there, we're very fortunate to have him.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Depleted seam attacks the order of the day

After five almost thankless days for Surrey's bowlers being tonked around the postage-stamp ground at Whitgift they return to the Oval tomorrow bearing the scars of their Croydonian sojourn.

Both Stuart Meaker and Yasir Arafat injured hamstrings over the weekend and neither will be fit to face Glamorgan. The 12 man squad and expected XI is as follows:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Tom Maynard
Mark Ramprakash
Zander de Bruyn
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Chris Schofield
Gareth Batty
Tom Jewell
Jade Dernbach
Tim Linley

12th man: Chris Jordan

As for the CB40 game yesterday I suspect Jewell, Jordan and Schofield will duke it out for the final two slots and as with yesterday I'd like to see the spot go to Jewell. I realise it is hard on Jordan to read too much into his figures from yesterday but he didn't look spot-on against Middlesex in April either. Jewell has been in good form for the 2nd XI this year and deserves a shot at first team cricket. The return of Dernbach is critical and much of the work will fall to him as while Jewell and Linley will do a job, they are unlikely to run through Glamorgan.

The batting picks itself really, with Jason Roy coming back in place of Kevin Pietersen. The top six are in pretty good nick, only Steven Davies is in need of a big score and the Oval is the ideal place to make that score. It will be interesting to see where Roy slots back in, he would almost certainly be more comfortable in the middle order and Maynard did a decent job of opening at Whitgift, it's six of one half a dozen of the other on that one for me.

But Surrey aren't the only ones with problems in the seam bowling department. Glamorgan come to the Oval without James Harris, Adam Shantry, Huw Waters or Jim Allenby. Dean Cosker could have to bowl a lot of overs but he's a mighty fine bowler to have doing so, one of the more under-rated spinners in county cricket in my view. On the batting front it will be largely the same side we faced in Cardiff but with the crucial addition of Ben Wright who has scored over 400 first class runs this season.

With two sides whose strength lies overwhelmingly in the batting this could turn into another draw but we can't really afford that, games are starting to mount up and we only have one Championship win under out belt. The top order needs to get big runs and Jade Dernbach needs to carry over his form from the Lions game, leading the attack from the front.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

By hook or by crook, it's five out of five

I figured today's CB40 against Hampshire would be a high scoring affair even if the last meeting between the two teams produced just 283 runs for 16 wickets. At Whitgift though the sky is the limit and today saw 586 runs for 17 wickets. Over the five days of the Whitgift festival a mammoth 2,029 runs have been scored.

And the good news is we have maintained our 100% record, recording a comfortable (in the end) win by 36 runs. Once again the opening partnership failed, although today's partnership of 34 was the highest of the season - a major disappointment after last season's fireworks. Roy and Hamilton-Brown got together to put on 62 in under 8 overs and give the innings real impetus but again two quick wickets fell to check the progress slightly.

Maynard and de Bruyn did a superb job if re-building though, they put on 118 in 16 overs. And when the innings looked like it might be stalling with 3 quick wickets for 27 runs Schofield and Arafat rescued it towards the end. Chasing a total of 311 is well out of reach on most grounds but not so at Whitgift.

Hampshire got off to a fine start, reaching 80 inside 10 overs and Yasir Arafat went off injured in the middle of his third over (both he and Meaker must be concerns for Tuesday's game against Glamorgan, down to the bare bones in the seam bowling department now). Benny Howell played a quite superb innings but no one batted around him, though he was out in the 39th over for 122 none of his team mates passed 30. Chris Schofield in particular was excellent today in returning 2-31 and de Bruyn ably assisted him in bagging 3-47. Linley was too expensive but collected two scalps, Jordan was even more expensive and collected none. Batty bowled just 3 overs for 17 runs, I can't help feeling if he'd bowled some of Jordan's overs the win would've been even more comfortable.

It was by no means a faultless performance but it was a good one. Our first proper 40 over batting performance with two rapid fifties in the top five and contributions from two others, plus decent cameos from the lower order. The bowling was ok, and its unfair to be too hard on the bowlers at Whitgift. Five wins from five is a superb effort, but the business end of this group stage begins in 8 weeks when we play all of Durham, Warwickshire and Northants twice, those games will be a real test for this side.

Update: Batty apparently had an elbow problem, could cause further problems for Tuesday.

Dirk Nannes for Surrey?

Only a matter of days after Shaun Tait cancelled his Surrey deal for the Twenty20, the club have announced they are in advanced talks for what amounts, largely, to a like-for-like replacement, Dirk Nannes.

I must admit I thought the club would struggle to get in a real quality player at such short notice but all credit to Adams and Co., if the deal is confirmed Nannes is a quality signing with a proven pedigree. He might not be the 98mph monster Shaun Tait is (in between injuries), but he is a 90mph bowler, and a left armer to boot.

He is the wrong side of 35 but he didn't make his first class debut until he was 29 and has to this day only played 23 of them so he is, relatively speaking, fresh as a daisy. Which is not to say he doesn't have experience, he's played 102 Twenty20s in a combination of the Twenty20 Cup, the Australian Big Bash and the IPL, not to mention 17 Twenty20 internationals.

