Friday, 31 May 2013

Derby take control despite Tremlett's five

A century from Derbyshire skipper Wayne Madsen has put his side into a commanding position heading into the third day of the County Championship game at Derby despite a first Surrey five wicket haul for Chris Tremlett.

Tremlett collected figures of 5-95 but Madsen struck 152 in his side’s 452 all out, before Surrey closed on 35-1.

With Derbyshire starting the morning on 232-2, early wickets were an absolute must if we were going to restrict the hosts to under 350. However, the pitch was still playing as well as the previous evening, and Madsen joined Chanderpaul in reaching 3 figures. They took their partnership onto 265, the highest for Derby against us for any wicket, before Meaker finally made the breakthrough when a sharp bouncer was gloved to Ponting in the gully to remove Chanderpaul for 129.

Wes Durston didn’t hang around too long as Tremlett had him caught behind for his second wicket, but Derby were still in control come lunch time, as they went in on 335-4. According to Marcus Hook, the bowlers spent time in the middle during lunch time, and that seemed to do the trick as Tremlett first had debutant Slater caught behind, before Meaker bowled Madsen for a superb 159 an over later. An opening had been made, and the bowlers applied pressure and stopped the runs from flowing, but David Wainwright and Richard Johnson frustrated the Surrey attack and built a good lower order partnership.

They took their side towards 400 before Meaker had Wainwright caught at third man just before tea. Early into the final session Linley bowled Tim Groenewald before Tremlett did the same to Mark Turner to leave Derby 9 down. Johnson though was still there, and brought up a good fifty with a single off Linley. 37 was put on for the final wicket with Mark Footitt before Tremlett had Johnson caught by Wilson at slip for his 5.

452 was a daunting first innings score by Derby and had gone a long way to batting us out of the game, and the start we made to our innings made things even harder. Rory Burns looked to come back for a third off the last ball of the first over but was run out by a Madsen direct hit for 4. The worst way to get out in the circumstances and Burns was obviously distraught with what he had done.

Solanki and Harinath had a job on their hands for the remaining hour’s play but the pitch was still good and they had little alarms by closing just the one wicket down.

So that was a better performance than yesterday, but I still feel that we missed an opportunity. When we had them 6 down for 336 we needed to restrict them to well below 400 after the big partnerships between Shiv and Madsen. However, that wasn’t to be and the lower order put on some vital runs. I’m happy for Trem as he has worked hard and finally been rewarded, and it’s great to see him get through over 30 overs in an innings, but the other bowlers couldn’t back him up which allowed Derby to reach 452.

Burns just had a moment to forget and I’m sure he won’t be doing that again quickly. On another day Madsen’s throw would have missed and he would have survived but it wasn’t to be and he is certainly regretting turning for the 3rd.

We mustn’t lose this game and unfortunately that is the mind-set we now have to take heading into tomorrow, with victory looking unlikely.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Chanderpaul shows class after early wickets

A sublime century from Shivnarine Chanderpaul has dominated a rain affected first day of the County Championship game at Derby.

After losing two early wickets, Chanderpaul showed all his class by batting at an unusually quick rate for the West Indies legend, as Derbyshire closed in charge on 232-2.

Heavy rain overnight and in the morning meant that the 12:00 start was delayed, with the outfield saturated. The groundsman worked hard and finally got the ground ready for action at quarter past 3. Derby won the toss and considering it was the same pitch used in the YB40 washout last night, Wayne Madsen had no hesitation in electing to bat first. The two to be left out of the 13 man squad were the rather unlucky Jon Lewis and spinner Gary Keedy.
Madsen’s decision didn’t immediately look vindicated, as off just the 5th ball of the match Chris Tremlett bowled Chesney Hughes with a ball that jagged back. Billy Godleman started fluently but he edged Linley to de Bruyn when on 17 to confirm a good start from our bowlers, with Derby falling to 28-2. Gareth Batty would have wanted his side to capitalise on the positive start that they had made, but Chanderpaul had other ideas as he came out and took the attack to our bowling quintet.

The unorthodox left hander was racing along at just under a run a ball, finding the boundary at regular intervals and not allowing the bowlers to apply any pressure. Linley and especially Meaker were certainly not bowling at their premium best, with the pitch looking very easy paced and not even Batty himself could reduce the flow of runs. Chanderpaul went past his half century before the tea break, as Derbyshire started to take control of the day’s proceedings.

The partnership with Madsen comfortably went past the century mark early into the final session of the day, and the captain joined his overseas partner in going to a half century. Batty rang the changes but nothing was happening for any of the bowlers, with Tremlett, who had previously bowled tightly, going to the boundary on numerous occasions off the bat of the magnificent Chanderpaul. He didn’t relent and brought up his century with a 4 off Meaker, before bad light brought an early end to the day’s play.

After getting them two quick wickets early on, that was a disappointing performance from our attack. Yes, the pitch is obviously brilliant to bat on, but they couldn’t find a consistent line and length and apply pressure onto Shiv and Madsen. Like he has a couple of times already this season, Meaker failed to hit his straps in his opening spell, and after originally bowling economically, Chanderpaul took a liking to Trem.

With almost half of the day washed out, and Derby looking good for a sizable score, we need to break the unbeaten 204 run partnerships and make more early inroads tomorrow or risk being batted out of our biggest game of the season so far.

Dernbach missing for relegation battle

Due to being called up as cover for England's ODI's against New Zealand, Jade Dernbach is not included in a 13 man squad for the vital County Championship game against Derbyshire starting this afternoon.

Derby are the only team below us in the table and, like us, are still yet to pick up a victory, so this could well be the perfect time for us to get off the mark.

Here is the squad:

Gareth Batty (C)
Rory Burns
Arun Harinath
Ricky Ponting
Vikram Solanki
Zander de Bruyn
Steve Davies
Gary Wilson
Jon Lewis
Chris Tremlett
Tim Linley
Stuart Meaker
Gary Keedy

With Jason Roy occupying the opening role in the last couple of games with relatively low success, he has been left out, so it looks almost certain that it will be Harinath and Burns at the top. Harinath has done it several times before, and it is not too different to batting at number 3, considering our very low opening partnerships so far this season! I’m not sure where Ponting will bat, as he batted at 4 in his last few test matches and in the Sheffield Shield after being well-known as one of the great number 3’s, but perhaps Solanki will move up one to accommodate his arrival. Don’t expect miracles from him, but hopefully he can add some stability to the top order.

When it comes to Roy, I can’t see him getting in ahead of de Bruyn purely for the fact that de Bruyn can bowl. I’m sure that if Roy could bowl then he would be in the squad and ahead of Zander, but due to our lack of all-rounders, Zander will play. However, as I have said numerous times, I would bat him down at number 7 so that we can get the most out of Gary Wilson who will be itching to continue from how he started at the beginning of the season.

When it comes to the bowlers, Batty will of course play as the lone spinner, with Keedy missing out. Then there is a choice between 3 of Tremlett, Lewis, Meaker and Linley. Trem looks to have found some sort of form over the last two weeks, even if the opposition was Oxford and Scotland, and I think that Andy Flower would certainly be on the phone if he missed 3 LVCC games on the spin. The England trio of Meaker, Dernbach and Trem have yet to play in the same game so far this season, and it is a big blow that Jade can't play as he has been good so far this season. Even though Linley hasn’t bowled too badly, I think today is the right game to give Lewis a go in the side as he will be desperate to be given a chance and show that he still has what it takes.

