Monday, 30 July 2012

Dogged Ansari leads Surrey to draw

An unbeaten 83 from Zafar Ansari has lead Surrey to a draw on Day 4 of the LVCC Division One match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.

Play didn’t start until 11.45 due to a rain shower, and after surviving 18 overs last night, Burns and Ansari started slowly, but comfortably going past their 2nd 50 partnership in just 4 innings. Burns was looking the better of the two, finding the boundary on a few occasions with some beautiful drives. However, 20 minutes before the break, Warwickshire made the breakthrough when Burns looked to defend a Rankin ball, but it went into the ground and back onto the stumps. Unlucky for Burns, falling 8 short of 3 consecutive half centuries, but showing increased promise at the top of the order.

Rankin was making batting look difficult, bowling short to Harinath and Ansari, and had them in trouble a couple of times before lunch, in which the pair safely negotiated to go in on 83-1.

Straight after the break though, Surrey lost Harinath without scoring. A blow for Surrey as Harinath has a reputation to dig in, and personally he will be disappointed that he couldn’t make a contribution. After a couple of short rain breaks, de Bruyn was the next man to go when he played an inexcusable shot. Jeetan Patel lobbed up a full toss, in which he swept straight down the throat of deep midwicket. Not what was required in the situation, as de Bruyn continues his poor form this season.

Roy joined Ansari, and batting was looking increasingly difficult as runs were hard to come by, and the hosts put down a variety of chances around the bat off the bowling of Jeetan Patel. Ansari picked up his first Championship half century for Surrey when he flicked Clarke down to fine leg for four. It had come off 170 balls, and had been a fine effort. He went past his previous best First Class score of 59 before the tea break, in which they went in on 140-3, still with a minimum of 28 overs remaining in the day.

Batting began to look slightly easier after the break, as the Warwickshire bowlers worked hard without success, as Roy was playing as he never had before, with his strike rate down at 20 throughout the early part of his innings. He and Ansari were taking Surrey towards the draw, and took their side into the final hour, in which they had to stave off the second new ball.

At 25 past 5, the players shook hands, with Surrey on 202-3, and the batsman had done their job. Not many Surrey fans would have thought we would have got through today, but we did and it was a fantastic effort, in particular from Zaf. He finished unbeaten on 83, off a massive 257 balls, which shows that he has grit and determination in abundance. And a quick word for Roy, who played out of his comfort zone today, and supported Zafar brilliantly, ending on 42* of 101.

After being out of the game after the second day, a draw is all we could have hoped for, and it was a fine effort from the batsman. It may just be an extra 3 points with the draw, but they could all be important come the end of the season, and today will also give our side some much needed confidence. The batting has been poor of late, and some players are still nowhere near their best form, but it’s good to see youngsters such as Burns, Ansari and Roy impressing, all of which have big futures at the club.

So still only the one win this season, but we have moved above Lancashire into 6th place in the table, which would give our players a big psychological boost. We now travel to Trent Bridge for the floodlit CB40 clash against Notts Outlaws on Wednesday, before the massive LVCC game against Durham at the Emirates ICG next Tuesday.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Bears closing in on victory

Warwickshire are in pole position after Day three of the LVCC Division One match against Surrey at Edgbaston, after bowling the visitors out for 286 and enforcing the follow on.

After their 83 run partnership yesterday, Harinath and Burns were split up as the former edged behind without adding to his overnight score. A good innings from Arun, but it was disappointing that he went so early this morning.

De Bruyn and Roy barely troubled the scorers either side of a rain break, as Burns was losing partners at the other end. After lunch, Davies was the first man to go, for just 13, and Surrey were 6 down when Burns was caught behind for 77. A great innings from the young keeper, who is increasingly showing his credentials, as he became the first Surrey batsman to hit consecutive half centuries in the LVCC this season.

After bowling erratically, Jordan didn’t do much to impress with the bat, as he was trapped in front for 15. Batty and Meaker put on a good partnership for the 8th wicket to make sure we got one batting point, as they went to the tea interval on 224-7, trailing by 347. 

Straight after the break though, the skipper was out LBW to Barker for 28. Even though his bowling has gone downhill, Lewis batted as well as he has done this season, putting on a partnership to take us to a second batting point. 

But Meaker went on 41 to give Rikki Clarke a 4th wicket. Good stuff from Meaker though, showing much more grit and determination than some upper order batsman. After Lewis and Kartik took part in some late order hitting, the Indian spinner was caught in the gully, and Surrey had been bowled out for 286, 285 behind the hosts first innings score. Apart from Burns and a couple of the lower order, no real fight from the batsman, which is extremely disappointing to see.

Unsurprisingly the follow on was enforced, and Burns and Ansari had to try and survive 18 overs. They did so, finishing on 38-0, to give us some chance of forcing a draw tomorrow.

To be honest, it is a very slim chance however, as we have a host of batsman either out of form or too inexperienced to stick it out in a situation like this. de Bruyn and Davies haven’t been anywhere near their best form all season, and they’re are most senior batsman at the moment. Jason Roy lacks consistency, and Burns, Harinath and Ansari only have a small amount of First Class games between them.

