Six games in to the 2013 season and Surrey remain a resolute resident of the bottom two in Division One. Still win-less, including having now played a game against the only team who have had a worse start to the season, doesn't bode well for the remainder of the year.
As seems to have become the norm, at least when we're not being beaten, the captains in this game shook hands on the draw just after 5pm today. Steven Davies and Ricky Ponting began the day brightly, taking full advantage of the flat pitch. Davies made his way to 59 from just 54 deliveries in a partnership of 105 with Ponting, who himself extended his overnight score beyond 150 before he was eventually out for 192 - the highest score for a Surrey player on debut.
Gary Wilson continued his good form in making 45 from 48 balls and Surrey carved out a first innings lead of 101 before declaring on 553 - the first time they had posted over 500 runs since 2011 (hat tip to the ever-excellent Marcus Hook for that stat). To make an interesting game of it Derbyshire needed to make a mess of getting their second innings off the ground. Disappointingly, they didn't.
Billy Godleman and Chesney Hughes compiled a 76 run opening partnership at better than four runs per over. Three wickets in the space of six overs, all to Tremlett, threatened to induce a serious wobble before Chanderpaul and Durston settled the nerves once and for all. As the lead extended beyond 50 Batty decided that the game was up.
There are positives to be taken from this game. Tremlett's eight wickets in the match are a massive boost - he'd only taken four wickets in his two previous games this season. In a game where well over 1,000 runs were amassed to take eight wickets and only give away 3.15 runs per over in the process is impressive. The hundreds for Harinath and Ponting, the first by non-wicket keepers for Surrey in 2013, are also extremely welcome. The experience and grit of Ponting could be the link in the batting that has been missing since Graeme Smith departed last month. Harinath's success as an opener is excellent, but begs the question why wasn't he opening the batting before now?
However there are also some serious issues to consider. The bowling, Tremlett aside, was poor. In fact the sporadic nature with which our bowlers have fired this season has to be of concern. There have been five-fors for Dernbach, Meaker, Batty and Tremlett, but rarely have we had sides on the rack. We have certainly played on some very batsman-friendly surfaces, but in those games where the wicket has offered something to the bowlers, be they spinners or seamers, we've been out-bowled by the opposition. As the old adage goes, batsmen might set matches up to be won, but bowlers win them. We certainly have a hugely talented bowling attack but for whatever reason they just aren't delivering consistently enough.
The other major concern is that Derbyshire looked at least our equal throughout this match. This is not intended as a slight on them in any way, but if we hope to survive in Division One this year we really needed to be winning this match. Our next three fixtures are against last year's Champions Warwickshire next week, before we then face Sussex and Yorkshire who currently occupy the top two slots in the division. We need to make some significant improvements if we are to compete with them. I have no doubt that the talent exists on the playing staff, but is the current coaching structure going to get the best out of them? The evidence so far this season, and indeed beyond that, suggests the answer to that question is no.