Saturday, 30 June 2012

Subdued Surrey battered by Hampshire

A hectic period of Twenty20 cricket for Surrey began in the worst possible fashion as Hampshire steamrollered us by seven wickets at the Ageas Bowl.

After eight days without a game it must have been tough for the players to get their game faces on again, more so for some than others, and within 15 balls of our innings having elected to bat first four wickets had gone down with just nine runs on the board.

Davies was the first to go, clean bowled playing back to a Dawson delivery that was only a fraction short. Murali Kartik, again promoted to number three was again back in the pavilion for a duck after playing a poor stroke off Mascarenhas and being caught at short third man. Jason Roy followed in short order, playing a very tame shot he was caught in the same position off the same bowler.

Rory Hamilton-Brown, playing his first game since the death of his good friend, didn't stay in the middle for long. He faced five balls for his three and was run out when there was never a run on, his partner, Wilson, clearly called "no" five times but RHB turned and ran anyway. A slow turn and a small slip saw him well short of his crease as Bates whipped the bails off. Rory didn't look himself, although it was admirable that he wanted to turn out for his team, he may not quite be ready for the rigours of first team cricket just yet.

A (very) small recovery followed but Spriegel and Wilson gave away their wickets at just the wrong times. Wilson walked past a Dawson delivery that turned and Spriegel timed one beautifully straight into James Vince's waiting hands. 42-6 follows 62-5 against Kent, 32-4 against Middlesex and 68-5 against Essex. Top order batting has not been our strong suit and it must be infuriating for Adams whose team selections, bowler heavy, rely on runs from the batters.

Batty and Ansari played sensibly to drag the total up towards 100, Ansari playing particularly calmly for his 38 from 35 deliveries. 94 was the final total and despite the presence of eight bowlers in the side it never looked anything close to enough runs.

The Hampshire openers began sedately, picking off just 16 runs from the first four overs. The fifth over, bowled by Stuart Meaker, turned the game decisively in their favour though as 18 runs came from it. Murali Kartik's next two overs put something of a brake on proceedings as he took 3-9, including two leg side stumpings courtesy of Steven Davies. But it wasn't enough to swing things back towards us, his were the only wickets in the Surrey bowlers' column. Defending a total of under 100 requires more than one bowler to get among the wickets.

There was, in reality, never any pressure on the Hampshire batsmen and they eventually made it over the line with 27 balls to spare. For the umpteenth time this season, I'll say it's harsh to place any blame on the bowlers as it was the batsmen who failed yet again.

For me Adams got the selection wrong, we were at least a batsman light. Whether that had any bearing on the batting of the top four, under extra pressure as they were, its hard to say. But in light of our batting performances this season I think packing the bowling to such an extent was a poor decision. Nannes was better today than in recent games, but I think he or Meaker should make way for a batsman - presumably Kevin Pietersen - for Monday's return fixture at the Oval. I still maintain that the order of the top five needs to be considered as well, Wilson should be moved up and Roy moved down. Rory Burns in for Hamilton-Brown may have to be looked at as well.

With only ten group games this year, a real hammering from close rivals is just what we did not need. Half way through the group stage we have just four points on the board and are rooted to the foot of the South Group, albeit with two games in hand. The next seven days are now even more important to our season.

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