So overall, it doesn’t look good does it? We have a tough task to come out of the game with a draw, and an even stiffer task to stay in this division next season. Durham have finally won their first game of the season today, when they skittled out Middlesex. The one time you want Middlesex to win and they don’t. If we do manage to come out with a draw, then it would give us some much needed confidence for the massively vital game at Chester-le-Street in a couple of weeks time.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Hosts in control but Surrey stand firm

Warwickshire are in control after Day 2 of the LVCC Division One match against Surrey at Edgbaston after scoring 571, but Surrey have stood firm ending the day on 109-1.

At the start of the day, the Surrey bowlers would have been looking to bowl out the hosts for less than 350, and bat before lunch. However, the Warwickshire pair of Troughton and Woakes had other ideas, as they batted extremely comfortably. They both went past personal milestones, with Woakes passing fifty and the skipper completing his second hundred in successive matches. Surrey finally made the breakthrough on what turned out to be the last ball before lunch, when Troughton was caught behind off Kartik. But it was certainly the host’s morning, as they went to the break 429-7.

In his first over after the break, Kartik picked up his 3rd wicket of the innings when Barker was caught behind without scoring. However, Woakes was still there, and with New Zealander Jeetan Patel, they confirmed to everyone that there batting line up was very strong, and very deep. They put on the record 9th wicket partnership for Warwickshire against Surrey, as Woakes completed his 6th First Class hundred, and Jeetan Patel a quickfire half century.

With the partnership on 127, Patel was caught and bowled by Murali Kartik off a top edge, but with the score passing 550, Surrey had been well and truly batted out of the game. The innings finally came to an end when Boyd Rankin was run out, and 571 looked a formidable score. Kartik finished with 4 wickets and was the pick of the bowlers, but it was disappointing how much the last 4 wickets accumulated.  Another negative was the amount of extras we gave away, with a ridiculously large total of 60, including 10 no balls from Jordan.

Burns and Ansari opened yet again, and started well, but with the score on 29 Ansari was trapped in front by Woakes for 10. Once again a start for Zaf, where he looks comfortable at the crease, but then he gets out. He needs to start getting more meaningful scores, but I still don’t think that he is the answer to our opening problems.

Arun Harinath completed the triplet of Academy graduates at the top of the order, and he and Burns set about digging in for the final session of the day. They batted calmly and positively, with the 50 partnership coming up inside 17 overs. Burns went to his fifty with a single of Rankin. It had come off just 70 balls with 9 fours, and it was his second successive Championship half century.

They took us to the close on 109-1, with Harinath 6 short of his first 50 of the season. A very good unbeaten partnership of 83 between the two youngsters, who looked at ease at the crease even though Burns was dropped on the first ball of the innings. However, he has so far capitalized on that and Harinath has looked as good as he ever has in the first team, as he tries to earn a contract for next season.

We obviously can’t win the game, and with a follow on score of over 400, we have a tough task to save the game. However, if Burns and Harinath can kick on tomorrow morning, and if the other batsman can back them up, we would be hoping to get maximum batting points and try and avoid the follow on.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Honours even after Day One at Edgbaston

It’s honours even after Day One of the LVCC Division One match between Warwickshire and Surrey at Edgbaston, with the hosts reaching 322-6.

On a glorious summer’s morning in Birmingham, the hosts won the toss and had no hesitation in electing to bat first. Two changes were made from the draw at Trent Bridge, with Gareth Batty and Arun Harinath coming in for Tim Linley and the unlucky Matthew Spriegel. That meant Chris Jordan would once again get a chance to impress, and Jade Dernbach had been left out, probably because he’s not 100% fit yet.

The bowlers started well, in particular Stuart Meaker, who had a numerous amount of LBW appeals turned down inside his first 5 over spell. But the first big moment of the game came 50 minutes into the days play, when off Murali Kartik’s first delivery, Ian Westwood struck the ball into Rory Burns at short leg. Burns seemed to take the catch, but as he tried to celebrate, he let go of the ball, and the umpires deemed that he hadn’t held onto it long enough. Poor cricket from Rory, simply throwing a wicket away, and with the situation our team is in at the moment, you can’t afford to let chances like that go.

That missed chance did prove to be costly, as Chopra and Westwood looked increasingly comfortable at the crease, and took their side to lunch on 105 without loss, with some thinking to be done by the bowlers.

Straight after the break, Surrey got a stroke of luck, when Chopra got an inside edge back onto his stumps off the bowling of Jordan, and the breakthrough had been made. Jordan was bowling erratically, with numerous no balls and boundaries balls being delivered, but he claimed his second wicket, as Porterfield gloved a hook through to Davies.

Surrey had started the afternoon session strongly, and the skipper Gareth Batty struck to reduce the hosts to 188-3, as the previously comfortable Westwood was trapped in front for 67. Murali Kartik was brought back into the attack, and he trapped Maddy LBW with one that went on with the arm, as Surrey started to apply pressure.

That was the last wicket of the session though, as Troughton and Johnson took their side to the break on 216-4; but it had certainly been our session. They batted well for the first hour of the final session, putting their side into a strong position on Day one, but with the partnership on 98, Meaker made the breakthrough when he had Johnson caught by de Bruyn.