He didn't appear at the World Cup earlier in the year, and he's only made two appearances in this year's IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore, so he might be a bit rusty, hopefully he'll shake that off quickly. He played 6 times in the Big Bash this year, collecting 7 wickets at 20, giving away less than 7 runs an over. They aren't spectacular figures, but I am sure he'll do the business.

With Meaker injured and Tremlett away on England duty its understandable that Adams was seeking a like-for-like replacement for the T20s. An attack comprising Arafat, Dernbach and Nannes has the potential to be very useful. Hopefully the club can tie up the deal in the next few days.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The day promised much, but delivered a draw

I can hardly be surprised that a match where both sides scored over 500 in their first innings ended in a draw, and in the end it was a million miles from being anything but. However at various points through the day it seemed like we might be able to force the issue. It was not to be.

Just as we were scuppered in Cardiff by Meaker's cruelly timed injury, here too his injury appears to have counted heavily against us. It was a manful effort from Gareth Batty in particular who toiled away for 33 overs on a pitch for the batsman, and returned 3-75. He now has 17 wickets at 32 and 250 runs at 50 for the season. That Yasir Arafat and Chris Tremlett returned a third of the number of wickets (and twice as many no balls) our part timers did says much about how we were missing an enforcer. And to anyone who says no balls are just part and parcel of fast bowlers trying to bowl fast and we shouldn't dwell on them too much - Chris Wright would've been back in the hutch and Essex nine down with the target at just 280 if Tremlett hadn't over-stepped the mark.

In truth though it is unfair to blame any one player in particular for a failure to win this match. Pitches like the one at Whitgift do us no favours at all. I'm sure the 30 overs of pace bowling on a rock hard pitch young Stuart Meaker's body had to go through on days one and two contributed to his injury. We know face the prospect of the next couple of games without any of Dernbach, Tremlett and Meaker himself. This is a real concern.

We are hard to beat these days, no question. They could have crumbled in the face of 548 runs, but a sparkling hundred from the skipper and contributions from down the order ensured we did not. A message though to the groundsman at Guildford, the next outground we go to, please put some life in the wicket.

Surrey set for same CB40 formula

Surrey have named the 13 players from whom they will select an XI to play Hampshire at Whitgift tomorrow. If the last four days are anything to go by it could be a very high scoring game.

The 13 players named, and the team I expect, are as follows:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Zander De Bruyn
Tom Maynard
Matthew Spriegel
Chris Schofield
Tom Jewell
Gareth Batty
Yasir Arafat
Tim Linley

12th men: Gary Wilson, Chris Jordan

From my point of view I'm disappointed not to see the extra batsman included, either Ramprakash or Kevin Pietersen, or even perhaps Arun Harinath. I know the formula has worked in the last few games, but I can't help thinking we're going to be found out eventually with too long a tail. I am also slightly concerned about the cutting-edge, or lack of it, offered by that attack. With no Meaker, Tremlett or Dernbach to call on I think we could struggle. There will likely be a fight between Schofield, Jewell and Jordan for the final two slots, its much of a muchness really but I'd like to see Jewell given a go.

We may have knocked over Hampshire for 141 in the game at the Rose Bowl, and their average CB40 innings may be just 194 in 2011, but they can't keep failing with the bat. Back in April they racked up 274 against a Warwickshire attack including Woakes, Rankin and an in-form Rikki Clarke. They will be without Jimmy Adams which does weaken their order but the likes of Dawson, Ervine, Vince and the returning Mascarenhas have got plenty of runs in them if it clicks. Their bowling is very strong too, Cork, Briggs, Jones and Chris Wood isn't bad either.

On such a small ground, with a wicket likely to suit the batsman, I think we might struggle with that side. However we've shown no little character in pulling off some wins that we didn't look like making this season, and Hamilton-Brown is due a big innings - if he gets going at Whitgift it could be carnage, fingers crossed it is!

Enterprising declaration time?

I personally don't find 500-plays-500 to be a particularly mouthwatering prospect.  Of course Napier's and Hamilton-Brown's knocks were impressive but give me a fair fight between bat and ball any day.

When our sixth wicket fell, still something on the order of 100 runs short of the follow-on target I began to worry, but to the rescue, again, came Gareth Batty.  His 79 in concert with de Bruyn and Arafat hauled Surrey up to withing 42 of Essex's total.  A third draw in three years at Whitgift beckons unless we suffer a second innings collapse.  With wins at an absolute premium can we afford to be playing games on such batsman-friendly wickets?

Essex closed the day on 112-2, 154 runs ahead and with Graham Napier still to come.  He could be the key to a result tomorrow, if Walker and Cook make a decent start they may elect to push Napier up the order and see if they can accelerate towards a lead of something on the order of 350 and give Surrey 50-60 overs to get it in.  Now that would make for entertaining cricket.

