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.


miltonkeynesman said...

Josh - glad to see you are back and sounding like you had a splendid time. Hope so, here's to at least 40 years of happiness!!

An eventful end to the season (and a great finish at Lords today). Surrey did ok to end the season "comfortably" clear of the Div1 drop. Churchy's last day at Liverpool trying to stop being blown airborne was a very aposite ending I thought - and well played to him again on another brilliant summer of commentary.

I went to the last 2 days of the Notts game and we out fought them in quite an attritional game. Some solid batting and a pretty good last day to bowl them out.

To my chagrin you can make out a case for KP and his bat being a pretty important part of that escape and then lo and behold he develops a golden arm. Last over to be bowled before lunch on the fourth day and Notts doing ok at 73/2 (and one of those the nightwatchman). KP gets Voges brilliantly caught by ZdB and the game's momentum shifts. Batty gets Taylor early after lunch and KP does for the obdurate Edwards (now released by Notts!). Easy !!!

I am saddened by Spriegel leaving - he had a great game against Glamorgan in the CB40. He'll be missed. But it's Northants' gain. I live that way and have seen Northants a fair amount - they have been dreadful this year (and most of last). They have just named Middlebrook as their player of the year which just about sums up how poor they have been. Anyway good luck to Matt and indeed RHB if he leaves.

The merry-go-round of transfers seems to be warming up. It's difficult to see us signing any quick bowlers as even with England calls for Dernbach and perhaps Meaker we still have Tremlett, Lewis and Linley (he did well against Notts) plus Jewell, Dunn and Edwards.

As regards the batting, I think we can assume only a minimal presence of KP. Of the others no-one had a good season overall, but if you say that the middle order of ZdB, Roy and Davies are going to be there and can only do better with Wilson as back-up (if he stays) then Solanki comes into the front three to displace one of Burns, Ansari or Harinath which even with individual promise dont look good enough yet as a one, two, three unit. It wouldn't surprise me, if Kartik is at the IPL, Adams looks to bring in an overseas batsman early doors and then takes it from there with what we have now.

But what do I know and it's fun to be proved wrong. If they do pinch a top batsman from elsewhere we'll be chuffed and the rest of the county fans will moan!!

Thanks for a brilliant set of reports again and I look forward to the occasional razor-sharp essay over the Winter.

Keep warm
MKM xx

GreenJJ said...

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you MKM! Thank you for the good wishes, it was indeed a magnificent holiday!

First things first, Church was indeed a fine performer again, he's the consummate pro, no question. I managed to follow the Notts game on and off, and it does seem we owe a significant amount to Kevin Pietersen. I'd say the chances of him turning out for us regularly next year are still slim, like you say, but you never know.

I would wish Spriegel all the luck in the world, he's earned it that's for sure. RHB, well I'll be sad and angry to see him leave, we've been let down by someone along the way. Whether its him, or the club, I don't know if we'll ever find out for sure.

Fair point about bowlers, thought it remains to be seen how much faith Adams will place in Edwards and Dunn (plenty, I hope).

I think an overseas batter is most likely as well, I've heard Graeme Smith's name mentioned but that sounds like a pipe dream to me. Not got a clue who it'll be. Other counties can moan all they like, there are extenuating circumstances for our need to recruit (to a degree anyway, there is an element of poor management in there).

Glad you've enjoyed the blog, I'm looking forward to doing the reviews once my stats are up to date!

miltonkeynesman said...

Josh - thanks for the reply. I would imagine you are busy catching up with many things after 3 weeks away.

I meant to put a note on my first reply that Jon Batty's retirement led me to raise a small toast to wish him well. I always liked his style and wish he could have stayed longer as a batsman alone perhaps. He would have done a good job in the CC over the last two years. An unsung hero, a bit like Darren Bicknell.

Your comment re Graeme Smith was a new one on me. Smith and KP in the same team ! A test of the Batty captaincy there. Not sure if Kartik is due to be with us for most of the 2013 season or not, how long was his contract ? He certainly had his moments in 2012 and I would vote to have him aboard certainly for the second half of the season.

All for now.

GreenJJ said...

I quite agree with you on Jon Batty, one of the most under-appreciated cricketers in my view. Played a key part for us on so many occasions.

I think Kartik's contract was just for one year, and since he has IPL comittments he wouldn't be at Surrey till June anyway. I'm undecided, on the one hand there aren't a glut of high class spinners available for long periods, and on the other, he wasn't exactly scintillating. On balance I think he did a decent job and I wouldn't be sad to see him signed again - but do think we need a batsman more urgently!