As stated at the start of this blog, Derby have yet to pick up a win, and on paper our line up looks superior compared to theirs. However, we all know you don’t win games on paper, and the lads will have to be on top of their games against a side who will be scratching for the points as much as we will be.

The game gets under way at midday after the abandonment last night, and hopefully we can start the game on the right foot and claim a much needed victory.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Davies and Roy beaten by rain

The YB40 game between Derbyshire and Surrey has been abandoned due to persistent rain at the County Ground.

In a game already shortened to 19 overs a side, we reached 100-1 off of 9 overs before the rain came again, and the umpires called the game off just before 9:30.

By the state of the outfield, it looked as if there would be no play at all, but thanks to some great work by the groundsman we finally got underway at 7:45. Derbyshire elected to bat first and the 3 to be left out of the squad were Tremlett, Meaker and Keedy, as Ponting and Azhar made their first appearance of the season.

Jason Roy and Steve Davies started the innings brilliantly, and if they could play like they did for the T20 this summer, then we are in for a treat. They took the attack to some rather poor Derbyshire bowling, racing along at over 12 an over. They were both at their fluent best, with Davies’ innings all about touch and stroke play, and Roy (42*) bludgeoning the ball to the boundary, including a stunning Pietersen-esque flick over mid-wicket for 6.

Davies reached his 50 off just 20 balls, and was showing his true class before being caught off young off spinner Burgoyne. Straight after Davies went however, the rain came at 100-1 off 9 overs and looked to have destroyed our chances of victory.

The rain was heavy but nevertheless the umpires were determined to get a game, and when it relented they announced a 10 over game would take place from 9:30. We still had to bat one over to complete the mandatory 10 in our innings, but 5 minutes before the game was scheduled to resume, the rain came again and the game had to be abandoned.

So that’s disappointing, especially after the start that Roy and Davies gave us. It looked as if we would win the game as Derby just didn’t look up for it, and were clearly inferior to our international line up. However, it wasn’t to be, and now we will probably have to win nearly all of our remaining games in the group stage. We have 6 points from 5 games so far, 2 points behind leaders Hampshire who have played the same amount of games. With 14 points up for grabs I personally think that we need to claim 12 of those, including beating Hampshire, because despite us beating them handsomely back at the beginning of the month, they do look a good outfit yet again.

Now we head into the biggest game of the season so far, the Championship game against the same opposition tomorrow, and it is a must win game for us. After that we are back in YB40 action at Chelmsford on Monday evening before the Guildford Festival starting a week today.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Ponting and Azhar arrive for Derby

Ricky Ponting and Azhar Mahmood have both arrived in the UK and are named in a 14 man squad to take on Derbyshire in the YB40 tomorrow evening.

They are fresh off the back of the 6th edition of the IPL, with Ponting’s Mumbai Indians winning the competition despite him barely playing a game and Azhar excelling with bat and ball for the Kings X1 Punjab.

Here is the squad in full:

Gareth Batty (C)
Steve Davies
Jason Roy
Ricky Ponting
Vikram Solanki
Zander de Bruyn
Gary Wilson
Tom Jewell
Azhar Mahmood
Jon Lewis
Stuart Meaker
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach
Gary Keedy

It is a vital game in the context of the competition, because it is very difficult to qualify out of the group if you don’t win 8 or 9 of your 12 games. So it is great to be able to call upon two class performers in Ponting and Azhar. Ponting didn’t have a very productive IPL campaign and comes into the side having not played for over a month, which means that he may be short of some runs towards the beginning of his two-month stint. However, there is no doubting his ability as one of the game’s greats, and after being named Sheffield Shield player of the year in February, he still seems to have what it takes.

Azhar was originally only signed for the Twenty 20 campaign starting at the end of June, but he lives in England and is a British Citizen so isn’t classed as an overseas player, and with the form he has shown over the last month or so, he may prove a valuable asset to our Limited overs side. Azhar’s inclusion may mean though that Tom Jewell misses out on selection, which will be a blow to him. He has played two games so far, the abandoned Durham game and the Scotland win on Monday, and as yet has not had the opportunities to show what he can do, which means that it could be harsh on him if not picked.

Steve Davies and Vikram Solanki will be looking to continue their good form from the competition so far, and Jason Roy will be looking to rediscover the form he showed in his century against Durham at the beginning of the month, as his place in the Championship side is now up for debate with Ponting turning up. I really like Roy, and want him to do well so badly, but his consistency (or rather lack of it) is worrying and is something that he will be trying desperately to rectify.

The bowling has been superb so far in the competition, with Lewis and Tremlett looking particularly effective early in the innings. Batty and Keedy seem to work well together but we are, I think, desperate for Ansari to return, as his all-round abilities are crucial to how many runs we get and what we restrict the opposition to. Jade hasn’t had the greatest starts to the competition, with 3 wickets at 45’s, but I’m sure he will want to impress the England selectors after being snubbed for the Champions trophy.

So it is a big game for our prospects of doing well in the competition we won back in 2011, and we certainly have enough experienced players with 7 of the 14 being the wrong side of 35, so hopefully they can produce a winning performance before an even bigger game against the same opposition in the Championship starting Thursday. 

Monday, 27 May 2013

Sublime Solanki slays Saltires

Vikram Solanki’s first Surrey century has led us to a relatively comfortable victory over Scotland in the YB40 at The Grange.

Solanki struck 4 sixes in his unbeaten 109, as we posted 237-5 before we restricted the hosts to 223-8 to complete a 14 run victory.

Despite a possibility of rain later in the day, Gareth Batty elected to bat after winning the toss. There was one change from the defeat to Lancashire last week, as Tom Jewell came in for Rory Burns. It wasn’t the best start to our innings though, as Jason Roy’s poor early season form continued when he was caught for just 11.

However, the former Worcestershire pair of Steve Davies and Vikram Solanki didn’t let that early wicket affect them, as they built a partnership similar to many they have done before. Solanki looked particularly fluent early in his innings, as he produced the first two maximums of the day and went to his half century at just under a run a ball.

The partnership was quick, if not rapid, and Davies followed Solanki to his 50 as the pair had put on over 100 for the second wicket. However, despite 12 coming off the first 4 balls of a Michael Leask over, Davies looked for another big shot but could only find Dewald Nel at long off to go for 54. That wicket completely took the momentum out of the innings, as the out of form Zander de Bruyn struggled to score at any sort of rate.

As he has shown in the majority of his List A innings over the last 13 months, de Bruyn took an age to get himself in, and when the rate was needed to be increased, he got himself out. His 35 ball stay could only conjure up 11 runs, which sucked the impetus out of the game and starved the superb Solanki of the strike.

Gary Wilson was in at 5 and scored 23 in half the balls that de Bruyn faced before he was caught, but that allowed Solanki to take over the mantle of scoring, bringing up his first Surrey century with a maximum off Nel. It had come off 109 balls, and if we managed to get him on strike more often in the last 10 overs or so, then we may have got more than the 237-5, with Jewell (11) and Lewis (4*) adding some late runs also.

