Sunday, 1 April 2012

Batting worries persist with one day of pre-season remaining

Surrey's 2012 Division One bow is now only a matter of days away and tomorrow marks the final day of a preseason of mixed fortunes. Surrey began the day with their opposition on 20-1, the wicket having fallen to Tim Linley the previous evening.

That put them in a strong position following Rory Burns' impressive hundred on day one. He and Tom Maynard (91) formed the backbone of Surrey's formidable 385-8 declared, with Chris Jordan's fifty the only other major contribution.

Leeds/Bradford began the day watchfully, Webb and Bush moving them to 75-1 before Webb was out edging a ball from Matt Dunn that he could have left. Dunn began his spell in wayward fashion with two wides and he failed to find his radar throughout the day. He does however often make things fashion and was always likely to be a bit rusty, this being his first outing of the season.

Two more wickets fell before lunch, both to Tom Jewell who like Dunn began his spell loosely but unlike Dunn he settled into a nice rhythm. After lunch Chris Jordan returned to the attack and his figures of 3-32 didn't reflect how well he bowled. He was quick and bowled a good, probing length, even if his line was a bit off sometimes, and the three no balls don't help matters. Dunn returned for a second spell and while he was no less wayward, he did collect two more wickets, including top scorer Harry Bush.

205 all out left Surrey with a 180 run lead but rather than enforce the follow on Adams elected to give his batsmen some more time at the crease. In order to maximise that, Hamilton-Brown was sent in to open but lasted just four balls. If it was time at the crease he was seeking then his was not the best choice of shot in the circumstances. The skipper has no score of note in pre-season, or indeed through the winter. Were he not captain, his place in the side would be in serious jeopardy. Some time in the nets is needed as well as a renewed desire to knuckle down and play a long innings.

Chris Jordan was his opening partner and now seems a serious contender for that spot against Sussex. I like the balance his presence provides to the side but I just can't see him as a Division One opener. He is aggressive and looks to score quickly, and that is too his credit, but he plays away from his body too often and against top-notch attacks you have to think that will be ruthlessly exposed. I would of course love him to prove me wrong.

He and Wilson, batting at number three again presumably to get some time at the crease, put on 45 together before both fell in quick succession. Jason Roy made 32 from just 34 balls, aggressive but probably not the big score he and Adams were after. Matt Spriegel made a measured 25, which left probably the two form batsmen at the club, Tom Maynard and Rory Burns at the crease overnight. I would expect either an overnight declaration or an early morning dash from those two before the bowlers are given another crack.

It remains to be seen but the winners from this game seem to be Rory Burns and Chris Jordan, while those less comfortable of their place in the side will be Roy and Linley. Burns now faces the real prospect of making a Championship debut next week in place of Wilson, his batting certainly looks in better order than Wilson's, though whether Burns' keeping will be up to scratch is another matter. For the record, Wilson looked solid behind the stumps today. Chris Jordan does seem to be in slightly better touch than Jason Roy with the bat and of course brings the option of his bowling. For what it's worth I'd still go with Roy because you always back your best batsmen to get the runs, but Jordan undeniably helps the balance of the side.

The choice between Meaker and Linley, if made on pre-season wickets, looks in Meaker's favour. But Adams may yet opt for Linley's control over Meaker's explosive wicket taking potential, and there is also the latter's fitness to consider as well.

So just a single day's play between Surrey and our official Division One return. The bowling seems in good order and today we looked excellent in the field. The lack of big runs from skipper and middle order tyro will be a concern to the coach. He will be hoping the return of experienced players like de Bruyn, Ramprakash and Batty, and the arrival of Rudolph, will spur them on to better form.

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