Meaker then made it two in quick succession, when he had former Surrey man Rikki Clarke caught brilliantly by Rory Burns to pick up a second bowling bonus point. That was the last wicket of the day, as Troughton (74*) and Chris Woakes took their side to the close on 322-6.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat first, I think Warwickshire would have taken that if it would have been handed to them at the beginning of the day, but I also feel that Surrey would be reasonably pleased with their days work. The pitch is extremely dry, and looks a belter to bat on, and after getting to Lunch without claiming a wicket, we should be happy with our afternoons work.

The main negative today was Chris Jordan’s erratic bowling, with 7 no balls and going at almost 6 an over, but the 2 wickets does make it look marginally better. If we can manage to nip out a couple of early wickets tomorrow, and roll them over for less than 350, the bowlers would have done extremely well. But with the skipper still there, and with Woakes in good form after a century last week, there is still some work to do.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Dernbach returns for Edgbaston test

Jade Dernbach has been named in a 13 man squad for the LVCC Division One match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, after recovering from a side strain.

If he plays, it will be his first game for Surrey since the Twenty 20 game against Kent at Beckenham on 17th June, one day before the tragic passing of Tom Maynard. Therefore, he will be a bit behind his teammates in the grieving stage, and will initially find it difficult to get back out there for his county. However, the injury came at a good time for Jade, so he could get away from the game for a few weeks after losing a close friend in Tom.

Alongside Dernbach, 4 other frontline seam bowlers have been named in the squad, in the shape of Jon Lewis, Tim Linley, Stuart Meaker and Chris Jordan. Even though he adds extra depth to the batting, you would think that Jordan didn’t do enough to keep his place at Trent Bridge last week. Jon Lewis is one of only two players who have played every Championship game this season, and even though he hasn’t been taking hatfuls of wickets, he will presumably keep his place.

Stuart Meaker is a definite in the side, so the other seamers spot will go to either Linley or Dernbach, unless Adams leaves out one of the spinners again. If it was down to me, I would leave out Murali Kartik, who doesn’t add anything with the bat, and at the moment, doesn’t seem to be troubling opposition batsman.

That would leave 4 seamers and Batty, which I think is the right way to go at the moment, unless Jade isn’t fully fit. He is currently playing in the Second X1, coincidently against Warwickshire in Birmingham, and has got through overs in both innings which looks promising. In the same game, the Viscount took 7 in the first innings and currently has 2 in the second, which makes it look like he is starting to find his form of last season.

One bowler who is injured though, is Chris Tremlett, who has a knee injury and will see a specialist this week to discover if he needs an operation. A desperate blow for Chris after just coming back from a back injury, and if he requires an op, then it could sadly lead to the end of his playing days in a Surrey shirt at least, as his contract runs out at the end of the season.

After putting on 85 for the first wicket against Notts last week, Rory Burns and Zafar Ansari will continue at the top of the order. There were promising signs last week that the two youngsters could do the job, but in the second X1 this week, the partnership didn’t last long in both innings, so they still have a lot to prove in the first team.

Arun Harinath has been named in a Championship squad for the first time this season, and if he plays, will bat at 3, which he has done most of the year in the Second X1. However, Arun being included means that Matthew Spriegel has been left out. I think that is rather unfair on Spriegs. He obviously deserved a place in the squad last week, and he didn’t really have much time to prove himself, so I thought he would be a cert for the squad this week. But, it’s a good chance for Harinath to prove himself, and try and earn a contract for next season.

Zander de Bruyn is the other player to have played every Championship game this season, and after captaining the side last week, now has the chance to focus on his batting. Jason Roy will be looking to continue from where he left off at Trent Bridge last week, and Steve Davies will be trying to find some sort of form, as he has got a succession of low scores recently.

They are all big games of cricket for the rest of the season, but this one is massive. The quicker we can get a win, the quicker we can build some momentum can creep away from the relegation places. However, that is easier said than done, as Warwickshire sit top of the table with only one defeat this season, but that did come last week against Somerset, so hopefully they are starting to falter. They did beat us at the Oval earlier this season by 5 wickets, but we were certainly in the game, but a partnership between Tim Ambrose and William Porterfield, then Rikki Clarke, sealed the victory for the bears.

But with the opening partnership looking promising, and with bowlers finding some form, I fully believe this team can challenge with the best and come away with the points. Come on the Rey!!

Surrey Squad:
Gareth Batty (C)
Zafar Ansari
Rory Burns
Arun Harinath
Zander de Bruyn
Steve Davies (WK)
Jason Roy
Murali Kartik
Stuart Meaker
Jon Lewis
Tim Linley
Jade Dernbach
Chris Jordan

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Birthday Boy Roy sets draw alight

As expected, the LVCC Division One match between Nottinghamshire and Surrey at Trent Bridge has ended in a draw, but the game was set alight by a wonderful 83 by Jason Roy.

After the second and third days were washed out, and with Notts 178-5, it looked difficult to somehow work the game so that a positive result could be found. So the hosts carried on batting, with Read and Voges comfortable at the crease as the bowlers, especially Jordan, tried hard but with no success.