In truth, Scotland never looked like chasing down our total. Dernbach and Lewis kept it extremely tight early on, and the latter made the breakthrough when Cross was bowled for a slow 9. Boundaries were particularly hard to come by, and Chris Tremlett continued his good form from the last couple of games, by first having Coleman caught by de Bruyn, and then trapping Chalmers LBW for 20.

Gary Keedy had Preston Mommsen caught behind off just his second delivery, with Scotland falling to 81-4, and the required rate creeping above 7. Iqbal was then run out before Keedy had his second when he bowled Leask for 1. Calum MacLeod and Majid Haq didn’t give up though, as they put on an annoying partnership for the 7th wicket, with the former smashing a quick-fire 50 to give his side a slight chance. Haq retired hurt after pulling a hamstring, but Gordon Goudie came out and gave us a scare by hitting a 6-ball 15 before Lewis had him caught by Batty.

32 runs were required off the final two overs, which is certainly doable, and MacLeod got it down to 24 needed off 8, before Dernbach bowled him with a yorker for 59. With 20 required off the last over, Drummond and the returning Haq could only muster 5, as we finally completed the job by 14 runs.

So that was the perfect game for us with the form that we have been in recently, even if they did get closer than they should have. It’s one of those games where if we win, no one will bat an eyelid, but if we lost, we would have been (with no disrespect to Scotland) the laughing stock of the county circuit. Solanki batted brilliantly and Davies once again looked good, but the likes of Roy and de Bruyn will be disappointed with their showing against a vastly inferior opposition.

Lots of improvements are still needed, with a big week ahead for us. Wednesday we play Derbyshire live on sky in this competition, with a loss meaning that we may well struggle to make it through to the next round. Then, on Thursday it is without doubt our biggest game of the season so far, as we once again come up against Derby, this time in the Championship. They’re the only team below us in Division One, and a win is an absolute must.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Batting woes confirm relegation dogfight

After losing our last 7 wickets for 71 runs this morning, we have capitulated to our second defeat of the season which leaves us in a desperate battle to save our place in Division One.

Many will argue that we are only 5 games in and a lot can change over the next few months, but the warning signs are there, and it doesn’t look like a victory is that close around the corner.

Starting the morning requiring an unlikely 186 more to win, Rory Burns moved to his first half century of the summer (2 hundreds), but a couple of balls later he couldn’t resist a drive at Franks and was caught behind for 53. Burns was the key man if we going to get close to the 259 target and it looked as if the Surrey batsman knew the game was up after he went.

De Bruyn’s poor form continued, as he was caught behind for a dogged 14, before Wilson was caught and bowled by Gurney without scoring and Batty nicked off when on 4. Davies got to 28 but then played on to Gurney to all but seal the win for Notts. Linley and Meaker then fell just after lunch, as we were bowled out for 144, a loss by 114.

So, after yesterday’s play, most people would have expected a defeat today, but the way it came about is so disappointing. The batsman just don’t look up to it in the last couple of matches, after they started well at the beginning of the season, and to win games of cricket in this division, you have to bat AND bowl well, not one or the other.

Some will blame our poor batting on the absence of Graeme Smith, and yes, we have batted poorly in the two games since he unfortunately had to go back to South Africa. However, we can’t use that as an excuse for the rest of the season. Individuals need to stand up and be counted. Apart from Ansari and Sibley after educational commitments, there is no one else to come in to replace the out of form batsman until Ponting turns up. De Bruyn predictably has been poor yet again, Harinath has lacked consistency and has yet got a big score and rather worryingly, Solanki now looks out of touch after starting the season well, if not brilliantly.  

I think the batting order needs tweaking, because we can’t do any worse than we have in the last couple of games. Harinath should open with Burns, because only having 2 opening partnerships of above 10 in the 9 innings this season is simply not good enough, and one of them was 11! When he first came into the side, Harinath was an opener and should be given a go there because he has been out in the middle early anyway this season, so it doesn’t make much difference. I feel sorry for Roy because he is not a Championship opener. I so want him to do well but the way he plays doesn’t suit that role and he should instead be employed lower down the order.

Even though he has had a couple low scores of late, Gary Wilson is in good form and should be pushed up to number 3 after he scored a century and a fifty against Sussex in that position. De Bruyn, in my opinion, should be moved down to number 7 if he is picked in the side. He has been in poor form for about 16 months now, since playing for the Highveld Lions after his debut season for us in late 2011, and cannot be relied on at number 5 to get you big runs. He hasn’t bowled too badly, but he’s not exactly unplayable, and Tom Jewell must be wondering what he has to do to get a game.

We now have a YB40 game at Old Trafford tomorrow before a University game against Oxford next week. I would presume that, because there is no one else, the batsmen will play in the Oxford game looking for form, with Dunn, Edwards, Curran and Jewell likely to be involved in the squad in one way or another.

Our next Championship game is not until the end of the month against Derby, so we have time to change a few things and try and get a win against our fellow relegation rivals.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Notts close in as batsmen spoil bowlers' good work

A poor last session for the Surrey batsman has all but ruined the good work of the bowlers on Day 3 at Trent Bridge.

After managing to bowl Nottinghamshire out for 191, we have ended the day on 73-3 in pursuit of a now unlikely 259 for victory.

With the lead already at 91 overnight, Surrey knew that early wickets were a must if they were to stop the hosts from batting them out of the game. However, night-watchman Luke Fletcher hung around for almost half an hour, striking 26 before Meaker had him caught in the slips after both Solanki and Roy had already given him a life. That took longer than hoped and the lead had raced past 100 in the process.

The rest of the session was blighted by bad light, but while they were out in the middle, Cowan and Lumb looked comfortable at the crease and started to move their side into a very strong position. However, after lunch the bowlers managed to keep it tight, and Dernbach got the breakthrough when a painstakingly slow 20 from Cowan was ended when he played on. Linley then had Lumb LBW, as two wickets fell for no addition, as we started to get slightly back into the game. 

There was nearly a 3rd wicket in the space of a few overs, but James Taylor, when on 0 was put down by Davies. A tough chance for the ‘keeper, diving to his right, but he could have left it for a relatively simple catch for first slip. Dernbach didn’t let that affect him though, as like he has done twice already this season, he picked up two in two balls, first having the dangerous Taylor caught well by Wilson and then Rikki Wessels caught by Roy first ball. Notts had fallen to 122-6, leading by 189.

After looking good again, Samit Patel was caught off Meaker for 37, and a couple of overs later Meaker had his 4th when Franks nicked off. In the very next over, the top scorer from the first innings Mullaney could only fend off a delivery from Linley to a diving de Bruyn in the gully with Notts falling to 161-9. The lead had past 230, and anything much more than that was going to be a tough chase on this pitch, so knocking over the last wicket quickly had to be done.

However, the capable Ajmal Shahzad and number 11 Harry Gurney frustrated the bowlers and took the lead past the 250 mark, which could have proved psychologically important. Batty shelled a chance at long off, the 5th drop of the day, but when Shahzad was run out for 20, Notts were all out for 190, with a target of 259 set.

And in just the 4th over, we lost our first wicket when Roy got a good one and was caught at slip for 5. Yet another opening stand of less than 10. Harinath then edged behind on 4, and Solanki was inexplicitly run out without scoring, as the top order had buckled to 29-3. Burns looked good however, ending the day on 41, as we closed on 73-3 with bad light bringing a premature end to the day’s proceedings.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate the bowlers who put in a great shift again today. All 3 of the seamers looked dangerous throughout the day and they kept us in the game, but like in the first innings, the batsman couldn’t back them up and it is now an uphill battle to stay in this game. The forecast for tomorrow doesn’t look too good, which could be the only saving grace for us as I can’t see us chasing the further 186 runs needed for victory unless Burns can produce one of the great innings.

