Thursday, 1 November 2012

Skipper Smith Signs for Surrey

Rumour had it some while ago that Surrey were on the verge of signing Graeme Smith. I must admit to a certain amount of scepticism then and in the subsequent weeks but lo and behold this morning the club announced the capture of the South African captain on a three year deal.

Make no mistake, this is a massive coup. The Guardian have called it "arguably the most eye catching and significant piece of recruitment in a decade". We all know the turmoil that engulfed the club last year. We lost a captain, we lost a legend, we lost several other very talented players and to be perfectly frank we lost our way. Smith can be the factor that turns the club around, provided he is allowed sufficient control over matters.

For a player of his stature and experience to commit to a three year deal is hugely significant. He will be able to build on the existing squad under his captaincy and although he'll only be available for 10 Championship games next year (he remains a key player in South Africa's Test and ODI sides) in the years after that he will hopefully be available even more. Next June he has the Champions Trophy (6th June - 23rd June if South Africa make the final) and then a limited overs tour to Sri Lanka which involves five ODIs and three Twenty20s, which Smith hasn't partaken in at international level since October 2011.

From the outside Surrey looked to be floundering a little. The Hamilton-Brown affair reared its ugly head again with some comments from Chris Adams in the Sunday Times and all told there was a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth. The signing of Smith signals that we do mean business.

There remains a couple of issues with the playing staff. We have a whole heap of players in the latter stages of their careers (Keedy, Batty, Lewis, de Bruyn, Solanki) and a good chunk still starting out (Burns, Roy, Harinath, Ansari) with very little in between. There's also not a huge amount of competition in the batting, but without question Smith's arrival allays a fair few concerns. He will lead the side, he will open the batting and he brings a huge amount of experience.

There's also the not insignificant issue of who will captain the side in his absence. The Independent reports that he will select his vice captain once he has assessed the squad. Presumably Gareth Batty will be at the head of the queue, followed closely by de Bruyn, Solanki and previous VC Steven Davies.

I will be interested to see how Smith's appointment changes the balance of power at Surrey. It is well known that Adams and Hamilton-Brown had a very close relationship, the latter being recruited as skipper at the former's request. Whether that relationship got too comfortable is a matter for debate but Smith, as the most experienced captain in the history of test cricket, will be his own man. To my mind this can only be a good thing.

Smith's record barely needs any comment from me, suffice it to say it is outstanding. In ten years as captain of South Africa (remaining captain for ten years is no mean feat in itself) he's won 44 of 94 tests, losing just 26, he averages very nearly 50 as skipper and has scored 23 test hundreds.

It is fairly well known now that there was something of an outbreak of ill-discipline at Surrey in 2012. What the club need is a man who's going to come in and cut the crap, of all the players in world cricket Graeme Smith seems the ideal candidate to do just that.

Last but not least credit is due here to the senior management at the club, particularly Richards Gould and Thompson, the Chief Executive and Chairman respectively. Credit too to Alec Stewart, who apparently played a key role in making first contact with Smith to get the ball rolling.

All in all Surrey fans across the board will be delighted with this signing. Apart from anything else a player like Smith is as close to a guarantee of runs as is possible in county cricket. I can't wait to see him lead the side out in April next year.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Adams adds Keedy as squad takes shape

Chris Adams 2013 squad continues to take shape as the veteran left arm spinner Gary Keedy was added to the Surrey roster on a two year contract.

I have long hankered after an English spinner, ideally a left armer, to complement Batty and my preference was for one of Keedy or Dean Cosker, so I can hardly complain. Indeed I do think Keedy will do a fine job in keeping the run rate down and picking up regular wickets, even if the signing is perhaps a year or two late to be ideal.

Though Keedy is a high quality player there is a lingering concern in the back of my mind that we have now signed two players the wrong side of 35 who struggled to make it into the starting XIs of teams that were relegated. Add to that a worry that with at least five players in a likely starting XI getting on in years we certainly don't pose the threat in the field that we once did. Keedy will be 40 by the time he sees out his Surrey contract.

Of course the logical response to that is that we are now a vastly more experienced squad. Solanki and Keedy have over 500 first class games between them which could prove invaluable. If they aren't the players they once were, they certainly have something to offer a squad in transition, to say the least.

But more than a concern about whether they will score runs or take wickets, I worry about what this says about the long term plans of Surrey County Cricket Club. The logic that Keedy will pass on some of his vast experience to the other left arm spinners at the club, Zafar Ansari and Freddie van den Bergh, is not without merit but I am of another school of opinion. I think the best way for Ansari and van den Bergh to become better spinners is to play as often as possible against top class players. I struggle to see how this is going to be possible with Batty and Keedy as first choice spinners.

What's more, at the end of the 2012 season we waved goodbye to two very worthy (and home grown, and young) batsmen in Tom Lancefield and Matthew Spriegel who had barely been picked to play a single first class game over the preceding two years. All the while replacing them with a 36 year old veteran who averaged 23 in Championship cricket in 2012. It's not that I don't think Keedy or Solanki will be successful, I'm just not sure that we're setting ourselves on the best long term footing.

I can't help thinking that two years hence we'll be scouring the 'out of contract' lists for three or four more ready made players when we could have been building for the future. Great teams are rarely bought but are forged over time. Perhaps in the age of the desire for instant success that's a naive position to take, and I sincerely hope I'm proved wrong in all of my assertions above. There will still be more signings I'm sure, an overseas batsman and perhaps one other batting option, which may give us a better balanced squad age-wise.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

2012 review: the allrounders

Surrey hardly had a proliferation of allrounders this season but I still thought I'd give this hardy bunch of four lads, two of whom are no longer Surrey players, their own post.

Zafar Ansari
CC: 234 runs @ 19 and no wickets. CB40: 160 runs @ 40 and 6 wkts @ 24. T20: 144 runs @ 24 and 6 wkts @ 28.
After making his Championship debut last year batting at number seven it was perhaps a surprise to see him thrust into the openers' slot for the final eight games of the season. I was however impressed with the consistency of selection, Adams should be praised for resisting the temptation to chop and change such a promising young player (quite out of character needless to say!). He only registered a single 50 and was out in single figures six times in 13 innings but I don't think that's an accurate representation of this man's talents. I do think an alternative should be sought to partner Burns at the top of the order for now, apart from anything else Ansari still has to complete his studies at Cambridge so will miss the early part of 2013. Ansari has what it takes to succeed in all formats at this level, its only a matter of time before he proves that.

Matthew Spriegel
CC: 35 runs @ 11 and no wickets. CB40: 220 runs @ 27 and 9 wkts @ 21. T20: 130 runs @ 21 and 2 wkts @ 44.
I won't bore you all again by saying how disappointed I was to see Spriegel depart for pastures new, but suffice it to say my position remains the same. He didn't score as heavily in the CB40 this year as he did last but his bowling, often opening the innings, was crucial. Why he wasn't used more, and more intelligently, in Championship cricket I'll never know. Two seven-fors in Second XI cricket suggested he was well on his way to becoming a viable Batty successor. He should have been tried in the openers slot in my view so that Ansari could be saved for the lower order at this stage. I hope he has every success at Northants.

Chris Jordan
CC: 141 runs @ 13 and 10 wkts @ 51. T20: no runs and no wickets
Those aren't really the numbers of a bona fide allrounder. Despite possessing all the natural necessaries, Jordan just never quite nailed down the consistency needed to be a real allround success in the Championship, or in any other format for that matter. The decision to have him open the batting was one of the more confusing ones this season and to his credit he grafted hard at it, though with little success. Although it feels like he played an awful lot, he in fact only played more than two successive games on three occasions in 2011 and 2012. Still, I think his time was up at Surrey and moving to pastures new might just see him get back to the Chris Jordan of the early days.

Tom Jewell
CC: 70 runs @ 70 and 1 wkt @ 24.
One game in 2011 and one game in 2012 might suggest that Tom Jewell was going to be shown the door at the end of this season, but his performance in the final fixture of 2012 hints at an emerging talent. I've always thought he was a good, steady option with both bat and ball and given the chance might just flourish in county cricket. He could develop into the genuine allrounder we've been crying out for. And his middle name is Melvin.

2012 review: the batsmen

After yesterday's look back at Surrey's bowling in 2012 today I'm casting an eye back over our batting over the past six months. I never thought I'd have to write a review of one of our batsmen posthumously and it still somehow doesn't seem real that I'm having to. Still, for what its worth here are my thoughts (in order of Championship batting average).

Kevin Pietersen
CC: 572 runs @ 95. CB40: 54 runs @ 27. T20: 93 runs @ 23.
If you'd have offered me Kevin Pietersen for four Championship fixtures and a handful of limited overs games at the start of 2012 I'd have bitten your arm off. Thanks to his contretemps with England he played an awful lot more than he should have, and it was to Surrey's considerable advantage. No one bettered his two Championship hundreds this year and indeed he ended the season as fourth highest scorer despite playing in only a quarter of the fixtures. Four scores of 50 or more in seven innings says it all. I'm bored to death of the ongoing KP-England saga so all I'll say is that whenever I saw him for us he looked engaged in the field and particularly in the T20s he was regularly a part of Batty's brains trust. If he really is out in the cold with England we should do all we can to retain him for 2013, there's no better batsman in English cricket.

Gary Wilson
CC: 182 runs @ 60. CB40: 60 runs @ 16. T20: 182 runs @ 60.
Speculation continues as to whether or not Wilson will be back with Surrey in 2012 but I for one would be sad to see him go. Having come full circle on him, I used to think he was hopeless, I know think he can play a big role in our middle order. However his ongoing commitments with Ireland mean that he's rarely available. I doubt there's another of the top echelon of Surrey's batsmen who played fewer than his 16 fixtures all told this season. I sincerely believe that given a run in the side he would score plenty of runs.