I've not seen the pitch but given that Batty and Pietersen bowled 20 of 37 second innings overs today, one assumes the pitch is taking some turn, Meaker bowled just a single over.  Arafat was expensive (and bowled the obligatory no-ball), Tremlett less so and he picked up the Pettini (but he bowled two no-balls).  Tomorrow should at least be cricket on a more even keel, though the pitch still seems to be favouring the batsman.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Shaun Tait pulls out of Surrey T20 duty

Surrey's Friends Life Twenty20 campaign gets started in exactly two weeks, Gloucestershire come to the Oval first up, as they did last year (and that didn't go so well).  We'll have to make do without our big-name signing Shaun Tait who has pulled the plug at almost the very last minute because of concerns he has over being able to make it through the sixteen game programme.

To be honest I never imagined that a player as fragile as Tait would ever play every single game of our campaign, but I thought given that he'd signed up and we're now virtually on top of the start of the tournament, he'd at least be making an appearance.  His decision not to come leaves us high and dry and is yet another blow to Adams' attempts to sign high quality overseas players.  Fair enough if he thought he couldn't make it through 16 games, but why didn't he give the club a bit more notice?

I know some people doubted that Tait was a good signing but with his searing pace he'd have been too good for most county batsmen I think.  Yes he'd have gone round the park sometimes, but I thought he was a good signing.  Not so apparently.

So Adams now has to make a decision to make, does he scramble around for a replacement of possibly dubious quality or does he make do with the young but undoubtedly talented squad we have now?  I think the latter is probably better.  The last thing we want is another Grant Elliott, or Rao Ifthikar, or Younus Khan.  Unless a high quality individual is available, a Ross Taylor, Dan Vettori or Albie Morkel say, then Adams should just stick to what we've got.

You know when you've been Napiered

The big news of the day was Graham Napier's abject failure.  Humiliatingly he failed to get a double hundred, having to make do with a paltry 196, from 130 balls.  He only barely equalled the world record for most sixes in a First Class innings with 16, and added 19 fours for good measure.  He only actually had to run for 24 of his total, 172 runs coming in boundaries.

Sometimes you're on the receiving end of a freak innings.  Alright, we dropped him at least twice and we can't have bowled all that well to him, but sometimes you just have to marvel.  Poor old Tim Linley who at one stage yesterday had bowled 7 overs for 7 runs, went for 22 in one over today, one of Gareth Batty's overs was even more upsetting, it went for 28.  One wonders why Napier was never given a proper run in the England Twenty20 setup, he's a very useful bowler as well.

In Surrey's reply to the mammoth Essex total of 548 our third new opening partnership in five games, Maynard and Hamilton-Brown compiled a century partnership, succeeding where no other Surrey openers have since August 2009 when Jon Batty and Michael Brown put on 171 against Kent. We lost that game by six wickets, not an omen I hope.  Ramps fell for a rare duck, KP and the captain put on a brisk 100 run partnership, before Meaker came and went, leaving de Bruyn with Hamilton-Brown at close.

All in all today 507 runs were scored for the loss of 8 wickets, the pitch seems particularly friendly for the batsman, but we're still realistically the only team who can lose this game.  At 277-4 we are still 271 runs behind and with only one pure batsman still to come in the shape of Steven Davies.  That said, Hamilton-Brown played a crucial knock today, 148 and what's more he was not out at the close of play.  If he and de Bruyn can survive the first hour and then the second new ball, the draw should be safe.  If one of them falls however, there's not much meat left on the bone and panic might just set in, stand firm lads!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Honours even, mostly (but stop the no balls please)

In an ideal world, when you send a side in under cloudy skies you don't want them to be batting at the end of the day, but this is Whitgift so its unlikely to be a devilish surface. I think Surrey and Essex will both be reasonably happy with their day's work, though the wicket of Graham Napier before close would've been very useful and consequently Essex will probably be the happier of the two sides.

The morning session saw just two wickets fall and with Alastair Cook still at the crease come lunch Hamilton-Brown might have been regretting his decision to send them in.  However Cook was gone soon after lunch becoming Tremlett's second victim.  Matt Walker and Adam Wheater then put on 130 in 31 overs to put Essex in a good position.

However wickets from Meaker, de Bruyn and Arafat put Surrey back on terms.  I find it a bit odd that with a five man attack our sixth bowler bowled as many as 14 overs, but if he was doing a job then why not?  This is clearly not a pitch for the spinner just yet.  I'm also a bit concerned about our bowlers' propensity to bowl no balls, Yasir Arafat's running total now stands at 25, Chris Tremlett bowled 7 today alone.  To put that in perspective Jade Dernbach bowled two no balls in 14 games last season.  Giving away so many runs for free is less than ideal and its a simple enough thing to fix.

