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.