Rory Burns
CC: 640 runs @ 42. CB40: 35 runs @ 17. T20: 41 runs @ 13
The find of the season without question. He played in Surrey's first First Class fixture of 2012 but wouldn't have expected to end the season as first choice opening batsman, yet he's cemented his position at the top of the order for the foreseeable future. In our biggest problem area over the last few years we now have a genuine solution. Five scores of 50 or more in 15 innings, including a maiden hundred to help us win against Middlesex represent a magnificent effort. A tendency to get out bowled probably belies a lack of experience which is hardly surprising, but he undoubtedly has a massive future, hopefully all of it at Surrey.

Tom Maynard
CC: 525 runs @ 40. CB40: 118 runs @ 39. T20: 7 runs.
What to say of the young man that hasn't already been said? Along with his good mate Hamilton-Brown he gave respectability to Surrey's batting early in the season. He was an instant success when he signed in 2011 and he looked set to continue that, the sky really was the limit for him. He was always a dangerous player once he was in, his average once he'd passed 20 was an impressive 77, and that was no fluke, in 2011 the same average was 74. It is not an understatement to refer to his passing as a tragedy for cricket, I am in no doubt whatsoever that he would've scored a million runs for Surrey in the future, and probably England too. He will be greatly missed by all.

Rory Hamilton-Brown
CC: 555 runs @ 37. CB40: 204 runs @ 25. T20: 23 runs @ 5
Maynard's death hit everyone at Surrey very hard, but no one more so than his housemate and close friend. Having played all of Surrey's Championship games before June 18th, scoring 551 runs in the process, he played just two games thereafter. Talk of him now possibly moving on is enormously disappointing. Never mind the fact that a Division One rival will be gaining a batsman of massive potential, he is one of our own. He had started to look the real deal, the 70 not out from 161 balls against Somerset at the Oval being a prime example. It appeared he was making up for lost time, that is, time lost due to the extra pressure of being skipper. Then his, and to a lesser degree the whole club's, world was flipped upside down. Having requested permission to talk to other clubs it is hard to see a situation now where Rory will play for us again. I only hope I'm wrong.

Arun Harinath
CC: 368 runs @ 37
When Harinath made his Surrey debut at the end of the 2009 season, replacing an injured Ramprakash (who apparently thought very highly of him) I watched him compile a second innings 44 from 90 deliveries against a good Gloucestershire attack. He didn't have all the shots in the book but he looked to have a good technique and was mentally strong. He was given what would become the poisoned opener's chalice for 2010 and despite three fifties (including that famous marathon 62 from 290 balls against Sussex) and averaging a good ten runs more than any other batsman who opened for Surrey in the early part of that year, he was dropped, picked then dropped again. He played just once in 2011 despite scoring heavily for the Second XI and the First XI crying out for a steady opening batsman. What I'm trying to say is Harinath hasn't been dealt the best of hands in his Surrey career so I was delighted that he was given the final six games of 2012 to cement a place in the side. He made two hundreds and averaged 37 from the number three slot and while he's still not quite the finished article, he's more than earned his place in the side for 2013.

Jason Roy
CC: 612 runs @ 32. CB40: 115 runs @ 12. T20: 120 runs @ 12
Another who seemed to take Maynard's passing very hard, Roy did not have a good time of it in 2012. Since he came into the side in 2010 he has batted in all the top seven positions bar number four. I feel that he more than any other would benefit from knowing precisely what his role in the side was. Is he a Sehwag-esque dashing opener? Is he a lower-order biffer? Or is he a middle order batsman who keeps the pace of an innings going? Adams doesn't seem to know, so how can Roy himself know? I am still certain he is a prodigious talent and one poor season should not be enough to cast serious doubt over his ability. A winter of hard graft will pay dividends in 2013, watch that space.

Zander de Bruyn
CC: 709 runs @ 26. CB40: 210 runs @ 23. T20: 80 runs @ 16.
De Bruyn's 2011 (1,383 Championship runs at 55) was always going to be a very tough act to follow and barring a late season run of two fifties and a hundred he had an absolute shocker in 2012. He registered just three fifties in his first 24 innings this season, and ten scores of less than ten runs. In that time he averaged just 18 and yet seemed un-droppable. He also made a habit of getting out leg before which can be a worrying sign for a batsman the wrong side of 35. Given Surrey's depleted batting resources his late season surge are a blessed relief. I hope that the 2011 de Bruyn vintage will return next season.

Jacques Rudolph
CC: 229 runs @ 23. CB40: 69 runs.
Remember him? Another colossally disappointing overseas signing, he looked a shadow of the player who scored so heavily and for so long at Yorkshire. One fifty in ten innings is not what you'd expect from a senior international instilled with the responsibility of opening the batting. I don't quite know why he was only given one outing, in which he anchored a poor Surrey innings, in the CB40 but perhaps a cursory glance at his Championship record gives the answer. He should have been a great signing, but he wasn't.

Steven Davies
CC: 438 runs @ 22. CB40: 260 runs @ 23. T20: 184 runs @ 18.
What on earth is a player of Davies' abilities doing down at the bottom of this list? After starting the season as opener, as he had ended 2011 (with considerable success, averaging 54 in that slot) he steadily slipped down the order first to number four, then five and six before ending the season at number seven. He too seemed shell shocked by Maynard's death so it is unwise to be overly critical, especially of a man whom we know possesses such extravagant talent. Two scores of fifty or more in the Championship is not good enough but I was still pleased to see him sign a new deal with us. His time will come again and as he appears to have slipped off the England radar he can concentrate fully on Surrey for 2013.

Mark Ramprakash
CC: 107 runs @ 10
I toyed with the idea of leaving Ramps off this list altogether, to spare a Surrey legend the ignominy of propping up the list of batsmen, but I couldn't do it. To say he had a rough time of it is something of an understatement but he grafted to the end. Innings of 24 off 67 balls against Sussex and 37 off 101 balls in what would be his last innings, also against Sussex showed that Ramps was ready to rage against the dying of the light. He was out leg before five times in ten innings which is worrying in itself, but worse he wasn't scoring any runs all the while. It was desperately sad that he couldn't go out on a high, and I still don't know who was to blame for his poorly timed departure. Either way I'll say again, so long Ramps, and thanks for the memories.

The other
Much like Harinath, Tom Lancefield was never really given a fair crack of the whip but unlike his former colleague that persisted until the end of 2012 whereupon he was released. Interestingly was the only other batsman than Harinath to average over 30 opening the batting for Surrey in 2010 but a year of injuries in 2011, and a year of no cricket in 2012 made him surplus to requirements.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

2012 review: The bowlers

We can hardly call 2012 a vintage year with bat or ball but there have been some highlights (and one or two lowlights). Here is my summary of how each of Surrey's main bowlers got on this year.

Stuart Meaker
CC: 44 wkts @ 22. CB40: 9 wkts @ 21. T20: 4 wkts @ 25
The standout bowler for Surrey by a country mile in 2012. Compared to 2011 the stats are almost freakishly similar, identical number of Championship wickets, identical average and an almost identical strike rate, but there is no doubt in my mind that he's a far better player now than he was 12 months ago. It seemed that whenever he was thrown the ball he took wickets. Only twice in 15 meaningful bowling innings did he go without taking a wicket. No other bowler can match his three 5-fors, including an 8-for against Somerset and over the last three years he's been by a distant margin our most prolific wicket taker. There is no question that he is the leader of our bowling attack, its just a matter of time before he starts to disappear with England more and more often. In my opinion Meaker is criminally under-used by cautious captains in limited overs cricket - he may go round the park once or twice but he'll get you wickets all the time.

Jon Lewis
CC: 31 wkts @ 31. CB40: 4 wkts @ 49.
Very much a season of two halves for the veteran seamer. He burst on to the scene in his first five games at the club, picking up 23 wickets in his first five games at just 19 apiece, and scoring 155 crucial runs in the lower order to boot. But the T20 break seemed to all but decimate that run of form. Although he remained solid with the bat, in his last eight games this season he picked up just eight wickets at 66. He did remain a consistent no-baller throughout the season though, racking up 50 in all, giving away exactly 100 runs in the process. He needs to cut out this infuriating habit! We can only hope that his second half drop off in form is temporary, rather than representing the tail end of an illustrious career.

Gareth Batty
CC: 30 wkts @ 26. CB40: 14 wkts @ 17. T20: 11 wkts @ 14
So much more than just a bowler, and by that I don't mean he's an allrounder because his returns with the bat this year were pretty poor. His willingness to step up and lead the side in the aftermath of Tom Maynard's death was inspirational and he was the glue that held the side together for the remainder of the season. He isn't the greatest of spinners - he only took more than three wickets in a match three times in 2011 (but we did win two of those), and I don't think he's the greatest tactician in the world - his reluctance to change things around in the second innings against Middlesex nearly cost us the game. But, and its a big but, he's a key part of the team. He remains, at 35 years of age, a buzzing presence on the cricket field. His performances in the limited overs games, particularly the T20 where he gave up just 5 runs an over, were a vast improvement on previous years. There's life in the old dog yet.

Murali Kartik
CC: 27 wkts @ 22. CB40: 11 wkts @ 19. T20: 7 wkts @ 25
Pragyan Ojha was always going to be a hard, if not impossible, act to follow and Kartik was no Ojha. But neither was he poor. Because of the vagaries of the schedule, despite being available from the end of May onwards he only played seven matches in the Championship. On the spin-friendly wickets prepared for him at the Oval he took 13 wickets at 17 but he wasn't quite the devastating bowler we'd hoped he would be, think Abdur Rehman at Somerset for example. It can't have been easy for him to settle into the dressing room this year though and he did a solid, if unspectacular job for us.