At 318-6 Essex are pretty well placed to post 400+ but as long as we bat sensibly there's no reason we can't match that.  With no side dominant on day one on what is likely to be a pitch reasonably good for batting, its very difficult to tell where this one is going.  All things being equal this one looks like it might be headed for another draw, but there's still three full days play to come yet, assuming the weather holds, so anything is possible.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Roy takes the pain for maintaining the balance...and KP

52, 12, 76, 5, 76, 60. Four fifties in Jason Roy's last six innings...his reward? A place in the 2nds squad playing at Taunton today. The 20 year-old has been sent back to the reserves, presumably in order to keep a five man bowling attack and allow room for one Kevin Pietersen.

The squad and expected XI to play Essex at Whitgift School is as follows:

De Bruyn

12th man: Schofield

Two possible changes might occur come 11am tomorrow morning, Hamilton-Brown's opening partner is as yet unknown, even Hamilton-Brown himself might be shifted back down the order given his recent form in that slot. And depending on the pitch Chris Schofield might play instead of Tim Linley, giving a stiffer batting lineup but perhaps less penetration on the bowling front.

Adams' penchant for packed bowling attacks has been clear in recent weeks and the tactic has been rewarded with five wins, including a comprehensive demolition of Leicestershire inside three days. The last two Championship games at Whitgift have been relatively high-scoring draws so it may well prove the best tactic.

Jason Roy
What I cannot fathom is the logic behind dropping Roy. If the five bowler strategy must be retained at all costs and Adams is being heavily leant on by the ECB then does one of the incumbent batsmen deserve to be dropped? Ramprakash? No...just no. Davies? Keeps wicket, has to play. Maynard? He's been outstanding this year, so unlikey. Hamilton-Brown? Can you drop the skipper? His form has been patchy at best, but given the bond between captain and coach I can't see it happening. It might not prove the best move for morale in any case.

That just leaves de Bruyn. It would take a brave man to drop a player of his calibre and experience but having eulogised so much about Roy I can hardly say anything else: Jason Roy should be in this side. The poor bloke was picked for every game of pre-season at number three, only to be dropped on the morning of the first game. On being recalled he's made runs in four innings out of six, and now he's dumped again. That's to say nothing of the fact that he is unequivocally one of the most promising batsman at the club, and in England full stop.

In any case, this is what we have. What of the opposition? Essex have had an indifferent start to their Championship campaign, losing twice and winning just once in five games which is at odds with a hugely talented squad. They will have no Bopara who like Dernbach is away with the Lions but they still have a strong batting lineup led by Alistair Cook, ably assisted by the likes of Pettini, Foster and Walker.

Their bowling is not to be sniffed at either, the high-class Maurice Chambers could be joined by the evergreen David Masters and the occasionally impressive Chris Wright, with Graham Napier waiting in the wings to make his first Championship appearance of 2011. There's no sign of teenage sensation Reece Topley in their 12 man squad and their late-in-the-day overseas signing, Lonwabo Tsotsobe appears to have struggled to adapt to English conditions, he's disappeared for almost 5 an over across three games and has consequently been dropped.

This won't be easy for Surrey but despite the loss of Dernbach and Roy we're still putting out a strong side. There's pressure on the top order, a hundred from KP wouldn't go amiss, and Hamilton-Brown is still searching for that elusive big score this year, Whitgift provides him with an ideal opportunity. The team are on a roll and if they can turn that confidence into a victory over a good side like Essex, they'll really start to believe a promotion push is within their grasp.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Matthew Spriegel, Surrey are in your debt

Surrey were heading for a distinctly underwhelming total at 205-7 with four overs to go, but the man who combined with Jason Roy to rescue our innings against Hampshire did so again today; take a bow Matthew Spriegel.

For the third time in four matches Hamilton-Brown departed in the second over having been asked to bat first by Scotland. He now has 61 runs in four matches, and 57 of them came in one knock, he needs to find some form. Despite the early loss Steve Davies and Roy set about Scotland's bowlers and clobbered 90 runs in 9 overs, Surrey looked set for a score around the 300 mark.

However Roy's dismissal, stumped off Haq, triggered another mini-collapse of 3 wickets for 17 runs and where 93-1 looked very handy, 110-4 with Surrey's long tail looked precarious. Schofield and Batty came and went without adding too many and when Arafat came in at 205-7 something around the 230 mark would've been welcome. Spriegel fancied a few more though.

In a partnership of 52, Arafat scored only six runs, Spriegel went berserk having gone to 50 off 64 balls, he moved to 82 from the subsequent nine deliveries he faced. Yes there were some edges in there but he'd earned them by sticking fast in the middle. Surrey's total of 257 looked well beyond Scotland, and so it proved.

Not content with almost single handedly dragging us into respectable territory Spriegel also took the first wicket of Scotland's reply, and added another before the innings was over. Four wickets in four games for him, plus 139 vital runs - but he can't rescue us every time. Dernbach and Arafat took two apiece while Meaker and de Bruyn got in on the act with one each. Scotland's innings never really got going, only the Mommsen-McCallum partnership really threatened but by then the game was already beyond them really.

I stand by my assertion that we're playing too many bowlers, Meaker was left with half his overs unbowled today, Spriegel and Batty both had two left in the bank, de Bruyn three and Schofield five. An extra batsman is required without question in my mind.

