Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Brittle batting hands Sussex the initiative

Given the weather forecast we can perhaps count ourselves lucky to have had the 63 overs of play we did. As it was, rain did force an early close but Surrey were doing their level best to make result in Sussex's favour possible despite the gloomy conditions likely over the next few days.

The batting woes that have dogged Surrey's first innings throughout 2012 returned with a vengeance in what was maybe the worst effort of the lot today. Barely 40 overs were played out for Surrey's 124, reliant heavily on lower order runs from Batty, Lewis and Kartik.

Adams sprung the first surprise of the day, sending out Mark Ramprakash to open the batting after Sussex won the toss and chose to have a bowl. His opening partner was, almost equally surprisingly, Jason Roy with Davies moving to his (and Roy's) preferred middle order batting slot.

Sussex began well with the ball, their burly (Anyon) and lofty (Magoffin) opening bowlers testing the batsmen from the off. The makeshift opening pair didn't last, Roy was out in the 8th over once again trying a big shot early in his innings. He is his own worst enemy at the moment and I think Adams has to take him under his wing. Ramprakash was next to go, for just 8, and four of them came off a streaky edge. It seems three successive fifties for a club side is not an indicator of sufficient form to counter high class Division One bowling.

No one was able to stop the rot as Hamilton-Brown, Davies and de Bruyn all fell in the space of 8 balls for the addition of no runs to leave the innings in tatters at 32-5. Conditions were far from ideal with drizzle falling and the players off for short rain breaks, but that should not excuse some poor shot selection.

Maynard played typically aggressively but he was soon sixth man out for 17. Lewis and Batty saw the side to lunch, their mini recovery took the score to 96-6 before Batty fell and Lewis departed an over later, two more quick wickets left us 97-8. Kartik and Meaker took the score past the hundred mark but neither Meaker nor Dernbach could offer much support to Kartik, the last wicket fell with the score on 124 and he was left unbeaten on 23. The bowling was indeed very good, and it was far from a batsman's paradise, but equally it was not a pitch on which a side with our talent should be getting shot out for 124.

The Sussex reply began promisingly with Joyce tempted outside off stump by a Lewis delivery and was caught behind with the score on 11. But there was to be little joy thereafter as Wells and Nash mounted an attacking partnership. They added just under 70 runs in 20 overs to take Sussex within 50 of Surrey's total. Only Lewis and Kartik, who captured the wicket of Nash shortly before the rain intervened, were able to offer the captain anything approaching control. But as so often this season, its hard to blame the bowlers too much, in the face of such a paltry total the opposition batsmen were under little pressure.

Sussex, with 8 wickets in hand and only 43 runs behind will see rain as the only thing between them and victory. Surrey will have to hope an inspired Murali Kartik or Stuart Meaker burst of wickets drags them kicking and screaming back into contention.

It's hard to put a finger on what is going wrong with the batting this season, but a complete absence of a settled top order cannot have helped matters. In eight Championship matches Adams has tried eight different combinations in the top six, including five different openers, four different number threes and four different number fours. The only men to have batted in the same position every innings? Maynard and Hamilton-Brown, lo and behold the pair of them top the batting charts. If the rest don't know what their role in the side is, how can they apply themselves to said role?

Admittedly a fair amount of this upheaval has been forced on Adams; Davies' and Rudolph's absence, Pietersen's inclusion and Ramprakash's wretched form for example. But the point remains, this is a million miles from a settled side, and one that is constantly chopping and changing will struggle to post competitive totals. Our average first innings total this year is 210, and worryingly the average duration of those innings is just 65 overs - we're failing to even see a second new ball in the majority of first innings efforts. Tellingly we have just 8 batting points on the board in 2012.

The rain will probably save us in this match, but whatever play there is tomorrow we have to hope for a spirited fightback, our bowlers are certainly capable of that. But Adams now has a job on his hands to make Surrey a formidable side, and indeed one capable of survival in Division One.


Rob D. said...

And this is a Sussex team that Middlesex beat by 10 wickets last week....

Agree the batting and lack of a settled side is a distinct worry at the moment - and that's aside from the weather. Not sure what Adams' thinking is at present....

GreenJJ said...

Hi Rob

That's the problem, we don't know what his best side is - I'm not sure he knows what his best side is!

The batsmen have struggled to apply themselves for a while now, play the situation - RHB and Maynard were doing it early season but maybe because they were the only ones who know their role in the side? Adams has got some serious thinking to do! He's got to get some stability to the side, but now, half way through the season and being dragged into a relegation battle Adams might feel it is hardly the time to be giving players time to settle in to a role, I'm just not sure he has an alternative.

Ben said...

Hi Josh, completely agree about the lack of a settled side. Our success in the CB40 has been built on a settled side, with the team virtually remaining unchanged this season and last year. I think that's what Adam's needs to focus on in the Championship as well.

I also think the arrival of Murali Kartik has acted as a hinderance. Rudolph wasn't playing well but would have improved. Having Kartik means that either Batty has to be dropped which Adams is reluctant to do, or play 5 bowlers. Our bowling this year has been fine and we'd be okay with just Lewis, Batty, Meaker, and Dernbach.

Obviously Adams didn't know that when he signed Kartik I suppose.

Things are going to be even more unsettled when we play our next match in a month though, Tremlett will be back, Pietersen might want a go, England Lions might be playing etc.

Sorry about the long comment, I was just so annoyed about our performance today!

GreenJJ said...

Hi Ben

No problem, that's what the comments section is for! I think we were all pretty annoyed, Adams and RHB included. You're absolutely right about the settled side in the CB40, everyone knows exactly what to do and more importantly the captain knows what to do, that's a massive help and a key to our success. You're also right about the side being upset over the next month or so, and there's not a great deal Adams can do about that. There's also no Championship cricket for a month so Adams will probably be no clearer on his best side anyway. The second half of the Championship is going to be a massive test for captain/coach, easily the biggest of their time at the club.