Jade Dernbach
CC: 19 wkts @ 27. CB40: 13 wkts @ 23. T20: 3 wkts @ 13
A curious season for Dernbach who who played only 19 of Surrey's 37 matches thanks to international commitments and injuries. Along with Davies, Roy and Hamilton-Brown, Maynard's death seemed to hit Dernbach particularly hard and perhaps it was a blessing that he had England duty to keep his mind in order. It cannot have been easy to perform, in England colours or otherwise, after the events of June. Still he took wickets for Surrey more or less whenever he played, save for that infamous game at Horsham. Not his best season for Surrey and will probably continue to play only a bit part because of international duty.

Tim Linley
CC: 16 wkts @ 29
Surrey's leading wicket taker and 2011 player of the season, Linley must have been perplexed to have been left on the sidelines for the opening fixture of 2012, dropped in favour of newcomer Lewis. He only twice played in consecutive fixtures and 16 wickets make this season seem like a shadow of last. The step up to division one, and the change from Tiflex to Dukes ball explains some of the downturn in his wicket taking fortunes, but probably not as much as him being in and out of the team so much. With Dernbach and Meaker possibly away with England plenty he may yet play a significant role in 2013. There is no bigger team player in the side and he deserves better than he got this season.

Dirk Nannes
T20: 4 wkts @ 51
The man who so impressed as a last minute replacement for Shaun Tait in 2011 couldn't replicate that form this season. If you're not taking wickets in T20 you need to be extremely frugal, but Nannes couldn't manage that either this year, leaking almost 10 runs an over throughout his 9 games. He didn't feature at all in the IPL this season which meant he came into the T20 cup with very few miles in his legs. I'm not sure he'll be back in a Surrey shirt in 2013.

The rest
George Edwards (5 wkts @ 36) erupted into Surrey's first team with four impressive second innings wickets against Worcestershire but was rarely seen elswhere. He showed enough to suggest he has a big future, but will Adams have faith? Matt Dunn was another who didn't get a look in, he played the final Championship game of the season, picking up a single wicket in the process. Chris Tremlett also played just a single Championship fixture and also picked up just one wicket as injury book-ended his season. After playing 12 games in 2010 to such great effect, he's played just four Championship games since then, the future is a touch uncertain for the big man.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

While I was away...

If I was hoping for a quiet period of inactivity at Surrey while I was away, I can only be disappointed. Aside from three Championship games, one of which produced a result, there was also the beginnings of a mini-revolution in personnel at the club.

Let's start with the cricket first. As you will well know by now we've had two rain affected draws with Somerset and Lancashire, which produced hundreds for Arun Harinath, Kevin Pietersen and crucially Zander de Bruyn (crucially for reasons I will discuss below!). An emphatic 195 run win was delivered against Nottinghamshire which secured our First Division status for 2013. A massive relief for club and fans alike after a troubling season, to say the least.

Recruitment for next season will be a damn sight easier with Division One cricket in the bag, and it's a good job too because over the last few weeks a whole bunch of players have been released or allowed to talk to other clubs.

It was announced that Tom Lancefield, who only ever had sporadic chances in the first team, would not have his contract renewed. He first came into the side in late 2009 and looked to have something about him. He was (along with seemingly everyone else under Adams) tried and discarded as an opener, and following an injury ravaged 2011 it never seemed as though the coach had any faith in him.

Chris Jordan ended his Surrey career unfulfilled as he too will not be returning for 2013. Unlike Lancefield Jordan was given untold opportunities to prove himself and never really convinced in consecutive matches. His time at the club was defined by flashes of genius without ever really kicking on. When he came onto the scene in 2007 he looked to have it all. A hard hitting batsman who was also capable of hitting 90mph with the ball but injury and inconsistency of form took its toll. A career of 40 first class matches, a bowling average just under 40 and a batting average just over 20 tells its own story. He still has all the raw materials to succeed so a change of scenery might do him good.

The prize for "Most Disappointing" announcement while I was away is hotly contested. Matthew Spriegel, hero of 2011's CB40 campaign and general lifesaver in 2012's limited overs matches, finally gave up trying to force his way into Chris Adams' four day team and will play for Northants in 2013. That so many of his colleagues were tried as an opening batsman while he stewed on the sidelines is in my view something of a disgrace. He played five fewer first class games than Jordan (and don't forget Jordan missed all of 2010 with injury) despite consistently impressing for the Second XI. I am sure that, given an extended run in the side, he would have delivered with bat and ball. His release is a huge mistake.

The other competitor for "Most Disappointing" is that Rory Hamilton-Brown may not ever appear in a Surrey shirt again. He has been given permission to talk to other clubs, despite being under contract until the end of 2013. Clearly the stresses of all the water under the bridge in 2012 have become too much for the former skipper. Perhaps the club holds too many memories for him, and perhaps, as George Dobell gently puts it in his Cricinfo article, a move away from the distractions of London will be best for him.

Hamilton-Brown's wellbeing has to be considered but I can't pretend not to be disappointed by this revelation. Whatever was going on at the club before and after the events of June, I would have hoped that he would eventually realise his undoubtedly massive potential at Surrey, not somewhere else.

All the while there is also talk (and it's only talk, nothing certain) of Gary Wilson (who impressed with two fifties and an unbeaten 30 deputising for Davies against Somerset and Notts) departing and Rory Burns stalling over a new contract.

All that amounts to the management, and as far as we know it will still be Adams for 2013, having a huge recruitment task on their hands. We have now lost Maynard, Ramprakash, Spriegel, Lancefield and Jordan, and could be set to lose Hamilton-Brown and Wilson too. In return we have signed one 36 year old batsman in Vikram Solanki. Arun Harinath, Burns and Ansari (once he completes his studies) look set to have prominent roles at the club next season but having come in to this year a batsman light, we are now in an even weaker position. Zander de Bruyn's late-season return to form now seems all the more important.

The next few weeks and months will be interesting, not to say crucial, for the club. A captain is required, assuming that stand-in Batty will not continue into next season. Several batsmen are needed and perhaps, with Dernbach and Meaker likely to increasingly be away on England duty, so too is a bowler. Adams, having re-made the club in his own image after he joined in 2008, may now get another chance to do so.

Over the next few days I'll be reviewing the 2012 season, but one can't help but look to 2013 with a degree of trepidation.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Honeymoon Period

It's here folks, the moment some of you probably thought would never arrive. How could a man who devotes such a significant portion of his life ever fine someone willing to marry him? Well I did, and now its time for my honeymoon.

An inopportune moment for such a thing I know as we remain in contention to defend our CB40 title and struggle to retain our first division status. I won't be back until the final day of the final game (if it goes that far), but there's only one time in my life when I'm going on my honeymoon!

I would like to wish the team the very best of luck. We've had a rough time of it this season, so much emotion and upheaval but credit to the players who didn't throw the towel in. When it might have been easier to write this season off as lost, they haven't given in. We may yet be playing second division cricket next season but it won't be for want of trying.

Of course I hope we're not, and with a win and a couple of draws in the final three games we should be able to keep our heads above water. I'll keep an eye on things from the West Coast of America, as long as my other half doesn't notice.

See you in three weeks!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Super Surrey demolish Dragons

A ruthlessly efficient bowling performance, aided by some none-too-clever strokeplay from Glamorgan helped Surrey to a much needed CB40 win at the Oval tonight.

Another toss was won by captain Batty and again he chose to bat on what turned out to be a glorious summer's evening. There was not the top order collapse with which we have become familiar and instead the top three raced on to 45 for 1. A couple of quick wickets saw the home side slip to 67 for 3 but as ever they mounted something of a recovery. First Kevin Pietersen and then the redoubtable Spriegel chipped in with scores of substance.

Another rapid cameo from Ansari propelled the total towards 200 before they began to stutter again. Four wickets fell for the addition of just 21 runs and without a very useful and unbeaten 21 from Meaker the total would've looked distinctly below par.

Glamorgan's target then was set at 220, which was a tough ask but get-able. Early wickets from Meaker who was too quick for Wallace and Spriegel who had Allenby caught on the boundary set them well off course though.

A rapid 31 from Cooke got the Dragons right back into the game but as with Surrey a flurry of wickets was right around the corner, only this one was terminal. The bowlers shared the wickets around, Batty with three and Dernbach, Kartik and Ansari one apiece before Spriegel bagged his second victim to wrap the innings up. A superb catch at point from Ansari was the icing on the cake.

It was an impressive display of bowling variety and they never really allowed Glamorgan to get away. The game was played in a good spirit with all the players wearing shirts with the name or initials of Tom Maynard emblazoned on them. Spriegel tapped the back of his shirt when he reached fifty and Dernbach pointed skyward in celebrating his wicket. The young man was never far from their thoughts tonight.

This was a must win match and Surrey delivered. With the range of emotions the players were going through tonight, I'm impressed some of them made it on to the park, never mind made match winning contributions. We now have a slim chance of qualifying but will ultimately be left to rely on Hampshire losing their final game to advance automatically.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Win or bust for emotional Glamorgan tie

Tomorrow night's CB40 tie at the Oval has been nominated as the memorial game for Tom Maynard. It is the first time the two sides that Maynard called his own have met since his passing and it will also be used as the launch for the Tom Maynard Trust. As part of that Tom's father Matthew, along with Andrew Flintoff, Steve James and others is cycling from Cardiff to London in support of the charity. You can donate to the cause here.

In amongst all the emotions that will no doubt define the game it is also a must-win game for Surrey if they are to give themselves a chance of successfully defending the title they won in 2011.

Chris Adams has named an unchanged squad from the game with Hampshire, the names and a possible XI are as follows:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Kevin Pietersen
Jason Roy
Zander de Bruyn
Matthew Spriegel
Zafar Ansari
Gareth Batty
Murali Kartik
Stuart Meaker
Jade Dernbach

Bench: Gary Wilson, Jon Lewis

There is little reason to think Adams will name a different side to that which lost to Hampshire on Sunday. The batting was as brittle as it has been for much of this season but it is unlikely that room will be made for Wilson, who was in fact very unlucky not to be playing in the first instance. De Bruyn finally found some form and was un-droppable anyway, Spriegel is a key bowler and also scored runs at the weekend, Ansari likewise and I just can't see Adams dropping any of the top four, however poor their record this season may be.