Four wins out of four in the CB40 is extremely good, but we have beaten a poor Scotland side twice and Leicestershire once. The performance to beat Hampshire was good in the end, but we did our best to lose that one too. Six games against Durham, Warwickshire (who demolished Leicestershire today) and Northants will provide much sterner challenges.

What can they do apart from win the matches they play though? Eight points from four matches, a healthy net run rate and some welcome confidence, keep it up chaps!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

No Pietersen for Scotland game

Our second game in a fortnight against Scotland takes place tomorrow and although Kevin Pietersen had a couple of knocks against Cambridge University in a game we lost heavily he is not in the squad that has traveled to Edinburgh. He will almost certainly play against Essex in the four day game starting Wednesday though.

The squad for tomorrow is in fact the same as that for last Sunday's Leicestershire game, or the website claims it was even though Batty wasn't actually in the squad published ahead of the game last week. Anyway, the XI will almost certainly be the same:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Zander de Bruyn
Tom Maynard
Matthew Spriegel
Gareth Batty
Chris Schofield
Yasir Arafat
Stuart Meaker
Jade Dernbach

12th men: Tim Linley, Gary Wilson

I've got a couple of issues with that squad. Firstly I think the side we put out last week was bowler-heavy, of the 11 men on the field it was only Davies, Maynard and Roy who don't bowl, and even Maynard's been known to turn his arm over. There is an argument that with de Bruyn in the side (who bowled excellently against Leicestershire) there's no need to pick three all-rounders to bat at 6, 7 and 8. There's enough decent bowling in that lineup to bowl 56 overs, and its entirely possible that Scotland may well not even last 40, although to be fair to them they did bat the overs at the Oval.

My second issue is that Wilson, who is so woefully out of form and consequently not likely to play, is selected ahead of Harinath, or Rory Burns, who have looked in decent nick recently. I'm a converted fan of Wilson but he can't buy a run at the moment.

We ought really to have more than enough about us to beat Scotland, they didn't look anywhere close to beating us at the Oval where we won with 7 overs to spare and 7 wickets in hand. The bowling wasn't very threatening and Josh Davey aside their batting wasn't particularly strong either. That said the last thing we need right now is a slip-up against perceived weaker opposition to disrupt this run of form, and we should not forget that Scotland ran Warwickshire close not so long ago.

Four CB40 wins from four would be an outstanding start, but lets not get carried away, we still have to play all of Warwickshire, Durham and Northants twice, none of which will be easy games. All the more reason to bank two points tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

KP: Surrey Captain

For the first time since the end of last season Kevin Pietersen will appear in a Surrey shirt this week, and as captain no less, against Cambridge University.

The side he leads out will be a very young one, although Gary Wilson and Matthew Spriegel will be in the side as well. The young batsmen in the side, the likes of Shaun Cousens, Rory Burns, Arun Harinath and Tom Lancefield will hopefully look at this as an opportunity to learn from one of the finest batsman they are likely to play with. I think with Ramprakash perhaps playing less one day cricket there is a slot open in the batting lineup for limited overs cricket (depending on whether Adams persists with picking lots of bowlers or not), Burns looks to me best placed to snap that up although Harinath does appear to have expanded his range of shots since last year.

Interestingly there is no place in the side for Michael Brown, who I assumed Adams would want to be playing as much cricket as possible, I'm not sure what the story is there but I hope its not another injury.

In the short term Pietersen may well turn out for Surrey against Scotland in the CB40 on Sunday and then probably for the Championship match against Essex at Whitgift, which will give Adams a huge selection headache. The bottom line remains though that KP needs cricket before the first Sri Lanka test so space will probably be made for him, whether its a bowler or a batsman who makes way remains to be seen.

Update: Richard Prew, via the magic of Twitter informs me that Michael Brown has a back injury.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Make that four in a row

At 70-0 in the 11th over I was quietly drafting the blog about a heavy defeat with Surrey having posted a below-par total of 206 but from the dismissal of Josh Cobb for an aggressive 45 onwards Surrey were largely in control.

I was sceptical of Adams' selection of Spriegel, Batty and Schofield in the same side and when Davies, de Bruyn and Roy were out with the score below 50 it looked like it was about to backfire. However Hamilton-Brown, in need of some runs, and Tom Maynard gave the total some respectability with fifties. Some useful runs down the order from Spriegel and Schofield also helped things along.

Cobb and du Toit were excellent in the early overs, Cobb the aggressor and du Toit more circumspect. However when Batty was introduced to the attack in the 11th over Cobb tried to hit over the top but just found Spriegel in the deep. Three overs later Zander de Bruyn had the dangerous Taylor excellently caught behind for just three. De Bruyn and Batty's spells were crucial in putting the brakes on Leicestershire's innings and ultimately this is where the damage was done.

Meaker was just given one over to begin with but he came back into the attack and had Matthew Boyce caught excellently at slip by Hamilton-Brown and then Maynard ran out du Toit, Surrey were right on top all of a sudden. There was a bit of a lower order fightback, particularly from Hoggard who slapped 23 off 13 balls, but Meaker and Arafat finished the job expertly.