Roy got a good delivery but once again failed opening up, and I really hope that a change is made for the next Championship game at Derby at the end of the month. But before that comes about, we have to somehow force something out of the game tomorrow, because otherwise 3 draws and 2 defeats constitutes to a dreadful start to the season.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Batsman struggle but lower order fight

Despite the top order failing to make a mark on the game, Surrey have hung on in there thanks to some timely lower order runs on day two at Trent Bridge.

Losing 5 wickets before the lunch break would have usually accumulated in us following on sometime this afternoon, but a partnership of 81 between Gareth Batty and Gary Wilson has kept us in the game.

On just the third ball of the day, Jade Dernbach finished off the Notts innings when he trapped Harry Gurney LBW. However, that was as good as it got for us in the morning session, as our top order completely collapsed to leave us 49-5 at the lunch break. First Burns was caught behind for 4 before his opening partner Roy once again failed as he was bowled by Fletcher. Solanki hung around for a slow 8, before he was out LBW and an even slower 9 from de Bruyn was ended as he edged Franks into the slips. Davies was then out to the very last ball before the break without scoring, to culminate in a very poor session to say the least.

Arun Harinath and Wilson managed to bat out the first half hour or so after lunch, but when Harinath cut Shahzad to gully when on 24, it looked very bleak indeed. However, Wilson was joined by captain Gareth Batty, and the pair showed fight that the top order seriously lacked. They put on a partnership which took us past the follow on score and were taking us towards tea until Wilson was caught behind on 49 cutting off Samit Patel. The partnership had taken us to within 127 of Notts’ 274, and certainly restored some pride.

Batty had done a great job to reach 41, his highest score for a couple of years, but with the tail around him he decided to try and up the rate and was stumped off Patel. Not the best way to get out in the circumstances, and I’m sure he regrets getting out in that fashion. Linley was then bowled all ends up for 11 by Gurney, and when Dernbach was caught for 15, we had been bowled out for 207, a deficit of 67.

The hosts had 14 overs remaining in the day’s play to see out, and they did it well until Meaker forced Hales to play on, to end on 24-1. I would have liked it if we could have got at least one more, but it wasn’t to be.

Even though that was a very poor show from the batsman, it could have been far worse come close tonight. Batty and Wilson showed pure grit and determination and saved us from embarrassment and almost certain defeat. It still looks likely that, with a lead of 91, Notts will win the game, which would add to our poor start of the season, but at least we are putting up a fight.

To be fair to our batsman Notts’ powerful line up struggled in the first innings, which shows that the pitch isn’t easy to play on. It was interesting to see that this morning Tim Linley said their score was about par, but I personally feel that it was well above par. If we didn’t allow their last 3 wickets to put on almost 100, then it could have been a different story. Even though it’s not a 49-5 pitch, our score of 207 was probably just about right.

Tomorrow we will have to bowl well and try and roll them over for less than 150, as much more than 200 will be very hard to chase. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Honours even after late Notts stand

Well, we’ve been here before haven’t we, where our bowlers have got us into a strong position before we have let the opposition off the hook with a big lower order partnership.

After restricting Nottinghamshire to 181-7, an 8th wicket stand of 66 between Steven Mullaney and Ajmal Shahzad has made it all square heading into Day Two at Trent Bridge.

In conditions that looked as if they would be favourable to the seamers, Gareth Batty won the toss for the second consecutive game and elected to bat first. The team news was that Chris Tremlett and Jon Lewis had been left out from the 13 man squad, which was no surprise to me, but I would have been inclined to pick Lewis, but he just doesn’t look like getting a game.
Jade Dernbach got us off to a superb start when he bowled Alex Hales all ends up in the third over of the day. Run scoring began to look very difficult for the Notts pair of Cowan and Lumb, especially against Tim Linley who recorded figures of 10-7-7-0 in the morning session. Despite that good start, it looked as if we would only claim one wicket in the session, but Meaker then bowled Aussie Cowan with a quick yorker, to reduce the hosts to 59-2 at lunch.

Captain James Taylor, in for usual captain Chris Read who had a neck injury, looked to up the scoring rate after the break with Lumb, but Meaker claimed his second wicket when Lumb looped a leading edge to Linley at mid-off when on 44, to kick-start a good session for us.

Samit Patel and Taylor looked to be positive, and put on a 60 run partnership as they looked to gain back some initiative, but 4 wickets in 13 overs really put Surrey back on top. First Patel was caught in the slips off Linley, before Meaker bowled Wessels in emphatic style. The dangerous Taylor played on to Linley when on 47, and the afternoon session was capped off by Meaker having Paul Franks caught behind, as Notts went to tea on 185-7.

In ideal circumstances, we would have had Notts bowled out for less than 220 at the most, but this is Surrey, and we never do it the easy way. Mullaney dominated a partnership with Shahzad, and even though they weren’t going that quickly, they really started to frustrate like so many late order partnerships have done against us over the last few years. Even the introduction of the new ball at 20 past 5 didn’t seem to fluster either Mullaney or Shahzad, as they began to turn the game day back into their favour, with Mullaney moving to his half century with a boundary off Dernbach.

Dernbach did manage to finally remove Shahzad for an 84 ball 8, and Linley trapped Mullaney LBW for his 3rd wicket when on 68, but their job had already been done in getting their side back into the day.

So if you would have asked me at the beginning of the day whether I would have been happy to have Notts 273-9 at the close, then I would have probably said yes. But considering the position we had them in, then it is disappointing. However, I’m so used to it now with Surrey, that I half expect it. I know I’ve said it before but we are not clinical enough with the ball, and something needs to be done about it if we want to start winning games. We can’t keep passing up good openings in matches; we really need to be more ruthless.

Well batted to Mullaney though, it wasn’t easy to bat today and he looked at ease at the crease throughout his innings. Tomorrow we will have to knock the last wicket over ASAP and set upon the task of trying to build a first innings lead.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Squad named for Trent Bridge trip

A 13 man squad has been named for the trip to Trent Bridge to play Nottinghamshire in the County Championship starting tomorrow.

One change from the part that was named for the defeat to Durham is the inclusion of Jon Lewis in place of Gary Keedy.

Here is the squad in full:
Gareth Batty (C)
Rory Burns
Arun Harinath
Vikram Solanki
Zander de Bruyn
Gary Wilson
Steve Davies
Jason Roy
Jon Lewis
Stuart Meaker
Tim Linley
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach

I'm not sure if Lewis will be given his first game of the season, but it is the right decision to leave Keedy out. Dernbach will surely come back in in place of the former Lancashire spinner, but there are then question marks over the makeup of the rest of the bowlers.  

There are 6 seamers in the squad, one of them being de Bruyn who has bowled well this season so far. It depends on the state of the pitch on whether we play 4 or 5 seamers. Batty didn't play at Trent Bridge last year and Zander was captain. However, Kartik did play, so I would expect Batty to play.  In the 4 games so far, we are yet to play Tremlett, Dernbach and Meaker together, so that is an option. Linley hasn't bowled badly so far, but hasn't really torn up trees, so possibly playing that trio is worth a try, with them arguably being our best 3 bowlers on their day.