I said it before the last game so I'll say it again before this one, Jason Roy is due a big score. A haul of 98 runs from nine CB40 innings this season clearly does not reflect what he is capable of. As is so often the case with Roy it'll just take one or two strokes for something to click and he'll be away. Pietersen's first ball dismissal against Hampshire was unfortunate but can happen to anyone, it won't set him back. Hamilton-Brown is still feeling his way back in and could really do with cracking a few boundaries to make him feel at home in the middle again. For him, more than almost any other, tomorrow night will be emotional and I hope he can harness that emotion and bag himself a big score.

The bowlers on Sunday did a decent job, barring one or two big overs they kept the Hampshire batsmen largely under control. I would expect Stuart Meaker to play a bigger role tomorrow though, certainly he should bowl more than the two overs he was given yesterday.

Glamorgan have not had the best of seasons but they did record a (rain affected) win over Nottinghamshire recently so they do carry a threat. The last meeting of the two sides earlier in the season ended in a relatively comfortable win for Surrey but not before they'd been given a fright. Cosker, Jones and Harris are always a danger with the ball and Marcus North remains a classy batsman. Jim Allenby seems to enjoy playing against Surrey as well. On paper, the home side are favourites for this tie and if we get back to playing CB40 the way we know how, i.e. avoiding a horror-show at the top of the order, we should have too much for Glamorgan.

It won't be easy for players on either side tomorrow to put their emotions to one side when they cross the boundary, indeed not all of them will, some may decide that the memory of a close friend and team mate will spur them on to a big score or lots of wickets. Either way, Surrey desperately need a win to keep themselves in the running and get the winning momentum going again.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Defeat to Hampshire sets back CB40 campaign

Surrey's only remaining hope of silverware in 2012 is fading fast following defeat in a low-scoring game in Southampton. Hampshire reached their target of 176 with eleven balls to spare and four wickets in hand.

The day started in the best possible fashion as Batty won the toss, something which we can now almost take for granted. Something else we can all but take for granted is a top order collapse. Our limited overs matches this season have seen such gems as 8 for 5 against Nottinghamshire, 9 for 4 against Hampshire in the T20, 32-4 against Middlesex and we followed that up today with 38-4, including ducks for Pietersen and Roy, the men most likely to propel us to a match winning score.

Spin did a fair amount of damage early on with two wickets for Liam Dawson but Chris Wood was also impressive, himself collecting a brace of wickets. They were well backed up by Griffiths who bettered them in finishing the pick of the bowlers with 3-29.

There was only one 50+ partnership in the innings, an excellent one of 94 from Spriegel and de Bruyn, runs coming at last for the latter. He also added 41 in very good time with Zafar Ansari who dominated the scoring with a vital 30 from just 17 balls. It was largely down to the contributions of those three that the score was anything approaching respectable as the last four wickets fell for the addition of just two runs.

Hampshire's target of 176 was by no means stiff, but with the ball turning and Surrey's battery of spinners they could not rest on their laurels. It was essential that they didn't lose early wickets and although the in-form Vince fell in the fourth over Carberry, Adams and Mackenzie played sensibly to see their side to within 50 runs of victory.

A tumble of four wickets for 24 runs between the 30th and 36th overs gave the Surrey bowlers hope but Bates and Ervine saw Hampshire home with a calculated acceleration. Thirteen runs off Ansari's sixth over (after his previous five had gone for just 20, including the wicket of Dawson) was the killer blow as the home side made their target with relative ease.

This was a disappointing defeat which is a real setback in such a tightly fought group. The manner of the defeat is now becoming disappointingly familiar, a top order collapse sparks a valiant fightback, usually involving Spriegel, but ultimately we often fall short of the required 200+ totals needed.

We have two games remaining, one likely to be an emotional affair on Tuesday against Glamorgan and then the final group game a very tough assignment indeed against a Somerset side who have won six on the bounce in this format. To qualify we need to win both games and hope Hampshire lose their final game. It is not beyond a side with proven quality in the CB40, but it's a tough ask with some intense Championship cricket coming up as well.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Pietersen returns to Hampshire for CB40 clash

The group stages of the CB40 come towards a conclusion in the next few days beginning with a vital clash at the Ageas Bowl tomorrow. The big news is that Kevin Pietersen, fresh from text-gate, is available in this format for the first time this season.

Chris Adams has named a 13 man squad, the names and a possible XI are as follows:

Rory Hamilton-Brown
Steven Davies
Kevin Pietersen
Jason Roy
Gary Wilson
Matthew Spriegel
Zafar Ansari
Gareth Batty
Murali Kartik
Stuart Meaker
Jade Dernbach

Bench: Zander de Bruyn, Jon Lewis

As surprising to me as Pietersen's inclusion is Rory Burns' exclusion. Fresh from a Championship hundred this week he would've been high on confidence and it strikes me as poor practice to exclude him from the squad unless for fitness reasons, even if his CB40 returns this season have been mediocre (but from only two knocks). Again it is tough to pick which way Adams is going to go on this one so the above is more what I would like to see rather than what he will do. Much will depend on the pitch and any hint of a seamer-friendly surface will see one or both of Lewis or de Bruyn included.

We know how well our bowlers have performed in this format in 2012 and whatever the makeup of the attack tomorrow I am sure they will perform, putting the Durham match down as a mere blip in an otherwise high quality season. 

The batting however has been poor, and particularly so lately. No top order batsman in the squad is averaging above 30, and the likes of Jason Roy will be looking to set the record straight with a big score. Hopefully the rest of the batting can feed off the presence of Pietersen in the side.

Hampshire are a point above us in the table, albeit having played a game more, so they are clearly a dangerous side. Their batting has been reliant on Vince and more recently Mackenzie, but they do have Carberry returning from injury which is a major boost to them. Briggs and Wood lead them in terms of wickets but they also rely on Mascarenhas and Dawson to tie batsmen down early on and in the middle overs.

Surrey will have just two games remaining after this and a win would take them a point clear of Hampshire at the top of the table, with a game in hand. Needless to say then, a win would be most welcome indeed. They will have gained a lot of confidence from the win over Middlesex and they know their game much better in this format. Momentum at this stage of the season is key as vital games come thick and fast.

Batty's six scripts nail biting win

Middlesex and Surrey don't really do boring, middle of the road cricket. The last Championship encounter between the two sides ended in a tense final day win for Middlesex by three runs. Today's game was no less intriguing but this time Surrey emerged the victors by the comparatively comfortable margin of 8 runs.

Going in to the final day the home side were firm favourites on a turning pitch against an inexperienced batting lineup. The day began in perfect fashion as Kartik picked up the key wicket of Robson with his sixth delivery. There was a feeling that Middlesex might be fortunate to make the lunch break as the third wicket went down soon after, Batty collecting his second scalp, Tom Smith edging to Kartik at leg slip.

Denly and Malan then steadied the ship for Middlesex with a 43 run partnership. Malan looking the much more comfortable of the two as he was positive from the off. Denly's wicket, leg before to give Batty his third wicket, brought another as Dexter fell, also to Batty. When Balbirnie and Malan fell within six overs of that it looked as though the game was up for Middlesex at 101-7 with 153 runs still required.

It wasn't over though, not by a long shot. Steven Crook came to the crease and was instantly positive, advancing down the track to crack Batty for two fours. He and the debutant Rossington compiled a superb 96 run partnership at a good pace and the captain began to look very short of ideas. He belatedly made a change, bringing Dernbach into the attack and the pace bowler delivered, bowling Crook with a slower ball in his second over of the day. It was a massive relief for Batty.

When Rossington was caught at slip by Roy off just two balls later it looked as though the game was up...again. But it wasn't...again. Roland-Jones and Murtagh, who forged a good 44 run partnership in the first innings steadily brought the total within reach. Batty persisted with spin almost throughout the entire day, save for seven overs from Dernbach it was slow bowling all the way. Some of the fields Batty set were overly defensive in the circumstances and he seemed to be dead set against mixing up the bowling.

When the target dipped below 20 runs Kartik bowled a no ball and the game seemed to be heading in Middlesex's direction. With the partnership edging towards fifty and the set batsmen sensibly turning the strike over I had all but given up. However Batty, with one last push, managed to crowbar and LBW decision out of umpire Nigel Cowley to win the match. His celebration, down on his knees mid-pitch, said it all.

This was an absolutely vital win as one of only two fixtures that remained at the Oval. It takes us 18 points clear of Lancashire on the same number of games and 21 clear of Worcestershire who have a game in hand. It was not a vintage performance but there are plenty of positives - Burns and Harinath making maiden Championship tons, some runs for Davies and wickets for Kartik are all good signs, and it is crucial that we continue on an upward curve for the final three games.

We know that one win can spark a revival in fortunes and I hope that is the case with this result. The players worked extremely hard over the course of four days and deserve the plaudits. Well played.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Twin tons leave Surrey in charge

A fascinating final day awaits the London rivals as Middlesex require 209 runs, and Surrey need to find 9 wickets for a much needed victory on either side.

What the home side wanted was a quiet morning session of sensible accumulation to establish a firm base of a second innings lead. For once, that is exactly what was delivered. Rory Burns and Arun Harinath reeled off the kind of two hour session we've been pining for all season. Turning over the strike and hitting the bad ball to the boundary to form a crucial 217 run partnership, Surrey's second biggest for any wicket this season.

Harinath fell but not before they had both hit maiden Championship hundreds and forged a record second wicket partnership for Surrey against Middlesex. They matched each other run for run, never more than 13 runs apart in their scores. Soon after the visitors had the new ball the ever-excellent Roland-Jones did the business, taking three quick wickets and ultimately the final 9 Surrey wickets disappeared for just over 100 runs. A good and timely 44 from Davies the only significant contribution outside the top three.