I am still unsure that selecting so many bowlers is either necessary or wise. Even if Leicestershire had lasted 40 overs, Arafat and Meaker would both have been left with overs unbowled, but its about winning and today we won. Not so long ago heads would have dropped after the start Cobb and du Toit gave Leicestershire but not today, we came back superbly after the first 12 overs. The bowling wasn't great to begin with and neither was the fielding, but they rallied round beautifully.

So that gives us three wins out of three in the CB40, only Somerset and Northants have similar 100% records. More importantly it gives the players a great deal of confidence, the three wins haven't been stunning performances but collectively the team have cobbled together victories. You could call it 'winning ugly', either way, a win is a win, and long may it continue!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Time to make it four in a row

Surrey's 12 man squad for tomorrow's CB40 game against Leicestershire, their 5th game in 12 days, has been named and while there's no room for Gareth Batty, Ramps or Tremlett, Stuart Meaker is named. I suspect Ramps' limited overs workload will be reduced this season, certainly while he gets back to peak fitness after his injury layoff.

The squad, and team that I expect to be named tomorrow is as follows:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Zander de Bruyn
Tom Maynard
Gary Wilson
Matthew Spriegel
Chris Schofield
Yasir Arafat
Jade Dernbach
Stuart Meaker

12th man: Tim Linley

After the performance in the Championship game this week in which we blasted Leicestershire away with four frontline seamers, there may be a temptation to drop one of Schofield or Spriegel and pick Linley as well. I wouldn't be against that, in fact I like that kind of attacking approach, but given Adams' selections in one day cricket over the last couple of years I don't think he'll go that route. If he does, I hope it isn't Spriegel who is left out, he's made a really good start in this competition.

Hamilton-Brown will be desperate for some runs, since his 74 against Northants in his first innings of the season he hasn't passed 50 once, and managed just two runs in last weekend's two CB40 games. After such an outstanding CB40 campaign last year he'll be disappointed with his start this year. Him aside the top six is looking in good form, although Wilson hasn't had much time at the crease lately, and with Schofield's good form with the bat Adams may elect to go with him instead. I'm actually surprised an additional out-and-out batsman wasn't named, a Harinath or Lancefield perhaps, as an insurance policy.

Leicestershire have only won one of their first four CB40 games, against Scotland, and they've been guilty of allowing sides to get a hold of their bowlers. Only Hoggard and Henderson have maintained run rates below 6. On the batting front again it has been largely about James Taylor who already has one excellent hundred against Warwickshire to go alongside two fifties, but Josh Cobb has also chipped in with useful runs. They are a decent side but the defeat inside three days may have hit their confidence and Surrey need to try and exploit that.

Surrey have all the momentum and all the confidence, there's no reason why we can't make it three CB40 wins out of three and four wins on the bounce - ten days is a long time in cricket! Much will depend on the wicket, if the same wicket is used as for the Championship game it may have lost some of its spice but should still have some life, but whatever the surface we should have enough about us to come out on top.

Friday, 6 May 2011


Never let it be said that I am backward in coming forward when it comes to praising our team, over the last three days we have comprehensively beaten Leicestershire and in doing so have played some outstanding cricket.

The spotlight will fall today on Stuart Meaker and Jade Dernbach, with some considerable justification. I managed to hot-foot it to the Oval this evening to see the two quick bowlers share the final four wickets between them, Meaker with three and Dernbach with one. Meaker's victims were largely tail-enders but he gave them nothing whatsoever, he bowled fast and straight and the stumps were shattered. Dernbach did the damage earlier in the day and deservedly ended the innings to complete his five-for, having James Taylor caught at deep square leg. Taylor for his part played exceptionally for the 15 or so overs I saw him and I understand he was top class throughout. I think he's probably the best young batsman in England.

Earlier in the day Ramps missed out on his first hundred of the season, he was dismissed for 91 in the pursuit of quick runs ahead of a declaration - ever the team man! Good hands were also played by de Bruyn and Davies.

The result is a vindication for Adams who gambled on a five man attack. It turned out not to be a gamble at all as the groundsman did his part in preparing a green pitch and Surrey's pace bowlers did the rest. Its also something of a vindication for Hamilton-Brown who has now enjoyed three really good games on the trot as captain.

Surrey now have a day off to prepare for the CB40 game on Sunday and they will want to keep this winning habit going. I said at the start of the season that the nature of our side will make consistency tricky to attain, but they will nonetheless be striving hard for it. Morale will be back up and I hope they carry this momentum forward for the next few games. Well played boys!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Long may this continue

Today was comfortably Surrey's best day in the County Championship so far in 2011, here's hoping the two CB40 wins at the weekend have instilled that much needed x-factor, otherwise known as confidence.

I worried yesterday that James Taylor was almost single handedly capable of hauling Leicestershire up to and beyond Surrey's total, but that danger was snuffed out in the over before lunch when Gareth Batty clean bowled him. Surrey sensed an opening and for the first time this season they rammed home the advantage.

