Thursday, 22 September 2011

Season Review: The bowlers

Following on from the review of this season's batting performers, it only seems fair that the bowlers get a go, so here it is:

Tim Linley
LVCC: 73 wkts @ 18, CB40: 7 wkts @ 21, T20: 3 wkts @ 14

Linley on one leg
What to say of the man, the machine, the leading wicket-taker that is Tim Linley? I will hold my hands up and admit that I doubted if Linley would ever progress beyond a reliable keep-the-runs-down option. I am happy to say that I was very wrong (again), this season he's been that and our key strike bowler with it. I watched him take four Northants wickets for not very many on just the second day of the season at the Oval back in April and wondered if he'd turned a corner but he was then dropped for the subsequent fixture. After that though he was irresistible, he just seemed to take wickets whenever he bowled, if we needed a breakthrough Linley was often the man to get it. From the second innings of the Essex game at Whitgift onwards he took at least one wicket in 22 consecutive innings. And it wasn't just tailenders he cleaned up. I lost count of the number of times he rattled out a couple of the opposition's top order to set us on our way. As much as de Bruyn was the lynchpin of the batting, Linley was the key to our bowling and without him we'd have been miles from promotion. He hardly played in the limited overs games as Adams plumped for the spin-heavy attack, but still picked up wickets along the way, if not with the regularity he did in the Championship. And to cap it all off he always comes across as one of the nicest, most grounded blokes around. Hats off to the Viscount.

Stuart Meaker
LVCC: 44 wkts @ 22, CB40: 4 wkts @ 27, T20: 6 wkts @ 42

Had it not been for Meaker's early and mid-season injuries he may have been pushing Linley for leading wicket taker. But that is the lot of a young fast bowler, he bowled 66 overs in the first two games and was injured in the second of those at Cardiff, similarly at Whitgift he toiled away for 30 overs on a pitch with nothing in it for the bowlers and hey presto, another injury. Thereafter Hamilton-Brown seemed to use him more sparingly (he never bowled more than 19 overs in an innings after that), shielding him from the new ball - infuriatingly at times - and using him in the middle and at the end of innings. Meaker continued his habit of taking wickets in bunches, to which three five-fors and three four-fors will attest and he is quite simply deadly to tailenders. In limited overs he was less impressive, often going for plenty of runs though his end-of-innings bowling against Sussex in the Twenty20 at Whitgift was a match-winning spell. 2011 was also a landmark year for Meaker who, two and a half years on from being hailed the 'fastest bowler in England' achieved Lions recognition, playing in their series against Sri Lanka. This season saw Meaker begin to fulfil his obvious potential, hopefully next season we'll see even more.

Jade Dernbach
LVCC: 22 wkts @ 39, CB40: 23 wkts @ 14, T20: 13 wkts @ 11

Another who had his season disrupted though this time not by injury but by England duties. I speculated at the start of the season that his fine efforts over the winter for the Lions might result in a peripheral spot in the England side but he went several better than that. He was a late call up to the World Cup squad and although he didn't play there he will finish the season with 14 England ODI and T20 caps under his belt along with an incremental contract from the ECB. His appearances in the Championship were sporadic and not terribly successful but in the limited overs games he came into his own. He was the overall leading wicket taker in the CB40 and it was he more than any other that was crucial to us winning the competition. He was also the most parsimonious of our bowlers during the Twenty20 competition - no mean feat when Dirk Nannes is in the same side. As I've said before Dernbach loves playing for Surrey, sometimes his desire to win can spill over into unnecessary outbursts but I wouldn't change any aspect of his game. His variation has long been too much for county batsmen and his appearances in England colours (bowling almost exclusively during powerplays or end-of-innings slogs) this season have given other international sides a flavour of that as well. The only downside is we might not see very much of him next season. He might be a late bloomer, but he's certainly blooming alright.

Yasir Arafat
LVCC: 20 wkts @ 47, CB40: 19 wkts @ 24, T20: 10 wkts @ 28

I toyed with putting Yasir in the allrounders group but in the end elected to designate him a bowler for the time being. He arrived with a serious county pedigree even if his 2010 season was unproductive by his standards. But he just never clicked, I kept on assuming he would deliver in the next game, and the next game, but at the start of the season he went four innings without taking a single wicket (in fact he was wicketless in almost half the innings he bowled in the Championship) and was unable to even offer control to boot. His returns in the CB40 were better, but he would still have games where his line was particularly errant and the T20 was no different. There's no getting away from the fact that Arafat, a proven overseas seamer available for the duration of the season, was a massive disappointment in 2011.

Pragyan Ojha
LVCC: 24 wkts @ 12

Timely overseas replacement or cynical splash-the-cash last ditch effort at promotion? Either way, it worked a treat. The crowing from some sections of the press about him being parachuted in seemed to ignore similar moves by Warwickshire for Chanderpaul and Worcestershire for Kemar Roach, but such is life. His 24 wickets at a cost of just 12 runs each were the single most important factor in us winning those last four games, but to suggest he was the only reason we are in division one does a disservice to the efforts of our other players - what about the 117 wickets from Messrs Linley and Meaker? That aside, Ojha was outstanding and really showed the value of an attacking spinner who actually spins the ball hard. During his spell of six wickets for eight runs against Northant he had their batsmen tied up in knots, unable to score off him at all. Rumour has it that he is unlikely to appear on the county circuit in 2012 and more's the pity. If India had any sense whatsoever he'd be playing every game possible for them. Thank you Pragyan, it was a blast.

Chris Tremlett
LVCC: 6 wkts @ 51, T20: 6 wkts @ 14

From the highs of 2010 where The Treminator bagged almost 50 Championship victims even having missed the early part of the season, to the comparative lows of 2011 where England duty and injury restricted him to just a handful of appearances - but he was still mighty impressive at times, his spell of 4-16 against Hampshire in the T20 was one of the best I saw all season. A low for the club that is, for 2010-11 has seen a coming of age for the once gentle giant. He established himself as an England regular in the Ashes where he took 17 wickets in three tests and was man of the series in the home tests against Sri Lanka this summer. That was before Tim Bresnan elbowed his way into the side, batting and bowling himself into a regular spot. That may mean he is available for substantially more cricket in 2012, with stronger opposition in prospect we will probably need him.

Dirk Nannes
T20: 19 wkts @ 20

When the news broke that we had signed Shaun Tait for the Twenty20 I was very pleased. I was therefore equally displeased when he admitted his own concerns to the club that he couldn't make it through a 16 game English Twenty20 regime. Ultimately he decided not to go through with his contract. Still, all's well that ends well because we ended up with Dirk Nannes. The leading wicket taker in the history of Twenty20 did not disappoint, he was rapid and hostile from the word go and could usually be relied on to take wickets. I would be chuffed to see him steaming in for us in 2012 as well, a class act.

The Others

He may have only made only fleeting appearances, but Matt Dunn made his mark on 2011. His 5-56 on Championship debut against Derbyshire ensured a morale boosting win. Curiously he only made one other appearance, against Gloucestershire, notable only for the fact that Hamilton-Brown refused to give him even a single over in the second innings. George Edwards didn't play for the First XI but was in the squad for the final two matches. He's still incredibly raw but looks to have genuine pace and is tall and lanky in build.

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