That left Middlesex with a very stiff looking target of 254 to win. Ordinarily not beyond a batting lineup containing the extravagant talents of Denly and Rogers, but on a turning pitch with Murali Kartik to face, it felt substantially bigger.

Linley and Dernbach began with the new ball but could not find a way through the openers. Dernbach in particular was expensive and was hauled off after just three overs. Kartik's initial spell brought no success but Batty's introduction to the attack was immediately successful with the huge wicket of Chris Rogers leg before for 19 runs.

Middlesex saw out the remainder of the day without sustaining further damage and won't be hugely disappointed with the position they're in. With many, many overs of spin to be bowled, and an inexperienced middle order they face a tough task, but the target is not beyond reach.

Surrey are firmly in the box seats and should not be entertaining thoughts of losing this one. Today was a pleasing continuation of yesterday's good start, and just as Adams must take the blame for batting collapses, so he must take some credit for spirited comebacks such as today's. Tomorrow is as important a day of Championship cricket as we've had all season, Murali Kartik holds the key to what would be a morale boosting and vital victory.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Surrey fight back hard on day two

After a below par day one Surrey toiled away on day two to gain parity, and perhaps edge slightly ahead of Middlesex on the second day of this Championship game. They ended the day on 86-1, just two runs shy of Middlesex with the pitch sure to present a tough challenge as the game wears on.

The day started well for the home side as Dernbach trapped Robson leg before early on in a rain interrupted morning session. The players didn't get back on until well into the afternoon but Surrey continued to plug away.

The game looked to be getting away from Surrey as their rivals moved 20 runs clear with just three wickets down but then came the fightback. Middlesex's inexperienced middle order crumbled under the pressure piled on them by Surrey's spin twins as they lost six wickets for 24 runs. Another frustrating tenth wicket partnership, the second highest of the innings, gave the opposition plenty to cheer about before Kartik ended the innings to give him his first Championship five-for of the season.

That gave Middlesex an 88 run lead which based on our first innings batting performance could well have been matchwinning. Indeed when Ansari was caught off the bowling of Roland-Jones for a duck with just 13 runs on the board there was an air of the familiar about the situation. However Rory Burns and Arun Harinath had other ideas as they put together a doughty, fighting and most importantly unbroken partnership of 73 runs to drag Surrey right back into contention.

Spinners Balbirnie and Smith were not able to present the kind of threat posed earlier in the day by Kartik and while Roland-Jones was played with extreme caution (six of his nine overs were maidens) he was only allowed a single success.

With nine second innings wickets still intact and the scores almost level, Surrey will be much the happier of the two sides. Chasing anything north of 200 on this pitch will be extremely tough, indeed even 150 might prove a stern task.

Day one was unquestionably a disaster for Surrey, but credit to the team for showing a bit of fight on day two and dragging themselves back level. Tomorrow morning's session is absolutely critical, keeping wickets in hand is a must and with plenty of time still left in the game, sensible accumulation rather than lusty hitting is the order of the day.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Roy plays lone hand as Surrey capitulate again

Barring a few notable exceptions, this has not been a vintage season for Surrey's batsmen and the innings today at the Oval did nothing to change that. Middlesex closed 99 for 1, just 45 runs behind having skittled the home side for just 144.

On a cloudy and humid day Gareth Batty won yet another toss and for the second consecutive game elected to bat first. The rationale being that this pitch has been prepared specifically with the spinners in mind, so it was a case of avoiding batting last at all costs. Jon Lewis, in poor form with the ball, Chris Jordan and Spriegel were all left on the sidelines.

Without a frontline spinner in their side Middlesex needed a fine performance from their bowlers, and boy did they get one. Rory Burns, in such good form of late, was the first to go in the third over off the bowling of Murtagh. Ansari was gone soon after for just 10 which left Surrey 28-2 as the players left the field for a rain break. A recovery was needed but did not materialise as three more wickets fell before the 50 run mark had been breached. Zander de Bruyn failed with the bat again, scoring his third duck in his last six innings during which time he's scored just 25 runs all told.

The returning Hamilton-Brown scored just two before he was clean bowled by Murtagh and Harinath was soon leg before to Roland-Jones. The 24 year old Middlesex (but one-time Surrey Second XI) bowler has somehow avoided detection by the England Lions set up but he has 110 first class wickets from 28 games at a cost of just 21 apiece. Ironically after such a fine bowling performance he may be replaced by Steve Finn if Finn is not selected for England tomorrow.

Jason Roy plugged away, thrice scoring back-to-back boundaries and added 32 with Davies and 41 with Kartik but the innings was done and dusted soon after he had passed 50. He took a single from the second ball of the 45th over and Murtagh made him pay, taking wickets with consecutive balls to bring an end to the Surrey proceedings and take him past 50 Championship wickets for the season. Roy has quietly been getting on with things of late, while most others have been losing their heads, he's kept his, averaging 46 in the last four games.

All told it was another poor effort with the bat. Only three counties have scored fewer batting bonus points than us this season and it may end up costing us dear.

Middlesex had more than 30 overs to face before the close of play with Robson and Rogers delivering the kind of steady start which has been largely absent for Surrey. Neither Dernbach nor Linley, both bowling straight and looking for swing, were able to make a breakthrough with the new ball (though Linley did have a loud LBW shout against Rogers in his first over - but the dreaded no-ball returned to haunt Surrey). In truth Linley, who bowled a spell of six overs for 28 runs, offered little threat to the batsmen. The players will have taken some small solace from having gotten rid of Rogers late in the day, bowled by a Dernbach yorker.

For the umpteenth time this season it seems, Surrey face an uphill struggle to save the game. There was turn for Kartik late in the day but despite having ten overs in which to weave his magic he ended the day without a wicket. One has to assume that spin will play an increasing part in the drama to unfold over the next few days, and it is thanks to Middlesex's shortcomings in that department that we're not completely dead and buried.

We've handed all the cards to our opponents yet again. Time and again the same mistakes are being made. Chris Adams claims that the plans he puts in place are great, they just aren't put in to practice on the field. That's all well and good but what about the preparation of the players, the coaching? Someone should take responsibility for the continuing shortfalls in performance. I fail to see how that someone can be anyone other than the Cricket Manager. We are not yet completely out of this game, there's much cricket to be played, but we haven't half made this one difficult for ourselves.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

No Pietersen for crucial Middlesex clash

Who am I kidding, they're all crucial from now on. The first of two remaining home games this season begins tomorrow and our North London rivals are the visitors. Two major bits of news, Kevin Pietersen will not play despite not being engaged with England and Rory Hamilton-Brown makes his long-awaited Championship return.

Chris Adams has named a 14 man squad for this game, the names and a possible XI are as follows:

Rory Burns
Zafar Ansari
Arun Harinath
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Zander de Bruyn
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Gareth Batty
Murali Kartik
Jon Lewis
Jade Dernbach

12th men: Matthew Spriegel, Tim Linley, Chris Jordan

This is as hard a team to pick as there's been this season in my view. There is no doubt that the groundsman will have been asked to prepare as dry a pitch as possible to accentuate our advantage in the spin department. That begs the question of whether Adams will be bold enough to go in with just two seamers thereby strengthening our brittle batting. He could alternatively play Chris Jordan in place of a batsman, probably Arun Harinath (though de Bruyn has done little to justify his place of late). It seems likely that both Spriegel and Linley will miss out either way which is hard on them, continuing their in-out-in-out season of first team cricket.

The good news is that Hamilton-Brown is back in the fray. He has not played first class cricket since that dreadful game against Sussex at Horsham, missing five games in the process but despite that he remains comfortably our leading scorer in Championship cricket. The Hamilton-Brown we'd come to know before June's horrible turn of events would be a massive boost to the team right now.

The not-so-good news is that Kevin Pietersen won't play. The club did apparently enquire as to his availability for this game but he's nowhere to be seen. That means one of two things has happened, either the man himself said he didn't want to play or the ECB have told Surrey he's not available. I sense the latter is more likely, but neither would reflect well on those involved. Whatever has gone on behind the scenes, not being able to select KP at a time when our batting is suffering is a huge blow to our chances.

Middlesex have problems of their own. Their form has taken a turn for the worse with losses to Durham and Sussex in recent weeks and if they're not careful they could be dragged into the relegation mire. Their main spin bowling option, Rayner, will miss this game with a hand injury leaving them relying largely on Tom Smith's left arm spin. They have also dropped John Simpson in favour of Adam Rossington. That's not to say they're without threat, Roland-Jones and Murtagh have more than 80 wickets between them and Denly and Rogers have registered over 1,500 runs.

Given Middlesex's form and home advantage, this is nothing less than a must win game. The weather could play a part with rain forecast at some point on most of the next four days, but hopefully there will be enough time for a result to be had. A defeat here would be a big blow to morale and would make lifting the team for the final month of the season extremely difficult. If the batting, inspired by the former captain's return, can begin to fire and deliver enough runs so that Kartik and Batty can do the business with the ball on a turning pitch, we may begin to see things turn around.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Momentum could be key in Durham CB40 clash

Surrey's jolly to the North East is completed on Saturday with a trip back to the Riverside (or Emirates Durham ICG) for their ninth fixture of this year's CB40.

Chris Adams has named a squad of 13, the names and a possible XI are as follows:

Steven Davies
Rory Hamilton-Brown
Jason Roy
Gary Wilson
Rory Burns
Matthew Spriegel
Zafar Ansari
Gareth Batty
Murali Kartik
Jon Lewis
Jade Dernbach

Bench: Zander de Bruyn, Chris Jordan

As is typical for Chris Adams it is a spinner heavy squad, with five spin bowling options (and three wicket keepers to boot). Its a formula that has served the club well in this format so there is no reason to abandon it now.