Once Taylor had been dealt with the other 7 wickets subsided for just 109, including a spell of 3 wickets for just 3 runs, only Wayne White and Claude Henderson offering any real resistance. Surrey's four man pace battery was too hot for the Leicestershire batting on a still-green pitch and with a bit more cloud around. Stuart Meaker was the pick with 4-43, taking his season's tally to 15, but he was very ably backed up by Tremlett and Dernbach who both collected two wickets.

A first innings lead was established and the openers set about their task of consolidating that lead, Jason Roy raced out of the blocks and although Hamilton-Brown departed for 14 in the 10th over, Surrey had already added 57 to the lead. Roy and Ramprakash added another 49 in 11 overs before the former was caught behind off Henderson - his 76 runs had come in just 68 balls.

Zander de Bruyn joined Ramps, and while the opening pair had a combined age of 43, the partnership that saw us to the end of play had a combined age closer to 80. Ramprakash looked, as ever, in fine form for the five overs I managed to catch at the end of the day, he ended on 53*.

We are well on top in this game and with such a fine bowling attack waiting in the wings, the captain ought not need anything more than a 400 run lead in his pocket. With 277 already in the bank he could have Leicestershire back in not long after lunch. Well played gentlemen!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

An improvement, definitely an improvement

Had James Taylor got anything on the final ball of the day from Jade Dernbach which beat his outside edge, Surrey would've been in a mighty fine position, but as long as Taylor is still at the crease Leicestershire will have Surrey's total of 294 in their sights, they were 56-2 at stumps.

On a pitch that was, according to Lawrence Booth of the Mail 'surprisingly green' Hamilton-Brown lost his first championship toss of the season and was sent in to bat by his opposite number, Matthew Hoggard. From then on, Jason Roy aside who departed early for 5, it was a story of Surrey batsmen getting in, and then getting out. That though is a notch up on last week, when they were skipping the first bit and making a beeline for 'getting out'.

The wickets were evenly shared around the Leicestershire bowlers, the evergreen Claude Henderson the pick in returning 3-41. Mark Ramprakash on return made a rapid 37, Hamilton-Brown a rapid 41 and de Bruyn a slightly more sedate 40. It was Tom Maynard who rescued the innings for the second time in as many weeks though with 70 at almost a run a ball. He was left to bat largely with the tail so he had to make most of the running, and he did received fine support from Yasir Arafat who finally bagged some runs.

Leicestershire then had 20 evening-session overs to face before close and though Boyce and Cobb were sent back early, a wicket a piece for Trem and Arafat, Jefferson should have joined them but he was dropped at slip by Tom Maynard who usually has a pretty reliable pair of hands.

This is a crucial game for Adams and Hamilton-Brown, not because they face the sack if they lose (they wouldn't) but because morale must have been pretty low after the Lord's game. I am heartened to hear of a tinge of green to the pitch, which with a five man bowling attack plays to our strengths, but that doesn't mean we won't still have to bowl well. Tomorrow morning is forecast to be more humid and cloudy, Tremlett, Dernbach and Co. will want Taylor back in the dressing room pronto, and if he is, Surrey will hopefully move in for the kill. What we absolutely cannot allow is Leicestershire to build a big partnership, a la Dexter and Simpson. Jefferson and Taylor are two of Leicestershire's in form batsman and you'd think they hold the key. As Boycott always says, add two wickets to their score and its looking pretty dicey for them, but add 200 runs to it and it looks pretty dicey for us.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Ramps and Tremlett ride to the rescue...plus Roy

Given Chris Adams' interview (here) I'm not sure how much this is going to add, the coach more or less picks his side for tomorrow's game, but for what its worth, here are my thoughts.

The headlines have to be the earlier-than-expected return for Ramprakash and the right-on-cue return for Chris Tremlett, as well as the inclusion, at long last, of Jason Roy in a four day squad in 2011. A 13 man squad has been named, and Adams seemingly confirms his order in the interview above, which leaves us with:

De Bruyn

12th men: Linley, Schofield.

In parts that is harsh on Linley who bowled excellently over the weekend (though poorly at Lord's) and Schofield who is in great form with the bat, but you can't look at those five bowlers and leave one of them out. Batty at seven is probably a spot higher than ideal but he is in good form and Arafat can give us a few runs as well if the mood takes him. Arafat's form with the ball has been a bit of a mystery but after the CB40 games he's hopefully on the up. The question of who takes the new ball is an interesting one, I would be tempted by Dernbach and Arafat first up with Tremlett and Meaker to play that 'enforcer' role that we've lacked for the most part so far. To be faced with 25-odd overs of those four first up is not a pleasant prospect for any side, and you aren't going to get much off Gareth Batty either.

As for the openers, I had anticipated one of Brown or Wilson may be dropped but not both. Having said that, neither have looked in especially good nick in their last few innings. Some time in the 2nd XI will hopefully see them come back stronger. The captain and Roy to open is a huge gamble, as Adams candidly confesses in the interview "we could be 50-0 off five or 10-2, we know that", so they are obviously going to be given license to attack (though hopefully not recklessly) and that's as it should be. Credit should go to Hamilton-Brown who apparently volunteered to open the innings when he knew the side was in a fix.