However, when he has played, Tremlett hasn't been too effective, and is clearly not at his best, and at this time, victories are needed. Therefore, I would play Lewis alongside Meaker and Dernbach, but I would have thought that Andy Flower would have something to say about that. 

With regards to the batting, there aren't really any other options than those selected, so there is less to talk about there. The one sticking point is that of who opens the batting. Roy is not a 4 day opener, and should instead be coming in down at 7. That would then push Harinath up to open, which was his position when he first came into the side, and Wilson at 5 where his form can be exploited better. 

Notts haven't had a good start to the season, winning one but losing two of their three games, but still sit two places above us. They will be without England bound Swann and Broad who they have had for a couple of games, but James Taylor will return after Lions duty. 

So, in the middle of May, it is already as massive game in our season. A win is desperately needed to boost confidence in the squad, and install a belief that we can stay in this division. 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Surrey comfortably beaten on final day

Well the inevitable happened on the final day of the Championship game at the Oval, after Durham chased down their relatively small target with 5 wickets to spare.

Set 181 for victory, Durham completed their 3rd victory of the campaign, putting them back top of Division one, and inflicting Surrey’s first defeat of the season in the process.

Starting the morning on 164-6, a lead of just 115, Batty and Wilson started well and began to grind out a possible competitive total. However, in the space of three deliveries, where Batty was LBW for 27 and Wilson caught for 26, the game swung well into Durham’s favour. 19 from Tim Linley took us to 229 all out, a lead of 180, and even though the pitch was clearly favouring the spinner with Borthwick claiming figures of 6-70, it was never going to be enough to force a result.

We did get off to the perfect start though, as to the final delivery of the first over, Will Smith was caught behind to give us some hope, and send a few jitters through the Durham camp. However, like he showed in the first innings, the big wicket would have been that of Mark Stoneman, who naturally scores at a high tempo, and his innings alone all but sealed the win for Durham.

We just couldn’t keep the run rate down and apply pressure, and the 100 partnership between Stoneman and Borthwick turned out to be the match winner in the end. Batty did have Borthwick, before Stoneman (67) and Benkenstein fell in the space of 3 deliveries, to Meaker and Linley respectively, leaving Durham 55 to win with 5 wickets left.

However, despite losing Collingwood to Gary Keedy’s first wicket of the match, it never looked like we would force a dramatic collapse, as Ben Stokes and Phil Mustard saw their side through to a 5 wicket win.

Even though we expected it after yesterday’s play, it is always disappointing to lose any sort of game in cricket. At key times in the match, we came out second best. On the first day, losing 5 wickets for less than 20 runs was criminal, whatever the state of the pitch, and that for me was the main reason we lost the match. 181 was never going to be enough and if we batted better in the first innings like we should have, then we would have set a higher total and most likely come away with the points.

I don’t really want to single out individuals, as everyone had poor moments in the match, with Davies’ dismissals particularly sticking in my mind. However, the form of Gary Keedy is very worrying. On a pitch that was made to suit his style of bowling, to only pick up one wicket, and that being when the game was all but up, is poor. He is vastly experienced and should thrive on occasions like this, but it never seemed like it was coming out right, struggling to keep his economy rate down throughout the game.

On the other hand, Gareth Batty picked up 6 wickets in the game, an even though he only collected one in the second innings, his five in the first innings prevented a much bigger lead than 49. However, Batty isn’t faultless, as his decision to not bring Meaker into the attack until the 33rd over was a strange one, and the wrong one, as he bowled the dangerous Stoneman in his first over.

There are lots of if’s and but’s to think about, as there always is with cricket, but the simple matter is that we deserved to lose that game. We didn’t bat well enough, and didn’t take advantage of the spinning conditions that we prepared, with Buckley and Borthwick claiming double the amount of wickets that Batty and Keedy could muster.

Three draws from three games was a solid, if not brilliant, start, but now add the defeat to that which constitutes to a very poor start to the season. We certainly have a battle on our hands to stay in the division, especially now that we don’t have our skipper. Is it a coincidence that our first defeat is the first game he wasn’t here for? I’m not sure about that, but let’s not use that as an excuse for doing poor this season, because the players can do better than they have shown over the last 4 days, and hopefully they can show that on Wednesday at Trent Bridge against Notts.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Visitors close in despite rain

Durham’s bowlers have put their side into a winnable position heading into the final day of the game tomorrow, with Surrey facing an uphill battle to save the game.

After being bowled out for 286, 3 wickets from Scott Borthwick helped restrict the home side to 164-6 on a rain hit day at the Oval, with the lead only standing at 115 heading into Monday’s play.

We did the first job right this morning, getting the final Durham wicket quickly, with Gareth Batty trapping Buckley LBW for his 5th wicket. A superb effort from the captain, who carried us through that innings, with Durham taking a lead of 49.

Our poor opening partnership record continued though, as Jason Roy played down the wrong line to a Thorp delivery and was bowled for 4. The 11 that he and Burns put on was actually our second highest opening stand of the season, the highest being 32 against Middlesex, with 5 of the 7 partnerships this campaign being below 10. Our long term problems in that position haven’t yet been resolved.

Arun Harinath didn’t hang around long, as he was adjudged LBW for 11, but on second viewing it looks like the ball may have missed off stump. Burns was looking solid, but in the last over before lunch, he was also out LBW on 38 this time to Borthwick, as we struggled into the interval on 65-3.

Not long after the break, Paul Collingwood had Solanki LBW for 20 with a ball that kept low, as we were 4 down for 87, a lead of just 40. Zander was joined by Davies, who looked to be positive as always, and the pair started to put together an important partnership, taking our lead into the eighties. However, de Bruyn never looked comfortable at the crease, and he fell LBW for 20, once again from a Borthwick ball that kept low.

The last recognised batsman Wilson joined Davies, with a big job on their hands, but Davies got out in the worst possible circumstances. He pulled a short ball from Borthwick straight to Stoneman on the midwicket rope when on 46. Not a shot that was needed in the situation, and with a lead of 115 and 4 wickets remaining at tea, a much better effort from the tail than in the 1st innings was needed.

However, the rain came and completely washed out the final session, meaning we head into the final day on 164-6.

Once again, batsman who got themselves in have failed to kick on and get a sizable score. Burns was looking good until he got out at just the wrong time. Solanki has got a start in every Championship innings for us, but has failed once again to make that start count. Davies’ dismissal was very poor, his second of the match, and that could ultimately lead to our first defeat of the season.

The forecast for tomorrow looks much better, which means that Durham will have plenty of time to knock over our last 4 wickets and chase down whatever lead we can muster. We just have to hope that Wilson and Batty can hang around for some time tomorrow morning, because the batsman to follow have only mustered 4 runs in 6 innings between them this season, not something that fills you with confidence.

If Wilson and Batty can somehow muster up a lead of around 180-200, then anything can happen, but as it stands, that looks unlikely.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Durham take lead despite Batty's 4

Durham have taken a slight advantage after Day 2 of the Championship game at the Oval, with a good final session for the Surrey bowlers dragging us back into the game.