The batting is the biggest concern. Of the 21 teams in this competition only five teams have scored fewer runs than Surrey and yet we're sitting pretty atop the group. We have relied on our bowlers strangling the opposition batting and they will look to do so again. With only one (Burns) of the nine batsmen named in the squad in any kind of form it would take a massive reversal in fortunes for us to post a big total. Zander de Bruyn's form in the CB40 is barely better than his woeful Championship form so I hope he is dropped for this game, as Gary Wilson returns and Hamilton-Brown's journey back to full first team fitness continues.

Jade Dernbach was wayward but occasionally lethal against Notts and picked up three wickets in the Championship game against Durham. In the continued absence of Tremlett and Meaker he will be expected to take wickets up front. I would expect Spriegel to continue his job as opening bowler, he was quite exceptional against Notts as he reeled off 8 overs on the bounce to return figures of 2-21. He and Ansari have been critical in keeping the run rate down, indeed of bowlers who have bowled ten overs or more in the CB40 they are both in the top ten most economical.

Durham will be on a high after polishing us off in a little more than two days in the Championship. Although they have lost four of their eight matches in this format so far they are still a danger. They are one of only two sides to have beaten us in the CB40 over the last two years and their batting form is superior to ours. They have three batsmen with 200+ runs to our one. Muchall, Stoneman and Mustard have all been in the runs, while Benkenstein, Stokes and Collingwood all pose a threat. Their leading bowler in this format is Chris Rushworth but Ben Stokes is clearly in good form with the ball. Scott Borthwick will be hoping for some turn and if the wicket is the same that the Championship game was played on he may get some, though this would also play into Surrey's hands.

Our form in the CB40 has held up impressively this year and it is obviously the format that Adams and his charges feel most comfortable in. They have a good formula and are sticking to it - it goes to show what can be achieved with consistent game plans. After the hammering in the Championship game the last thing we need is another defeat, and a win would put us in a very competitive position to progress.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Sorry Surrey slip to innings defeat

Surrey failed to even take the game beyond lunch on day three as Durham ran out easy victors by an innings and 38 runs to jump to seventh place in the Championship table.

The day started badly for Surrey and, broadly speaking, got worse fairly rapidy. The sixth ball of the day, bowled by Chris Rushworth, did for Tim Linley as the nightwatchman fell leg before wicket. The tail did at least manage to hold the Durham charge a bit, the 7th, 8th and 9th wicket partnerships were the three highest in the innings - though this says more about the top order failings than it does about the lower order.

Rory Burns' dogged innings was ended by Graham Onions, his 38 came from 130 balls and was comfortably Surrey's best score of the game. His reputation continues to grow, he seems to be able to find a way of scoring runs and is certainly not one-paced. Spriegel and Batty kept Durham at bay for another 12 overs before the former fell to an excellent Ben Stokes catch off the bowling of Thorp. The innings was ended before the next ten overs were out as Scott Borthwick picked off the tail enders.

This is an embarrassing defeat against fellow strugglers Durham, who leapfrogged us in the table. A poor decision to bat first followed by a poor display with the bat killed any hope of winning this game very early on day one. Thanks to having one of the paltry three points we collected in this game shorn off because of a slow over rate (again), we now sit perilously close to the relegation spots. Worcestershire look as though they may struggle to defend their total against Warwickshire, we have to hope they do as they still have a game in hand over us.

In the post-match interview Chris Adams drew the parallel with this time last season, when we were badly beaten by Kent and had to win our final four games to be sure of promotion. There is some merit in that, insofar as it ain't over till it's over, but the two situations are not the same. Last season we had a high quality spinner in prime form and we were facing Division Two opposition. With the greatest of respect to the clubs involved, facing Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Essex with Pragyan Ojha to do the bowling is not the same as facing Middlesex, Somerset and Nottinghamshire without Pragyan Ojha.

Adams hopes to have Rory Hamilton-Brown to call on in the next match and his return cannot come soon enough. He should step into Zander de Bruyn's shoes, he is averaging just 18 from 20 innings this season. With two of the final four games at the Oval, and against two teams without quality front-line spinners, we have no choice but to prepare raging turners and hope Murali Kartik can justify his pay cheque and win us both of them. Such is the brittle nature of our batting there is an argument for bringing in a short term overseas replacement to shore up that department, but Adams' comment post-match make that seem very unlikely.

It is true that all is not yet completely lost. Lancashire and Worcestershire are not in great form either and although Durham appear to be coming good at just the right time, we only need to finish above two teams to survive. The problem is that like winning, losing can become a habit and with so few in-form batsmen anywhere in the squad, it is hard to see where the next win is coming from. Something dramatic needs to happen, and it needs to start happening next Wednesday against Middlesex.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Poor Surrey slide towards defeat

With two days still remaining in this game, Surrey are staring head-long into the abyss with just five second innings wickets still intact but 112 runs in arrears.

They began the day with hopes of quick wickets, of seeing the back of Benkenstein and Collingwood to get into the Durham tail, but nothing of the sort took place. The not out pair overnight added another 71 runs to extend their steady partnership. Once both batsmen had been dismissed they had put their side exactly 100 runs ahead, and Phil Mustard was playing positively.

Mustard forged partnerships of 39 with Collingwood and 72 with number nine batsman Callum Thorp. Thorp was eventually last man out for 32, four runs better off than any Surrey batsman has managed in this match. A lot of lbw appeals went begging for Surrey, including one involving Mustard when he was initially given out but then reprieved. 

By the time Surrey finally ended the innings they were looking at a 181 run deficit, Durham's total of 310 was by a distance the best first innings total at the Riverside in 2012. They also recorded their best fifth and eighth wicket partnerships of the season.

Conditions were far better for batting today than yesterday, bringing further into question the decision to bat first, but it was another day to forget for Surrey in the field. For the second consecutive match we contributed 10% of the opposition's total in extras, Jon Lewis was again particularly culpable, handing over 14 runs in no balls and significantly contributing to an over rate which was at times minus three (and could result in another penalty point).

Another disciplined Durham bowling performance got them off to a good start. Ansari fell victim to a fine Collingwood catch off Rushworth for just one in the seventh over and Arun Harinath registered another disappointing innings with the bat, he was leg before to Stokes in the 15th. De Bruyn completed another in a string of matches to forget when he was run out for five, Roy became Stokes' second lbw victim and Steven Davies then fell with less than two overs remaining as he became the third wicket to fall in the final ten overs of the day.

The Surrey players will be hoping against hope that somehow Rory Burns and their tail end can mount a mammoth resistance, knock off the 112 run deficit and then build something resembling a lead. As we saw in the Middlesex game at Durham even a total of just over a hundred can be dangerous in the fourth innings. But Stokes' excellent performance with the ball this match, and the presence of Graham Onions in the opposition bowling attack make that a remote possibility.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Durham threaten significant first innings lead after day one

Durham will be much the happier of the two sides after day one as they closed just ten runs behind Surrey with six first innings wickets in hand after a very competitive day's cricket.

Chris Adams sprung something of a surprise by dropping his marquee overseas signing, Murali Kartik, for this game along with Chris Jordan as Tim Linley and Matthew Spriegel were preferred. It begs the question, why was Gareth Batty left out for the Guildford match if he was preferred to Kartik here? Some more confusing selections to ponder from Surrey.

On the field Batty won yet another toss and he went against the grain in choosing to bat first. Only once has a side won the toss and chosen to bat first at the Riverside this season. Interestingly that one instance has resulted in by far the biggest first innings total there this season, but that innings aside teams batting first have averaged a total of just over 122 runs.

Batty's rationale was that this pitch is only going to deteriorate, time will tell if he was right. Surrey duly delivered a score just a fraction above par, all out for 129. The opening overs saw some attritional cricket, after five had been bowled just six runs were on the board and although Ansari edged behind for just one in the sixth over, the first 20 saw just one Surrey wicket fall and the opening exchanges seemed to have gone the way of Surrey.

However we slipped from a positive 41-1 to a depressing 80-7 as seven wickets fell in 16 overs. Again the senior batsmen in the side disappointed massively, Davies and de Bruyn mustering just 12 runs between them. A run out in the final over before lunch was also terribly disappointing cricket. Arun Harinath showed good application and the tail cobbled together 50-or so runs, but ultimately it was some high quality, disciplined bowling (and a couple of questionable shots) which won the innings for Durham.

Surrey will have had those low Riverside totals in mind when the home side began their reply, and it was positive for the visitors before too long. Dernbach had Stoneman caught in the third over and although another 13 overs passed without a wicket Durham were not getting away. Three wickets then fell in ten overs to leave Durham 58-4 and Batty would've had hopes of a possible slender first innings lead. However Benkenstein and Collingwood, using all the experience of almost 470 first class matches between them, wrested control back with an unbeaten 61 run partnership.

There was some uneven bounce in the pitch, as early as the ninth over balls were shooting through seemingly without bouncing, and others were bouncing sharply. Batting last, as Durham will be, won't be an easy task but first we have to restrict the first innings lead. With only Mustard and Borthwick as batsmen to come early wickets will bring Surrey right back into the game. But if Collingwood and Benkenstein are allowed to bed in again, we may not get a chance to test their batting a second time round.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Surrey go north for crunch Durham match

Five games remain for Surrey to retain their first division status, the first of those five begins tomorrow against relegation rivals Durham.

Chris Adams has returned from his mid-season break to name the following 13 man squad, and a possible XI is as follows:

Rory Burns
Zafar Ansari
Arun Harinath
Steven Davies
Zander de Bruyn
Jason Roy
Chris Jordan
Murali Kartik
Jon Lewis
Tim Linley
Jade Dernbach

12th men: Gareth Batty, Matthew Spriegel

This is as tough an XI to pick as we've had all season. Given the nature of the pitch it is a bad time for Adams to have to do without Stuart Meaker and Chris Tremlett. 90% of the wickets at the Riverside this season have gone down to seam bowlers. Spinners have been successful just 24 times with the red ball in 2012, although intriguingly 14 of them were in the most recent fixture there where Ian Blackwell ran riot with a second innings seven wicket haul to win the game against Australia A. That game aside, I would not expect a spin-friendly pitch to be prepared and given the experience at Guildford, Batty may well miss out again.