Leicestershire are not a side to be taken lightly, they absolutely clobbered us at the Oval last year by an innings and plenty. This year they've drawn with and lost to Derbyshire, and comfortably beaten Glamorgan. Will Jefferson at the top of the order is in great form and James Taylor is just absurdly talented for 21 years old. Claude Henderson keeps churning out the overs and the wickets (he got six-for against us last year), Jigar Naik is a good bowler and in Hoggard and Buck they have two excellent seamers.

On paper, and on form, this is probably the 11 best cricketers at Surrey, but it will come down to how they blend as a side once they cross the line. There looks to be a good mix of youth and experience, if this side can't get a sniff of beating Leicestershire, I don't know what I'll do.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Two in a row

An up and down day for Surrey which saw an outstanding bowling performance, followed by a dreadful start with the bat, followed by a sterling rescue job by two of Surrey's younger batsmen to see them home with 39 balls to spare.

There didn't seem to be any devil in the pitch, a typically placid Rose Bowl surface encouraged Dominic Cork to bat first when he won the toss. However two more wickets for Arafat and one for Dernbach in the first five overs undermined him fatally. Arafat was again a touch expensive in his six overs but if he returns 2-39 every game I'll be happy. Dernbach too was a bit expensive in the early overs but came back expertly at the end to mop up the tail and finish with 4-33, Hampshire left fully 10 overs un-batted. A nod to another handy effort from Linley with the ball as well, the key wickets of the in-form Dawson and Nic Pothas in his 2-21.

141 seemed woefully short of par and Surrey could've afforded to be circumspect in chasing such a low total, but that didn't seem to be part of the game plan. After Rory Hamilton-Brown mirrored his effort yesterday precisely, getting out to the seventh ball of the innings, Davies, de Bruyn, Maynard and Wilson followed him in quick succession with a smattering of not particularly good shots. At 45-5 Hampshire had all the momentum and were favourites with pressure heaping on, memories of Lord's were probably flooding back. However, Roy had other ideas.

He set down a marker with a trademark straight six off Chris Wood and while he rode his luck throughout he was always looking to stamp authority on the innings. At just 20 years old, you have to think he's going to be as big a part of Surrey's future as any player at the club right now. Today was his best innings for us, he's not all crash-bang-whallop, he can play the situation. He simply has to have a run in the four day side now in my view. Credit should go to Matt Spriegel as well, the man with probably the coolest head at the club can hopefully cement a place in the side, he's a smart player and I reckon he's a future captain.

Today wasn't the most certain of performances, there was a chance to put in a thumping win but it didn't quite go to plan. However we shouldn't dwell too much on that, Hampshire are a good side and to have beaten them at the Rose Bowl is a fine achievement. Two wins out of two and some momentum to carry into the Leicestershire game starting Wednesday.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Davies and Dernbach impress in simple win

Well, winning is never that simple, but you know what I mean. Surrey were expected to deliver two points today and they did so, in reality with the minimum of fuss.

Dernbach - frugal
It was by no means a faultless performance. Arafat, despite picking up three wickets was obscenely expensive in doing so, never should a bowler of his calibre be disappearing for 7.5 an over against Scotland. Arafat aside though, the bowling was generally very good. Spriegel and Schofield returned 2-73 between them from 16 overs and Spriegel in particular, bowling with nice loop, was impressive and deserved more than a single wicket. Dernbach was the standout performer for the bowlers though, 2-13 from 8 overs at this level is impressive regardless of the opposition. Tim Linley could've expected more than his initial four overs having returned 1-16, but the captain saw fit to bowl himself instead, perhaps there was an injury lurking.

Spriegel was impressive, returning 1-35
Chasing just 197 to win Surrey could afford to start circumspectly and the first over was indeed quiet. However Hamilton-Brown fell off the first ball of the second over and the nerves might have started to jangle if Davies hadn't settled in nice and quickly. He really is a fabulous player to watch with the field up, he just makes batting look so easy. His partner in crime for the bulk of the chase, Jason Roy, is more violent, but no less entertaining.

Roy's demise was firmly against the run of play when it did eventually come but his 60 from 62 balls, including one very big six over long off, alongside Davies took Surrey to 134 and within sight of victory. Zander de Bruyn batted sensibly, seemingly shepherding Davies to his hundred. Davies made it to within four runs of an impressive hundred (two dismissals in the nineties in three days, and two run outs this season, its been an eventful start for Davies!) before a leading edge off Goudie saw him back to the dressing room.
Davies and Roy took Surrey to within sight of Scotland's total
De Bruyn and Maynard finished the job in double quick time, four-four-six, to round off a pleasing performance, perhaps drawing something of a line under last week's demoralising defeat. Starting the campaign with a win against the weakest team in the group was a must, and today they delivered, well played.