Lewis made the breakthrough when he nipped one back at Voges and trapped him in front. Phillips then put on a partnership with his skipper to gain a 3rd batting point, but Read was bowled by the impressive Meaker, 2 short of a much deserved century.

After Andre Adams and Phillips had a bit of a thrash, Meaker removed them both caught in the deep to claim a fifer. A great effort from Meaker, even if it wasn't in a winning cause. Kartik finished off the innings to claim his first wicket, Notts 328 all out.

As they did at Guildford, Burns and Ansari opened up and built an excellent opening partnership. Both looked assured at the crease, as Burns brought up his first Championship half century, taking Surrey to tea 82-0.

However, Ansari went soon after the break when he was bowled for 32 by Carter. Shame he couldn't kick on, but a promising start from Zaf. Jason Roy came in and started to counter punch, trying to take his side to a first batting point. But he lost his partner, when Adams bowled Burns for 79. A great innings from the Banstead keeper, and hopefully there will be more to come this season. 

Adams was really finding his rhythm, as he had de Bruyn caught for 0 and Davies for 2, as Roy was losing partners. The young man from Durban really started to fire, as he hit Samit Patel for two consecutive reverse swept sixes, yes two consecutive reverse swept sixes! Unbelievable skill and strength. But very next ball he was stumped by Read as he fell 17 short of a superb hundred.

Spriegel came and went for 17, bowled by Adams as he tried to force the issue and get to a second batting point before the close. Jordan and Meaker took us to that second batting point, which could be important come the end of the season.

So once again the weather has let us down this season. After finally having a good first day in the Championship, the next two days are washed out so we couldn't force a victory. That means that we have still only won one game this season, but there are plenty more positives from this than there were at Guildford last week.

Even though Meaker seems to leak runs, he is a genuine wicket taker, and it was good to see him mop the tail up like he did. Jordan looked good on the first day, as did Linley to some extent, but I don't think they have done enough to keep Batty and Tremlett out again. A main positive is the opening partnership, where Ansari looked solid as always, and Burns is finally showing the form he has produced for the 2's this year.

But the shining light of the afternoon was definitely Jason Roy, whose innings of 83 off just 50 balls included 8 fours and 5 maximums. He was disappointed that he couldn't complete his second First Class hundred, but I thought it was great to see him back at his explosive best. A very happy birthday to the 22 year old, who if he bats like that regularly, has a big future ahead of him.

We now have almost a week off, before we travel to Edgbaston to play top of table side Warwickshire. It’s going to be a tough game against a strong opposition, but we have to believe we can come away with a positive result and creep away from the relegation zone.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Surrey sign Solanki from 2013

Surrey have signed former England batsman Vikram Solanki from Worcestershire from the start of the 2013 season.

Solanki, 36, has penned a two year contract, ending a 20 year association with Worcestershire. With over 16,000 First Class runs to his name, he will add vast experience to the Surrey dressing room, and will bolster a batting line up which has recently lost 3 key members.

Indian born Solanki played 51 One Day internationals for England, his last in 2006, averaging just over 26 with 2 hundreds and 5 fifties. Not a brilliant record I know, but anyone who knows anything about cricket knows what a fantastic player he has been over the last decade, and even at his age, I fully believe he can still succeed at this level.

In the Championship over the last couple of years, Solanki has batted at 3 for Worcestershire, but he is fully capable to the open the batting in 4 day cricket, and he could be the opener we have been waiting for (even if it’s just for two years!). Last year he had a good season in the LVCC, averaging over 40 and accumulating over 1100 runs, however, this season he hasn’t been at his best, averaging mid 20’s, claiming 1 century but no half centuries. However, that average is higher than what Ramps, Davies and de Bruyn have managed this year, which shows how poor our batsman have been.

One Day cricket has been a different story for Solanki though, opening the batting with Moeen Ali has been a big success. He is the 3rd highest scorer in the CB40 this year with 350 runs, over 150 more than our top scorer Steve Davies, averaging 50 with 1 hundred and 1 fifty. In fact, the century was live on Sky, and he looked at his fluent best in a record partnership with Australian Phil Hughes. He didn’t have a very successful FLt20 campaign, with a top score of 33, but as everyone knows, T20 is a lottery and he could turn that around next season.

Some people may question why he has been signed on a two year contract, but I believe that Solanki would probably not signed if it was just a 1 year deal, so Adams just agreed to it as he was desperate to get an experienced, top order batsman in. It’s a shame that he cannot come to us now, as we need all the batting we can get at the moment, but he is still in Worcestershire’s plans at the moment and will respect the remaining months in his contract.

Overall, I feel that it is a very good signing from Chris Adams. When Steve Davies was at New Road, I used to make sure I watched Worcester when they were on TV as I enjoyed watching the pair at the top of the order. Now we have them both at the Kia Oval, and if they bat anywhere near the way they did 4 years ago, we will have a solid and exciting One Day top order.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Notts fight back after bowlers start well

After being 83-5 this morning, the Nottinghamshire batsman have fought back on Day one of the LVCC Division One match against Surrey at Trent Bridge, ending a rain affected day on 178-5.