Half centuries from Mark Stoneman and Dale Benkenstein have elevated their side up and beyond our first innings total of 237, but 4 wickets from Gareth Batty has restricted Durham to 279-9.

Early wickets were an absolute must this morning, but Durham, and Stoneman in particular, started aggressively, with the left hander racing to his half century within half an hour of play. Gareth Batty, in his second over of the day, made the breakthrough shortly after though, as he trapped Will Smith LBW.

Stoneman was still looking to be positive, despite Batty dramatically reducing the run rate after a poor start from Meaker and Keedy, but it was de Bruyn who picked up the second wicket, when Borthwick nicked off in his first over. A couple of deliveries later, Batty had Stoneman caught by Burns at short leg, as we started to pull it back a touch, but a Ben Stokes six took the lead below 100, as Durham went to lunch on 141-3.

De Bruyn was employed after lunch again, and was doing a good job of keeping the runs down, going at around and about 1 an over. He got the big wicket of Stokes when the England all-rounder played on, not too dissimilar to the way de Bruyn got Chris Rogers out last week. A couple of rain breaks brought an early tea, but when the players got back out in the middle, de Bruyn had his third when he got Collingwood LBW for 4, as the South African was slowly getting us back in the game.

Despite that wicket, a collapse similar to ours yesterday was needed, as they were trailing by just 55 when Collingwood went. However, that wasn’t to be straight away, as Benkenstein and Mustard played in their usual manner, with the latter typically attacking. They took their side to within one of parity, before Batty had Mustard LBW for 35, and when Durham had passed our score, Batty also removed Calum Thorp for his 4th wicket.

Tim Linley was then given the new ball, and with the 4th delivery, had Mark Wood LBW, before taking a smart catch off his own bowling to dismiss Chris Rushworth first ball. There was to be no hat trick, as debutant Ryan Buckley saw out his first ball, but it definitely posed the question: why delay taking the new cherry until 92 overs?

We couldn’t force the final wicket in the remaining 6 overs, as the experienced Benkenstein, unbeaten on 70, took his side to the close with a 42 run lead.

So I don’t think that we should be too disappointed with that display today. The 5 wickets in the final session has really got us back into the game, and it was needed, because most Surrey fans would admit that our first innings score wasn’t enough. Heading into the final session, they were trailing by just 55 with 6 wickets remaining, and if de Bruyn didn’t pick up the vital wicket of Collingwood early in the session, then it could have been a different story. De Bruyn is starting to prove why he is being selected in the side, as he has been very useful with the ball this season, and also got his first half century yesterday, which is good to see.

Tomorrow we have to knock the last wicket over as quickly as possible and hope that we can bat better second time around. The pitch isn’t too bad if you can get yourself in, but I would have thought that anything around 275 will possibly be enough to force home a victory.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Durham spinners dominate day one

Durham have had a good first day of the Championship game at the Oval, after bowling Surrey out for 237.

A clatter of wickets in the final session of the day completely turned the day on its head, as the debutant off spinner Ryan Buckley claimed a 5 wicket haul.

Despite the conditions seeming to suit the seam bowlers, Gareth Batty elected to bat first after winning the toss of the coin, knowing that spin would play a part. The team news was that Jason Roy, Gary Keedy and Stuart Meaker were back in, in place of Graeme Smith, Jade Dernbach and Chris Tremlett. It was a surprise that Dernbach was rested, but with another game starting next Wednesday, perhaps that was a key factor.

Batty’s decision wasn’t immediately reaping rewards, as Burns was caught behind for just 1, and after reaching 17, his batting partner Jason Roy held out at mid-off. I think it was the wrong decision to open with Roy, who has done the job before with varied success, and I would have preferred to see Harinath with Burns.

Durham had made a good start, and Harinath and Solanki had to knuckle down, but they ticked along at a good rate. Solanki had made it to 38 before popping a catch off debutant Ryan Buckley to short leg. Once again a good start from Vik, but failing to kick on is starting to get a bit annoying, as we went to lunch on 103-3.

Harinath and de Bruyn began to get bogged down after the interval, as the Durham bowlers tightened their lines from the first session. De Bruyn especially was finding runs hard to come by, but Arun Harinath completed his second consecutive half century off 106 balls, as the partnership went past 50. However, Harinath couldn’t resist a nibble at Calum Thorp on 53 and the reliable Collingwood snaffled the chance at slip. Steve Davies almost went immediately, but Buckley dropped a relatively straight forward caught and bowled chance. De Bruyn then had a life on 36, when Mustard dropped one down the leg side.

We capitalised on those missed chances, as de Bruyn and Davies steadied the ship and took us to tea on 199-4, but the job was certainly not done. They knew that if they could bat out the majority of the final session, then the day would be ours. However, just after getting to his half century, Davies missed a Borthwick full toss and was bowled for 52, which led to a dramatic collapse.

Wilson gloved a rising Buckley ball to silly point on 6, before Batty was caught trying to drive over cover without scoring; not the shot required in the situation from the skipper. De Bruyn had also passed 50 for the first time this season, but he got out in the most unfortunate of circumstances. He swept a ball into the boot of short leg, and it bounced up into the gleeful hands of Phil Mustard when on 57. Linley was then caught at short leg, before Keedy was LBW for 0, which meant 4 wickets had been lost for 0 runs, and we had been bowled out for 237.

We had just under an hour to try and make some inroads into the Durham line up, but Stoneman and Smith batted out the 15 overs well, to finish on 48-0.

So, all things considered, that is a poor day for us. After winning the toss and batting, getting bowled out for 237 is not good enough. Some will argue that the pitch is turning and that isn’t that bad a score, but considering we were 219-4, we should have scored far more than we did.

7 wickets fell to the spinners in our innings, so all things seem to suggest that it is doing something out there, but a couple of those wickets were not to do with the pitch. Davies and Batty played poor shots, and de Bruyn was desperately unlucky, so maybe it’s not as much of a turner as people think.

Tomorrow, we will undoubtedly have to strike early, because it seems that if you get in, batting isn’t too difficult, and if we are not careful, Durham may rack up a big first innings lead. 

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Meaker returns for vital Championship game

Stuart Meaker has been named in a 13 man squad has been named for the LV County Championship match against Durham at the Kia Oval tomorrow.

It’s great to see Meaker back after his thigh injury, and there is of course one other enforced change from the squad that took on Middlesex last week, with Jason Roy coming in for Graeme Smith. Roy has hit form at just the right time and will no doubt come straight into the side at number 7.

Here is the squad in full:

Gareth Batty (C)
Rory Burns
Arun Harinath
Gary Wilson
Vikram Solanki
Zander de Bruyn
Steve Davies
Jason Roy
Stuart Meaker
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach
Tim Linley
Gary Keedy

I don’t expect any other changes in the final X1 other than Roy coming in, because especially in the batting, there aren’t many other options, and Meaker also coming in if fully fit. Jon Lewis will be desperate for a game, but Meaker has taken his place in the squad. I would consider bringing Meaker in ahead of Chris Tremlett, who hasn’t looked at his best over the last two games. Some would argue that he will get better once he plays more, but a win is needed, and we can’t afford to “carry” a bowler. All the wickets he has got this year have either been tailenders (Roland-Jones and Panesar), or batsman who have been looking to kick on (Malan and Stirling). He hasn’t had a “proper” bowlers dismissal as such, so maybe Linley will be kept in ahead of him.