Therefore it seems likely that quick bowlers will play a significant part, which makes a reprieve for Chris Jordan likely despite a poor showing at Edgbaston. He has 10 wickets this season at a cost of 50 apiece, and has given away more than four runs an over in the process. Given that he is only averaging 12 with the bat, I wonder whether a gamble on George Edwards might have been a better bet. A return to form for Lewis and Linley would be timely, while Dernbach looked very sharp indeed in the CB40 game against Nottinghamshire.

The batting nerves were settled somewhat on a placid pitch in Birmingham. The likes of Ansari, Burns and Roy may well find runs harder to come by with Graham Onions steaming in on a green pitch though. All of their fighting spirit and character, of which they showed plenty in the last Championship fixture, will need to be summoned to post a good total. I would rather see Spriegel named than de Bruyn but I doubt Adams will take that step.

Durham have had a wretched season but things have been looking up lately. All of their batsmen are averaging under 30 but they are not short on experience with Collingwood and Benkenstein in their top order (although they seem set to give a Championship debut to Keaton Jennings tomorrow). They also have the extravagant talents of Ben Stokes to call on. Their bowling is where the real strength lies. In Onions, Thorp and Claydon they have plenty of experience, plus Scott Borthwick should the pitch offer any turn.

We currently lie seventh in the Championship table, level on points with Lancashire and 15 points clear of our opponents in this game. Any points in this fixture will take us above Lancashire, but given the respective placings of the two teams, we have to be looking at a win. The weather is set fair and the Riverside pitch is almost certain to offer a result. Defeat would be a huge setback but victory could be the spark to fire an impressive run in.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Ansari and the weather save Surrey on final day

Surrey's game with Warwickshire petered out into a rain affected draw, with 35 overs lost to the weather over the final two days. But the weather wouldn't have mattered had Zafar Ansari not played the sort of rearguard innings that the situation demanded. He ended unbeaten on 83 to rescue the game.

In his first class career before this innings he had faced just 553 deliveries, yesterday evening and today alone he faced 257 balls. He was ably assisted late in the day by a controlled innings from Jason Roy, the likes of which we rarely see from him but it was no less impressive for that. He ended with 42 from 101 balls (having been 9 from 55 balls at one stage) to stave off any fears of a collapse after Harinath and de Bruyn departed for not many runs.

Warwickshire were guilty of some lapses in the field, de Bruyn was dropped twice by close-in fielders but ultimately that didn't cost them a huge amount. Ansari and Roy did a fine job of digging in for their side. After the mammoth total that the opposition posted batting out the game, even bearing in mind the rain and the flat pitch, will have given the team a good lift.

A draw is only worth three points these days, but that's three more points than we'd have ended up with had we collapsed in a heap today. Those three points could be critical come September.

There is plenty to take heart from in this game. In the absence of an experienced pro in any kind of form, the younger players stood up. Ansari is clearly something quite special, always calm and composed, he is not only a key batsman for Surrey's future, but also a future captain. Towards the end of the day there was a hundred in sight but he maintained his composure, he batted for the team, not for himself.

However it's not all rosy. Facing the prospect of the next Championship game without Meaker or Tremlett, Jon Lewis in the midst of a lengthy lean spell and Dernbach returning from injury, the bowling is now also a concern. Linley must be considered, and Jordan must not on the strength of this showing.

We have come away from Trent Bridge and Edgbaston with draws. Although neither was a vintage performance, we have stood up to be counted against the best in the division. The next game, against Durham, now takes on extra significance. It goes without saying that we must avoid defeat and really a win is all but essential.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Surrey face massive battle to save game

Surrey closed day three still 247 runs behind with ten second innings wickets in hand, and face having to bat through day four to save the game.

Surrey's first innings had begun so positively, although Ansari was lost to a fine Woakes delivery Burns and Harinath put on a superb fighting recovery with an 83 run second wicket partnership. Harinath though could not last a single over on day three as he was caught behind off Keith Barker. That was part of a collapse of six wickets for 58 runs. Burns was the fifth of those to fall for an excellent 77 but de Bruyn, Roy, Davies and Jordan added just 30 runs between them. Chris Jordan scored five fewer runs than he gave away in first innings no balls. To say he owes the team some runs is understating matters.

A battling performance from Batty, Meaker and Lewis dragged the Surrey total in to respectability but the follow on target of 421 was always going to be a massive ask. Warwickshire eventually took the final wicket, that of Murali Kartik, with the total at 286. They gave away just 10 extras, or 3.4%, while we handed Warwickshire over 10% of their total.

Burns and Ansari strode out again late on the third day to face the new ball, and again they showed that there is nothing to be terrified of in the pitch. What will be encouraging them is that Jeetan Patel is yet to take a wicket in 17 overs. But Warwickshire have an awful lot of quality besides him. Batting out three sessions is not beyond us, but it is a mountainous task.

To make matters worse Durham pulled off a cracking come-from-behind victory against Middlesex by just 15 runs to move to within 12 points of us. With the steely Paul Collingwood at the helm, and bags of experience in their lineup, that win may just prove a spark to their season. The game with them at the Riverside is now utterly crucial, a game in which they will presumably be able to call on the services of Graham Onions, while we will be without Stuart Meaker. Worcestershire, just eight points behind us, now have two games in hand. In short, the task of staving off relegation is getting ever harder.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Surrey fight back late on day one

Warwickshire will probably feel they have the edge at the end of an up and down day one, but two wickets late in the day will give Surrey reason for hope overnight.

Chris Adams joined Rory Hamilton-Brown on the sidelines for this game. He has apparently been given leave to recover from the events of June and subsequent weeks. Where someone's health, mental or physical, is concerned then clearly that must take precedence and I hope he recovers quickly. However I do think the timing is slightly odd, coming just after a period when we had a full week without a game. That aside though, the strangest decision is that of the club. To make no reference to it when the squad was announced, or even this morning, leaving the supporters in the dark somewhat is most unwelcome. It can only lead to speculation (including by me, which was perhaps unwise).

The club is now left in a situation with a captain on indefinite leave, a vice captain that never captains and a coach who appears to have been ordered to take time off. Not an ideal situation for what Richard Gould himself refers to as an "arduous" run-in.

On the field, Gareth Batty returned to the side and promptly lost the toss. His opposite number elected to bat first under sunny skies. Chris Jordan was selected ahead of Tim Linley and Jade Dernbach was also left out, presumably for reasons of fitness.

The first session most definitely belonged to Warwickshire. A good opening spell of fast bowling from Stuart Meaker drew no wickets, but did give him figures of 5-3-6-0. At the other end Jon Lewis was expensive, conceding 36 runs from his opening salvo of seven overs. It was announced today that Meaker will play for the England Lions next month, meaning he will likely miss the Championship games with Middlesex and Durham. He will be sorely missed, since a sterling start to the season his new ball partner Lewis has taken just five wickets in five games at a cost of 70 runs apiece.

Warwickshire made it to 130 without loss before Chris Jordan made the breakthrough, clean bowling Varun Chopra. That began a good afternoon session which saw them take four wickets and reduce the opposition to 197-4. The resurgent Troughton and stand-in keeper Johnson put together a fine recovery and it wasn't until the second new ball in the 86th over that Surrey made another breakthrough. Johnson fell to Meaker and the same bowler had Rikki Clarke superbly caught by Rory Burns.

That left Warwickshire 322-6 and with their noses slightly ahead. 43 of the home side's total came in extras, with 22 runs coming from no balls by Jordan and Lewis. Giving away runs like that is criminal. Troughton is still at the crease on 74, with Woakes for company on 12. That very pair put on over 200 together at Taunton last week, so getting one of them early tomorrow is of paramount importance.

The wicket is, by all accounts, dry but only two of six wickets to fall did so to spin. Given that we have two spinners (Batty seems reluctant to bowl Ansari as a third spinner) I hope the wicket will take increasing turn tomorrow, and Jeetan Patel has an off game. We are still very much in this game but early wickets tomorrow morning are an absolute must.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Squad named for tough Warwickshire assignment

Chris Adams and his relegation-threatened troupe travel to Edgbaston this weekend to face Division One pace-setters Warwickshire. It could prove to be their toughest test of a troubled season.

The 13 man squad, and a possible XI is as follows:

Zafar Ansari
Rory Burns
Arun Harinath
Zander de Bruyn
Steven Davies
Jason Roy
Gareth Batty
Murali Kartik
Stuart Meaker
Jade Dernbach
Jon Lewis

12th men: Chris Jordan, Tim Linley

The name conspicuous by its absence is of course Matthew Spriegel's who after one innings in a rain-ruined game seems to have been summarily cast aside, with no apparent reference to an injury. Frankly I am bemused by this decision, and not for the first time this season. I have nothing against Chris Jordan but why should he get so many more opportunities to prove himself in Championship cricket when Spriegel gets barely any? Spriegel, whose contract extension expires at the end of the year, must be increasingly frustrated at being left on the sidelines. He has not set the world alight with his performances this year but he is a solid pro, an excellent fielder and has captained the Second XI on many occasions.

Arun Harinath, who would have played two games ago but for an injury, replaces Spriegel in the side. If the batting order in this week's Second XI game is anything to go by, he will slot in at three rather than continuing the opening batsman merry-go-round. Ansari and Burns performed more than adequately against Nottinghamshire and Burns made another good 80+ score for the seconds. I have my doubts as to whether Ansari is a long term option at the top though, I feel he is much better suited to the middle order.

The batting is a conundrum at the moment, the experienced members of the top six are short of form and those in any sort of form are short of experience. Somehow they have to find a way to make it work.