The first bit of surprising news was that Gareth Batty and Chris Tremlett had been left out of the final X1, and Zander de Bruyn was the stand in captain. Fair enough that the conditions didn’t suit the spinners, but I would have dropped Kartik, not Batty, as he has been our best bowler over the last few weeks, and also gives a further batting option. Also surprised that Tremlett was left out, but the swing of Linley was preffered to Tremlett’s bounce.

That gave Tim Linley and Chris Jordan a chance to prove themselves, and on an overcast morning with a greenish pitch, Zander de Bruyn had no hesitation in choosing to bowl first when he won the toss. After Wessels and Hales gave the hosts an electric start, it was the Viscount who made the breakthrough, when he had Wessels caught by Jordan at first slip.

The wicket slowed the Notts run rate considerably, and when Hales chopped on to Lewis, and Jordan trapped Lumb LBW, a good start by the Surrey bowlers had been confirmed with Notts 53-3 inside the first hour. Samit Patel was the next man to go, when he edged a legside Meaker delivery into the gloves of Steve Davies. A bonus wicket for Surrey, and 4 had gone down before lunch.

Surrey weren’t finished yet though, as Meaker drew James Taylor into a drive, and Davies did the rest behind the stumps. In the same over, Voges was dropped by Spriegel at third slip, as the Australian and his skipper Read took their side to lunch on 118-5. A costly mistake by the returning Spriegel.

After a solid start for the batsman after the break, heavy rain came across the ground, and there was a delay. The players managed to get back on the park for a couple of overs, before the rain came again to cause a further delay. Play once again commenced at half past 4, with a scheduled 40 overs still remaining in the day.

The partnership between Read and Voges started to look dangerous, and after we had them 83-5 earlier on, it was a very good recovery being 165-5 when the players got back out there. With the run rate over 4 an over, the Surrey bowlers had to tighten their lengths and try and apply pressure to the experienced pair, who looked relatively comfortable at the crease.

However, after being out there for less than 10 minutes, with the score moved onto 178-5, the bad weather was back, which ended the day prematurely.

Overall a good start to the day by our bowlers, restricting the second place team to 83-5 is a great effort, even though there were conducive conditions, but we failed to capitalise on that good situation as Read and Voges batted extremely well. All the bowlers bowled well in patches today, with Meaker picking up two wickets but going at over 4 and a half an over, but Jordan was probably the most probing of the lot, picking up the wicket of Lumb and not going for a run in his first 4 overs.

Tomorrow morning we will be hoping to nip out one of the set batsman early, break into the tail, and restrict them to under 250. However, if Read and Voges continue the way they did this afternoon, an above par of over 300 could be on the cards.

Finally I would like to congratulate Gareth Batty, Stuart Meaker, Jade Dernbach and Steve Davies for being named in England’s preliminary 30 man squad for the ICC World T20. I am very happy for them, especially Gareth, who has put in so much effort over the last couple of years, and even though he probably won’t make the final 15, it is good that he has been recognised.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Spriegel returns to LVCC action

Matthew Spriegel has been included in a 13 man squad for the LVCC Division One match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge starting tomorrow.

If he makes the final X1, it would be his first Championship appearance for Surrey since August 2010. It is almost certain that he will play, and possibly open with Rory Burns, as the batting would look wafer thin otherwise. I have always thought that Spriegs is a good, solid batsman, and he has shown that in One Day cricket over the last 4 years, but he has never really cemented a place in the 4 day side, and at the age of 25, I think that this is his time to shine.

We have of course lost Kevin Pietersen for this match, and possibly the rest of the season now, as he prepares for the opening test against South Africa, so that leaves a huge whole in our middle order. That means that our other batsman need to stand up and be counted against a strong Nottinghamshire attack. Rory Burns has been in great form for the 2’s this year, but has so far failed to convert that into the First team. Due to the distinct lack of batsman in our squad at the moment, he will be given a few chances in the side, but he still has to take them.

Zafar Ansari is likely to drop down to number 6 in the batting order. He looked solid opening up against Lancashire last week, but I don’t feel that opening the batting suits him, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on lower down. Zander de Bruyn finally managed to find some form against Lancashire last week, and we need his runs and experience in the middle order, with him being the oldest batsman by some 11 years. Steve Davies hasn’t really got going this season, both in First Class and One day cricket, combined with rumours circulating that he may be leaving at the end of the season. Let’s hope that that doesn’t happen.

Once again our bowling attack looks strong, with 5 internationals included. After being rested at the weekend, Chris Tremlett comes back in and will play, presumably alongside our leading wicket taker this year, Stuart Meaker. Jon Lewis worked hard against Lancs last week, but looked rusty, and I may be inclined to give the Viscount Linley a go. However, with the extra batting Lewis gives, I don’t think he will be left out.

Overseas spinner Murali Kartik has once again been named in the squad, but some people across Twitter believe that he should be left out for an extra batsman. I totally agree with them. Kartik offers next to nothing with the bat, and looked extremely ineffective at Guildford last week, and with Batty in much better form with the ball, and Ansari and Spriegel in the team, we have plenty of spin options.

You can’t leave Kartik out for Linley, because he is even worse with the bat, but I would give Chris Jordan a game. Jordan has a point to prove, or he will be seemingly released at the end of the season, and offers an extra batting option down the order. However, I don’t think that Adams has the nerve to leave out his overseas star.