Gareth Batty certainly has big shoes to fill, but I believe he is up to the job. Last year he captained the side superbly in extremely difficult circumstances, and hopefully this year, with a stronger squad, we can rediscover some of that late season form. I presume that he will be the sole spinner in the side again, as Keedy hasn’t looked that effective in the odd appearance he has made, and pitches haven’t really been suited to spinners as yet, or just bowlers full stop!

As you know, we have yet to pick up a victory in the Championship this season. In each of the games we have managed to get ourselves into a good position, especially in the Middlesex game last week, but have lacked the ruthlessness. We have lacked that cutting edge for quite a few years now, but I suppose that what makes the top sides like Warwickshire last year and Lancashire the year before better than everybody else. Becoming ruthless isn’t something that just comes about overnight!

We come up against a side who currently sit top of the Division, with 2 wins and 2 losses from their 4 games. Just by looking at the fact that they have yet to draw a game this season shows that they are playing positive cricket, going for the victory whenever possible. I’m not saying I want to lose, but I would certainly take 2 wins and 2 losses ahead of the position we are in at the moment, 7th, with the proof being in the pudding with them being top. They are without Graham Onions who is with the England Lions, which is a bonus, and they may be without Ben Stokes after his injury in the YB40 washout, so we will try to capitalise on a slightly depleted squad.

The game starts at 12:00 tomorrow due to the YB40 game this evening, even though it didn’t go the full distance, and hopefully we can get off to a good start and push on for our first win of the season.

Rain wins after Roy century

The YB40 game between Surrey and Durham Dynamos has been abandoned due to the rain, after Jason Roy struck a century at the Kia Oval.

Roy hit 117 to lead us to a below par 216 all out, but the weather intervened midway through the game, and the Durham batsman never got out to the middle.

Durham won the toss and knowing that rain was forecast for later in the evening, they elected to field first. One enforced change for us was of course that of Graeme Smith who was replaced in the side by Tom Jewell, not Rory Burns.

Davies got off to a flyer once again, hitting a 4 and a six in the first two overs, before holding out to Benkenstein at a deepish mid-off for 16. Roy, opening up, was joined by Solanki, and they continued at a good pace, until the latter was caught behind for 18 as the Dynamos made a good start.

Zander de Bruyn was pushed up to number 4, and had one of his infuriating innings, where he batted at a slow pace before getting out for 24 off 41 deliveries half way through the 24th. Before de Bruyn was dimissed, Roy went to his half century at a run a ball with a boundary off Rushworth, but we got into trouble straight after the South African went, as Gary Wilson was out LBW without scoring just 3 balls later.

Zafar Ansari was run out for 9, and Jewell LBW for just 1, as we started to dramatically collapse towards the end of the innings. With mayhem unfolding at the other end, Roy stayed calm and went to his century at just over a run a ball. Not his most fluent hundred, but without it, we would have struggled to post any score of note.

Batty and Roy then fell in quick succession, and it was down to Jon Lewis (24*) to power us towards 216, before we were bowled out with 15 balls of the innings still remaining.

However, that was the last action of the evening, with the not relenting, meaning it was 1 point apiece.

We can’t do anything about the weather, but we can do something about our batting. Jason Roy was the only batsman who looked comfortable at the crease, and was the only one out of Solanki, de Bruyn and Davies who kicked on after making some sort of start. Credit to him, because take his score out of the equation, then it could have been a different story, with Lewis’ 24* the next best score.

It was a surprise to see Jewell play instead of Burns, considering the form that Burns is in, and Jewell will be annoyed that he didn’t take his chance with the bat, because he finds appearances hard to come by.

Just a word for Ben Stokes, who injured his back while catching Jason Roy today. He went off on a stretcher and was immediately taken to hospital. I wish him well of course.

Tomorrow we come up against the same opposition in the Championship, still looking for our first win in that format after 3 draws so far, and will go in without skipper Graeme Smith for the first time. After his hundred today, Roy will definitely play, and presumably bat at number 7, with Wilson moving up to number 3, and Harinath opening up with Burns.

Batty in charge for Durham clash

A 14 man squad has been named for this evening’s floodlit YB40 game against the Durham Dynamos at the Kia Oval.

The game will be the first that Gareth Batty has skippered this season, and with the severity of Smith’s injury looking high, he will probably captain for the remainder of the campaign. Smith is going to be a massive loss, but we have to soldier on with Batty at the helm, and considering how he did last year, I don’t think we will do too badly.

Here is the squad in full:

Gareth Batty (C)
Steve Davies
Jason Roy
Vikram Solanki
Gary Wilson
Zander de Bruyn
Zafar Ansari
Rory Burns
Tom Jewell
Tom Curran
Jon Lewis
Jade Dernbach
Gary Keedy
Tim Linley

The batting does look alarmingly thin now that Smith has gone, and an injury or two would certainly give the management staff something to think about. But, the in-form Rory Burns has been drafted in as a replacement for Smith from the victory over Hampshire on Monday, and I’m sure that Rory will want to prove that he has got what it takes to play in this form of the game. I’m not sure if we can read too much into the order of the squad on the Official website, but it looks as if Burns would be down the order if selected.

I would have thought that the other 10 names would be the same as it was in Monday’s emphatic win, but one option instead of Burns could be the inclusion of either Tom Jewell or Tom Curran. It will probably be unlikely that Curran at 18 will be given a game, but Jewell will certainly be vying for a place. If it was down to me, I would play both Burns and Jewell, and drop de Bruyn, but we all know that isn’t going to happen.

There will be a new opening partner for Steve Davies, who will be looking to build on his wonderful unbeaten century against the Royals. I personally would open with Solanki and Davies, as they both know each other well from their Worcestershire days, and were one of the better opening partnerships in the country in this form of the game. Jason Roy could also be moved up to open, so at least we don’t have limitations in that position in the shorter forms of the game.

Durham have always been a strong side in this competition, and will once again be tonight. With the likes of Mustard, who scored a superb century against us last year, Stokes and Collingwood in the batting and the spin of Borthwick, they look a smart outfit. They have lost one and won one so far this year, but at least Onions is away with the England Lions this week.

The game is sure to be a tight game between two evenly matched sides, as we look for a second consecutive win.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Stunning Davies destroys Hampshire

A sumptuous century from Steven Davies has lead Surrey to a comfortable 9 wicket victory over reigning Champions Hampshire Royals in the YB40.

After 4 wickets from Zafar Ansari helped to bowl the opposition out for 228, a superb opening partnership of 162 between Davies (127*) and captain Graeme Smith (74) all but sealed the victory on the hottest day of the year at the Kia Oval.

On what looked like perfect batting conditions, Hampshire won the toss and unsurprisingly elected to bat first. Of the 14 man squad, Tom Jewell, Tom Curran and Tim Linley were the 3 to miss out, with Zander de Bruyn once again being selected.

After a wayward couple of overs, we made an early breakthrough when Michael Carberry got a slight nick on a Jade Dernbach delivery. James Vince, fresh off the back of a superb century against Essex last Friday, started to look dangerous and took a liking to Jon Lewis. However, Lewis had the last laugh when he had him caught by Solanki.