On the bowling front Jade Dernbach makes a welcome return from the side injury which kept him out of much of England's ODI series against Australia. Assuming he is fit I would expect him to slot into the side, despite Tim Linley's seven wicket haul against Warwickshire's Second XI. Given how prolific Jeetan Patel has been for Warwickshire this season I would guess Adams will plump for two spinners, meaning the captaincy will return to Gareth Batty. As for the vice captaincy, well, who knows?

Warwickshire are not top of the County Championship by accident, they are a seriously good outfit. Their top order batsmen have not been in the best form, though Chopra has over 500 runs to his name, but it hasn't really mattered, such is the strength of their middle and lower order. Rikki Clarke is averaging 67, Chris Woakes 51. Their one weak link, skipper Jim Troughton, is no longer a weak link with scores of 134 and 81 in recent games. Their bowling is strong too, Patel is a low key overseas signing but no less effective for it, he has 34 wickets at 22 this season and Woakes, Clarke, Barker and Wright will all chip in as well.

If we thought Nottinghamshire were a tough side to face, title-chasing Warwickshire are tougher still. The weather may have a say on Sunday, but otherwise this game looks set fair. Surrey can take heart from their game at the Oval earlier this season though, where they reduced Warwickshire to 37-4 chasing 222 before Ambrose and Clarke saw them home.

Six games remaining, six games in which to retain our first division status. If our bowling attack performs to the level they should, we can run any side in the country close. But Warwickshire are a tough, experienced side who churn out results with ruthless efficiency. If we can get a result at Edgbaston it could prove the spark to revive our season, if we're steamrollered, it could spell the end.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Surrey play it safe with draw at Trent Bridge

After losing considerably more than half the game to the weather, a positive result was always unlikely and so it proved as the stand in captains shook hands on a draw just after 6pm today.

The Nottingamshire coach, Mick Newell had said yesterday that he expected both captains to be amenable to forcing a result and apparently Zander de Bruyn was offered a scenario by Chris Read in the morning but declined. Instead he elected to secure some bonus points with bat and ball. It may seem a negative decision from de Bruyn but he was probably mindful of the poor batting form of much of his side.

Read and Voges resumed for Nottinghamshire on 178-5 and the Notts skipper was positive from the word go. De Bruyn kept faith with Chris Jordan who'd bowled a testing spell on Wednesday, as he threw him the ball this morning but Jordan couldn't replicate his form of two days previously. He bowled nine overs for 39 runs and was rarely threatening.

Jon Lewis was brought into the attack at the other end and picked up the wicket of Voges leg before for 59, he and Read had added an excellent 145 runs in good time. Read continued to be positive, as did his new partner Ben Philips and the pair added 75 in just 15 overs. Read's innings was cut short just two runs shy of an excellent century by Stuart Meaker. Meaker continued his good work throughout the morning and also picked up the wickets of Philips and Adams to end with 5-78, including 3-30 from ten overs today. It was his third five-for of the season and took his tally for 2012 to 35 at just over 20 apiece.

Surrey had therefore secured maximum bowling points and had a little more than 50 overs to secure as many batting points as possible. Ansari and Burns were again sent in to open and made a much better fist of it than against Lancashire. They forged our equal-best opening partnership of the season, not bad for a pair who only boast 14 first class matches between them. They were parted when Ansari got a good ball from Andy Carter and was bowled for 31.

That brought Jason Roy to the crease and he continued his recent resurgence. He and Burns put on an entertaining partnership of 82 in less than 11 overs to push Surrey towards a first batting point. Burns' dismissal, again bowled but this time by Adams for a quite excellent 79, brought about a mini-collapse from 167-1 to 177-4 as de Bruyn and Davies also departed in quick succession.

However Jason Roy continued on his merry way as only Roy knows how. He raced to 50 from just 38 balls, reaching the milestone with a trademark straight six off Samit Patel. Later in his innings he reverse swept the England spinner for successive sixes before he was stumped off the same bowler trying for another big hit, his 83 came from just 50 balls. There was a hundred for the taking and its a shame he didn't get there, but his rapid fire innings propelled Surrey to a first batting point and towards a second at 215-5.

Matthew Spriegel, who had also been finding the boundary nicely, was also out with the score on 215 as Andre Adams found his mojo with a spell of three wickets for 19 runs. That left Chris Jordan and Stuart Meaker needing to find 35 runs in 9 or so overs to secure a second batting point. Meaker did the bulk of the work with 29 not out from 36 deliveries to complete another impressive match. The 250 mark was reached with two balls to spare.

A draw at Trent Bridge is no mean feat, even if the weather did play a huge part in this game. However with Worcestershire winning at Old Trafford three of the bottom four in the table now look mighty close. We are four points ahead of Worcestershire, who have a game in hand over us, and a point behind Lancashire, over whom we have a game in hand. There are still six games remaining and all is to play for, but we have to start winning games if we want to be sure of safety. The rest of the season will be a huge test for Chris Adams, I have no doubt that we have the players to survive in this division, but it will still be mighty tough to do so.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Solanki signs on for 2013

The proud recipient of the 2010 Surrey Cricket Blog award for Opposition Player of the Year, Vikram Solanki, has signed a two year deal with Surrey from 2013.

Chris Adams said just last week that the recruitment process would begin immediately, but I wasn't quite expecting the first signing to be confirmed so soon. Given that Adams said that he would be looking for experience, and Solanki's contract was up for renewal at Worcestershire this year, it seems a perfectly logical choice.

Moreover, Solanki is a wonderful batsman to watch and has almost 300 first class matches under his belt, scoring 31 hundreds in the process. At 36 years of age, I'm slightly surprised that he's been given a two year deal but he would have been unlikely to sign for a single season and the fact that Adams was desperate for wise old heads will not have gone unnoticed by Solanki himself.

Although he's not had the best of years in 2012, averaging just 26 in the Championship so far, he was far more impressive in 2011 in scoring over 1,000 runs at 42, all but topping the Worcestershire batting and bagging himself three hundreds. Hopefully he can replicate that for us, rather than his 2012 form. He is also a more than handy limited overs players, as we found to our cost in the CB40 in 2010 where he scored a sparkling hundred.

A cursory glance at our batting order for the last couple of games tells its own story. There is bags of potential, but not many years of first class experience between them. Of course we'd all like to see an XI packed with Surrey players born and bred, but having that and having success just is not possible in the short term. Solanki will be a leader in the dressing room, that will be what Adams has signed him for, and it's hard to fault the logic of that. He may not score millions of runs, but I'm sure he'll be worth his place in the side.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Surrey on top, but Read and Voges fight

The wonderful summer of 2012 continued unabated today as 54 overs were wiped from the day's play at Trent Bridge. At the early close of play Nottinghamshire were 178-5.

Play started on time this morning as Surrey won the toss and elected to field. The man calling the toss for Surrey today was not Gareth Batty as we have come to expect, but Zander de Bruyn in his stead. Such were the seam friendly conditions that Adams decided he could not go in with two spinners and the stand-in skipper was the man jettisoned. Given that Steven Davies was appointed vice captain at the start of 2011 it is strange that de Bruyn was called on to skipper instead, indeed it makes it harder to ignore the fact that Davies has not yet signed an extension to his current contract which expires this year.

Whether Batty was party to the decision or not (one hopes he was), I think this was an odd call, in an increasingly long line of odd calls. Batty is widely regarded as the glue that has held the dressing room together in recent weeks so to see him cast aside in favour of Murali Kartik is disappointing, Kartik himself has hardly set the world alight with his Championship bowling. If spin was going to play such a small part in the match, is Kartik really a much better option than an in form Batty? 

Meanwhile, Tim Linley was preferred in place of Chris Tremlett who was not risked for a second consecutive Championship match, and Chris Jordan also came in as a fourth fast bowling option.

The match began at a frenetic pace with openers Hales and Wessels carrying on where they left off in last night's CB40 match, five balls in the first two overs were pinged to the boundary. By the end of the fourth over Nottinghamshire had 30 runs on the board. However in the sixth over came the breakthrough, Tim Linley finding the edge of Wessels' bat to send him back for a run-a-ball 23.

His dismissal served to quieten things down somewhat as a period of three overs for two runs followed. As the pressure built Jon Lewis picked up the wicket (rather fortunately) of Alex Hales who could only watch as a ball he'd defended dribbled on to his stumps. De Bruyn had introduced Jordan to the attack and the effect was almost immediate as he trapped Lumb lbw with the first ball of his second over. It was a fine start for Jordan who reeled off three maidens with his first three overs.

Meaker was then let loose and similarly he had success in his second over as Samit Patel edged a ball going down the leg side. Always a poor shot to get out to but in truth Meaker had started excellently despite conceding six from his opening over. That left Notts 59-4 but so powerful is their batting that you're never truly on top until you get well into the tail.

Surrey made good progress in that direction though as Meaker picked up his second wicket with the dangerous James Taylor edging him into the slips. At 84-5 we were looking rampant. However Chris Read and Adam Voges had other ideas. The same pair had put on 143 to stymie the Middlesex bowlers last week and while dodging the showers today they put on another 94 together, and will return to the crease unbeaten tomorrow morning.

It is the kind of captain's knock we've come to expect from Read, and Voges is the sort of overseas player Chris Adams probably dreams of. The bowling wasn't at its best though, 28 boundaries came in 42 overs and only one bowler (Jordan) was able to restrict the flow of runs to below four an over. Voges was also dropped on five by Spriegel in the slips off the bowling of Meaker. He could yet make us pay dearly for that mistake.

As ever it is very hard to tell where the balance of power lies in a match when only one side has batted, but Surrey will probably sleep relatively easy tonight. Of course they would like to have seen the back of one of Read or Voges today but persistent cloudy conditions tomorrow, if they don't dump too much rain, should keep the bowlers interested. Our batsmen will already have seen some variable bounce today which won't make their reply terribly easy, but the bowlers can go some way to relieving a bit of the pressure with early wickets tomorrow.