Adams spoke this week about the need of an overseas batsman, and I think that if the right option comes up, then he should take it. We have bowlers coming out of our ears at the moment, with Linley, Jordan, Dunn, Edwards, Jewell etc all waiting for a game, but hardly any batsman. Of course, we have lost a couple of batsman to unforeseen circumstances, but even before the season started we were in need of an opening batsman or two, and If Adams wants to stay in Division One, getting a batsman in is a priority.

As we saw at Guildford at the weekend, we face a star studded Nottinghamshire outfit, with 6 or 7 top class batsman, as well as Andre Adams coming back in alongside Darren Pattinson and Harry Gurney in the bowling ranks. They sit in second place in the table, a massive 50 points above us in 7th place, and will be a tough test for us. We have to hope that their batsman have an off couple of days, and our strong bowling attack can capitalise, as well as our inexperienced batting line up putting on a good show. So far this season we have had poor first days in all of our games, and even though we have fought back a number of times, it is important to get off to a good start against a team like Notts, because if you start slowly, you could be out of the game after Day One.

Surrey Squad:
Gareth Batty (C)
Rory Burns
Matthew Spriegel
Zander de Bruyn
Steve Davies (WK)
Jason Roy
Zafar Ansari
Chris Jordan
Murali Kartik
Stuart Meaker
Jon Lewis
Chris Tremlett
Tim Linley

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Notts thrash Surrey at Guildford

Surrey have been comprehensively beaten by the Nottinghamshire Outlaws in Group B of the CB40 at Guildford, going down by 5 wickets.

On a sunny afternoon, and on the same pitch as used in the Championship, Gareth Batty won the toss and elected to bat. Tim Linley and Chris Jordan  were the two to be left out, which meant Rory Burns would be playing his first CB40 game of the season.

With the way the pitch played in the previous 4 days, you would have thought that 250 was a minimum. It wasn't to be though, as our top order fell apart contributing to a massively below par score. Roy went third ball of the game, quickly followed by Davies and Wilson in the second over.

Zander de Bruyn usually bats well at Guildford, but played an awful shot in the situation, caught at slip, and we were 8-5 when Burns was out attempting a pull. An embarrassing start by our batsman, and had given our lower order a nigh on impossible situation. 

Spriegel and Ansari had recovered the score slightly, until Ansari was caught off a leading edge for 16 to reduce us to 48-6. The skipper Batty needed to build a partnership with Spriegel to get the score anywhere near respectability. The pair batted well, putting on the largest partnership of the innings, and took us toward 100 before Batty was caught behind off Gurney, and Spriegel was bowled by Gurney for 38. A good innings from Spriegel in the circumstances, but as we looked to push on, he got out to a poor shot. 

After a few lusty blows from Lewis, he was caught behind once again off Gurney, before the last wicket off Karik fell with the score on 123. A terrible performance from our batsman, but our lower order can hold their heads high as at 8-5, they could have easily subsided. 

After Hales and Lumb looked extremely comfortable for the first 6 overs of the reply, Lumb set off for a single but was sent back by Hales, with Lewis and Spriegel combining to run the former England opener out. 

Hales was then bounced out by Meaker, as Burns took a simple catch at deep square leg to reduce the visitors to 39-2 in the 10th. However, Meaker was certainly not at his best, and was leaking runs left, right and centre as Notts raced towards their modest target. England internationals James Taylor and Samit Patel then put on a a partnership that ended the slight glimmer of hope the Surrey fielders would have held onto.

Before they could finish off the job, Kartik had Patel caught well by Wilson in the slips, but it was too little, too late. The bowlers weren't giving up, as Batty had Voges caught behind for 2, and the skipper then had Wessels caught off a leading edge, but the victory was Notts' not long after by 5 wickets. 

So, an extremely disappointing performance today, and if we continue to play like that we will not be able to defend out title. We have lost 2 big players from our side in Maynard and Hamilton-Brown, and it was always going to be difficult without them. However, there is no real excuse for the way our top order  collapsed the way they did, and some practice in the nets needs to be be done.

Two players stood out for me today; Batty and Spriegel. They both batted very well, putting on a partnership which made sure that we even passed 100, and they also bowled superbly. Even though he didn't take a wicket, Spriegs only went for 20 off his 8 overs, and the skipper also bowled tightly as well as taking two wickets.

The pitch looked good for the spinners, and I feel that 200 would have been a good score, even with the Notts firepower. It's our first loss of the season in the competition, and we cannot afford to lose that many more if we want to get out of the group.

We now travel up to Trent Bridge to play Notts in the Championship next week, and we will be looking to get just our second win of the season, as the relegation battle continues. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Squad named for return of CB40

Chris Adams has named a 13 man squad for the return of the Clydesdale Bank 40 against the Nottinghamshire Outlaws at Guildford tomorrow.

Paceman Chris Tremlett has been rested for this game, as his workload cannot be overloaded after just coming back from a serious back injury. That means that other bowlers such as Chris Jordan and Tim Linley have a chance of playing. However, with the way that Surrey play in the CB40, there may only be spaces for two seamers in the side, and they may well go to Stuart Meaker and Jon Lewis who have also been named in the side. I would be inclined to give the Viscount a go as he has been waiting for his chance for months now.