Aussie T20 skipper George Bailey was then removed by Zafar Ansari, before Gareth Batty had his first wicket, that of Jimmy Adams, as Hampshire fell to 89-4. Liam Dawson and top scorer Sean Ervine (63) had to rebuild the away side’s innings, and the run rate dropped because of that. 2 wickets in the space of two overs from Ansari really put us on top, as he had Dawson caught by the skipper, before Davies stumped former Essex keeper Adam Wheater.

However, while Ervine was at the crease, Hampshire were always going to post a total of above 200, and he and Chris Wood shared a vital 39 run partnership before Wood was run out. Ervine was Ansari’s 4th victim, giving the Cambridge all- rounder his best List A figures of 4-46, and a quick-fire 15 from Hamza Riazuddin took his side to 228 all out, with Lewis claiming his wicket, and Danny Briggs run out off the last ball of the innings.

It was always going to be well below par, and Smith and Davies got off to an absolute flyer, reaching 72 off of the first 8 over powerplay. They both looked at their fluent best, with Davies reaching his half century first, coming off 43 balls, before the captain reached his 50 in his first one day innings for his new club, coming up off just 36 balls.

They looked as if they would ease to the target without losing a wicket, but Smith hammered Dawson straight to Vince on the boundary to end his great innings, but the damage had already been done. Davies went to a brilliant century alongside his former Worcestershire opening partner Vikram Solanki, coming up off just 82 balls with 10 fours and 3 sixes.

There was just enough time for Davies to reach and surpass his previous best List A score of 119, as we raced to victory with 52 balls to spare.

What a great victory that is, making the reigning champions look distinctly average. The bowlers did brilliantly to restrict them to a score well below par, with Ansari proving particularly effective on his first outing of the summer. And when it comes to the batting, it couldn’t have gone any better. Smith has finally come to the party, and looked very perky in his 55 ball stay. Davies was just simply sensational. When he’s on form, he is one of the most graceful batsman you could wish to see, and I hope for his and Surrey’s sake, we see plenty more innings like that this season.

Next up we come up against Durham, Live on Sky this Thursday, and if we perform like we did today, then another win will not be far around the corner.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Squad named for first YB40 game

A fourteen man squad has been named for the first Limited overs game of the season; the YB40 fixture against reigning champions Hampshire Royals at the Kia Oval tomorrow.

A surprise inclusion in the squad is that of 18 year old all-rounder Tom Curran, who is also joined in the party by Tom Jewell and Zafar Ansari.

Here is the squad in full:

Graeme Smith (C)
Steve Davies
Jason Roy
Vikram Solanki
Gary Wilson
Zander de Bruyn
Zafar Ansari
Gareth Batty
Tom Jewell
Tom Curran
Gary Keedy
Jade Dernbach
Jon Lewis
Tim Linley

It’s great to see Curran in the squad for the first time, and even though he probably won’t make the final X1, it is a great experience for him to be around the first team, as a lot of good things have been spoken about the young man. It’s also nice to see Tom Jewell finally get into a first team squad, after finding any opportunities difficult to come by over the last couple of season. He also has a bright future ahead of him, and I hope that he gets a game tomorrow, perhaps batting down at number 7.

I would certainly pick Jewell ahead of de Bruyn, who hasn’t been on form with the bat yet again, and Jewell will be chomping at the bit to prove to the management staff and Smith what he is capable of. Zafar is in the squad for the first time this season after being busy with Uni commitments, and with  Spriegel now having left us, he is very important to the make-up of the squad. His bowling can help to tie up an end, and his batting can vary between sensible when required, but electric when needs must.

Opening the batting will be Smith and Davies, and hopefully Davies is back to his best as he can take a game away from a side in this format, but for various reasons last year, we rarely saw that. All being well Smith will take heart from spending time in the middle today and create his first meaningful contribution with the bat.

Following them two will be Jason Roy and Vikram Solanki. Roy was very much hit and miss last season, after having a great 2011, and Solanki performed well for Worcestershire in the 40 over format before agreeing to sign for us. They are two very explosive players, and in Solanki, a player who looks to be in prime form.

Gary Wilson will be at number 5, and all being well he can transfer his brilliant form from the Championship into this format, and nail down his place in the side. As I said before, I wouldn’t play de Bruyn, and would have Ansari at 6, followed by Jewell. When playing limited overs cricket last year, de Bruyn would regularly take up lots of deliveries without scoring many, before perishing, so he shouldn’t be picked.

When it comes to the bowlers, Batty will of course play, with him being a revelation last year in the shorter forms of the game. I would also play Gary Keedy, as spinners have made up a lot of our success over the last couple of years, alongside Dernbach and one of Linley and Lewis. I would personally go with Lewis as he extends the batting line up, but is also desperate to play a game judging by his interview on 5 Live Sports Extra yesterday.

It will be a tough task, as Hampshire are of course reigning champions in both this and the T20 format, so they have the right set up for List A cricket. They have also played two games already, and won them both, so that possibly puts them at an advantage, but Smith is desperate to register his first win at the club, and let’s hope it comes tomorrow. Come on the Rey! 

Derby peters out into a draw

The Championship game between Middlesex and Surrey at Lord’s has finished as a draw, after the hosts set an unlikely target for victory midway through the afternoon session.

A double century from Chris Rogers allowed Middlesex to go well beyond a reachable score, with us taking 9 points from our 3rd consecutive draw this season.

Despite Steven Finn going to Jade Dernbach in the first over of the day, Rogers continued from where he left off yesterday, and upped the run rate quite considerably. There was a clear intention from the Australian to try and set up something for the afternoon, as he raced past 150, the 3rd batsman in 3 matches to get past that score against us this season. Dawid Malan joined in on the action as well, but it was the Middlesex skipper who was showing exactly why he has been selected for the Ashes this year, as he went to a superb double century, his second against us, with the lead racing past 200 also.

Rogers eventually went when Batty bowled him for a superb 214, but the damage had already been done. Malan then gave Tremlett his first wicket of the innings by hitting him to Graeme Smith at mid-on before Stirling was caught for 1 off Tremlett, as Middlesex went to lunch on 424-6, a lead of 252.

Middlesex were determined to not let us have any chance of a chase, as Dexter and Simpson had a net in the middle, taking the lead over 300, and Middlesex’s second innings score past a ridiculous 500. There were thoughts that they would declare with 50 overs remaining, but that wasn’t to be. Burns and Harinath had time to pick up their first FC wickets, that of Dexter and Roland-Jones, before they finally pulled the plug, with 342 required from 48 overs.

That was never going to be attempted, and the task was to make sure that a collapse didn’t occur and allow Middlesex a way in. And despite Burns going early for 17, the batsman did their job, with Smith spending some vital time in the middle, as we closed on 85-1, Smith 48*, Harinath 20*.

3 draws out of 3 is certainly not ideal, and I would have thought that Smith is desperate for his first win at his new club. Without question, it should have come in this game, whether we enforced the follow on or not, we should have won the game after our great work late on Day two, but sadly it wasn’t to be. A lack of ruthlessness hurt us really, which has been a problem in the first two games as well, where we haven’t been able to capitalize on an opening.

Tomorrow we will be looking for our first win, when we play the champions of the CB40, Hampshire, in the newly named YB40. It will be a tough task, because they looked superb against Essex on Friday, and at the time of writing, they look like they will be beating Scotland as well. I expect some changes in the squad, which is yet to be announced, with the likes of Roy, Keedy and Lewis coming in.