The batting has been seriously been weakened, with Kevin Pietersen now joining up with the England squad to prepare for the opening test match against South Africa  next week, Rory Hamilton-Brown is on compassionate leave, and obviously Tom Maynard sadly passed away almost 4 weeks ago. That means that we will have to rely on a few of our younger batsman from now on, with Rory Burns and Zafar Ansari both included, along with the now experienced one day batsman Matthew Spriegel. All three will have to play, as Batty batting at 7 is a position too high in One Day cricket.

Gary Wilson has returned from Ireland though, and is available for selection. Gary has been in fantastic form over the last few weeks, having a fantastic Twenty 20 campaign, and is on the back of a 70 against Afghanistan last week in Belfast.

There are 4 spinners in the squad, with Spriegel, Ansari and Batty joined by overseas star Murali Kartik. As I said previously, Surrey like to play just the two frontline seamers, with de Bruyn backing up, so it is likely that all of the spinners will play and try and limit the runs scored in the middle overs of the innings. All 4 of them are in good form with the ball, so they will be an important factor in whether we win or not tomorrow.

It seems an age since we last played a game in the CB40, and so far we have defended our title well, claiming 4 victories out of 6, with the other 2 rained off. However, without key players for a variety of reasons, this is going to be a new test for our players, and they will be facing an incredibly talented Nottinghamshire line up, who have an array of exceptional One Day batsmen. Hales, Lumb, Taylor and Patel to name but a few, and it will be an interesting battle between them, and our stronger suit of bowling.

It’s always a good day out for the CB40 game at Guildford, and with the weather forecast looking good, I would highly recommend attending.

Surrey Squad:
Gareth Batty (C)
Jason Roy
Steve Davies (WK)
Zander de Bruyn
Rory Burns
Gary Wilson
Matthew Spriegel
Zafar Ansari
Murali Kartik
Jon Lewis
Stuart Meaker
Chris Jordan
Tim Linley

Nottinghamshire Squad:
Chris Read (C, WK)
Alex Hales
Michael Lumb
Rikki Wessels
Adam Voges
Samit Patel
James Taylor
Steven Mullaney
Jake Ball
Graeme White
Andy Carter
Darren Pattinson
Harry Gurney

Overnight Rain confirms draw

The 4th and final day of the LVCC Division One match between Surrey and Lancashire at Guildford has been abandoned, with the match ending as a draw.

Heavy rain overnight led to the outfield being extremely wet, and further rain throughout the day made it an easy decision for the umpires to call it off. Even if there was some play, there was no way a result would have been forced for either side, which made the decision even easier.

KP wasn't able to add to his 234*, and therefore not pass his highest First Class score of 254. We come out of the game with a respectable 10 points, after claiming maximum batting points yesterday for the first time this season.

Of the play we did have, I think it is fair to say that Batty made a big misjudgement in electing to field first, but he is a new captain, and you learn from your mistakes. The bowlers worked hard, on a pitch that didn't really help them, and it was fantastic to see Chris Tremlett bowling well and for nearly 30 overs over the first two days.

The batting was a bit hit and miss. Of course KP was exceptional, and showed everyone what he is capable of, but a couple of others will be disappointed with the way they played. Burns just misjudged a ball from Chapple which did jag back in a fair distance. Ansari looked solid and showed good temperament until he flashed at a ball he shouldn't have. Davies also did the same, and Roy did what Roy always does. Looks good, before getting out playing an aggressive stroke.

So we still have only won the one game in the LVCC this year, and the relegation fight is well and truly on. However, I fully believe this group of players can fight back and string performances together to make sure we are in the first division next year.

We now return our focus to the CB40 against Notts at Guildford tomorrow. We have done well in our defence so far, winning 4 out of 6, with two rained off, but with the loss of a couple of key players, we will have to be fully on our game against a good looking Notts line up.

Friday, 13 July 2012

KP goes Nuts at Guildford

Surrey have had a fantastic third day in the LVCC Division one match against Lancashire at Guildford, thanks to a remarkable double hundred from Kevin Pietersen.

With an overnight score of 425-7, and with more rain forecast, it was surprising that Lancashire continued to  bat. Shahzad and in particular the centurion Croft, came out aggressively and batted for half an hour, allowing Croft to reach his highest First Class score of 154*, declaring on 485-7.

As expected, Ansari and Burns opened up for Surrey, and we got off to a terrible start when Burns left the first ball of the innings from Chapple, and it nipped back and removed his off stump. A complete misjudgment from Burns.

De Bruyn joined Ansari at the crease and the pair consolidated the Lancashire attack well, steadily increasing the run rate heading into the lunch interval. However, 5 minutes before the break, Ansari pushed forward to a ball from Shahzad, and was caught well down at slip. KP was the new man at the crease and he and de Bruyn took us to lunch on 53-2, still trailing by 432. 

After the break. Pietersen started to bat aggressively, and dominate a partnership with de Bruyn. He hit the first six of the innings, when he dispatched Kerrigan into the car park. A shot that would have cleared the boundary anywhere around the world. 

Pietersens dominance was outlined when the 50 partnership was brought up, and he had made 45 of them. His 50 came off just 42 balls including 7 fours as well as that six. De Bruyn was beginning to find some form, as he brought up his third fifty of the summer.

The pair both upped the rate continuously, as they were seemingly trying to beat each other to a century. It was Pietersen who got their first, when he pulled a huge six into Dapdune Wharf. It was off just 92 balls, and the partnership with de Bruyn was mirroring the one he had with Tom Maynard at Guildford last year.

On that occasion, de Bruyn fell just short off his hundred, and unfortunately he did again, as Kerrigan trapped him LBW for 94 as he attempted to sweep. A great knock from the South African, and positive signs that he is beginning to find form. Davies joined KP and they took us to tea on 241-3, trailing by 244, but with 188 runs off the session, it had been a great effort from our guys.

Pietersen carried on his merry way after tea, launching Kerrigan for another six, and hooking Hogg for a maximum. He lost Davies though, when he was caught behind for 22 off Smith. KP went past 150 and with Jason Roy, continued to score at just under 5 an over. 

The run rate then went over 5 an over as Pietersen rocketed through the 160's, 70's and 80's. He whizzed onto 199 but lost the strike and then his partner Jason Roy who was caught down at fine leg for a well made 38.

After being stuck on 199 for more than 20 minutes,  he finally reached his double hundred. It had come off just 170 balls, including 7 huge sixes, and it had been one of the greatest innings you could have wished to see. 

He wasn't finished there though, as he continued to go on an assault of the Lancashire bowlers, and in particular Simon Kerrigan, who had a torrid day. He finished the day unbeaten on 234, and it had been a wonderful day for Surrey.

Some of the shots played today left me and many others speechless. Just some of the best hitting and stroke play you would ever see, and if you were there, then it is a day that you will never forget.

In the context of the game, we have presumably secured a draw now, and with KP still there, we will be looking to score as many runs as possible. We finished on 430-5, trailing by 55, and with the way our batting has gone recently, that is a fantastic effort.

Overall, a fantastic day for all involved with Surrey CCC, and after the difficult times of recent weeks, it shows how much of an impact KP has had on and off the pitch. I really am starting to love him, and let's hope we can see more of him from now on.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Lancashire prosper before rain arrives

Lancashire have strengthened their position on Day two of the LVCC Division one match at Guildford, ending on 425-7, on a rain affected day.

Surrey started the morning knowing that early wickets were vital to stop Lancashire from getting away from them. Surprisingly, Batty didn't take the new ball straight away, but we did get an early wicket, when Prince struck Kartik straight down the throat of de Bruyn at deep midwicket. A brainless shot from the South African.

Tom Smith was the next man to go, when he set off for a single, but de Bruyn picked up and threw down the stumps brilliantly to run him out. A fine first hour was completed when Gareth Cross pulled Meaker to Ansari at square leg. Lancashire 298-6.

However, Meaker was expensive and was sharply whipped out of the attack, as Croft was joined by his skipper Glenn Chapple. The pair frustrated the Surrey bowlers and took their side to lunch on 356-6, with an unbeaten partnership of 58. 

The pair started to up the rate after the break, as Gareth Batty struggled to find a combination of bowlers who could apply pressure to the batsman. The 100 partnership was swiftly brought up, as the visitors also went past 400, and there was barely any alarms for them on a slow pitch.

Croft did what all good batsman who got dropped early in their innings aim to do, when he drove Meaker through the covers to bring up a superb hundred. In the very next over, Lewis had a much deserved wicket when he trapped Chapple LBW. The partnership had been worth 119, and had seemingly put Surrey out of the game.

The rain then arrived and didn't stop as an early close was announced, and almost half of the overs had been lost. Overall a dissappointing day for us, but we started well, picking up 3 inside the first hour, but the partnership between Chapple and Croft has already taken the game away from us.

With more rain forecast over the next two days, you would think that Lancashire would declare, and try and roll over an out of form Surrey batting line up. Let's hope our batsman can perform, and if they can't, let's hope the weather can do us a favour for once.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Frustrating first day at Guildford

Lancashire will be the far happier team after Day one of the LVCC Division One match at Guildford, after ending the day on 245-3, but it wasn't without chances.

On a glorious summers morning, Gareth Batty won the toss and elected to field first. A surprising decision, but with some cloud about and it being the first game since the razzmatazz of the T20, bowling may not have been a bad idea. Jordan and Linley were the 2 from the 13 man squad to be left out, which meant Chris Tremlett and Zafar Ansari made their first appearance in the Championship this year.

Early wickets was the order of the day, but they didn't arrive, as Stephen Moore and Paul Horton got their side off to a solid start without many alarms. An hour into the day, Stuart Meaker made the breakthrough when he beat Moore for pace and trapped him LBW. 

That was the last wicket before lunch though, as Karl Brown joined Horton and he started to up the rate. Batty ringed the changes but struggled to apply pressure onto the Lancashire pair, who batted rather comfortably. There was a chance just before lunch though, as Tremlett drew Brown into a false shot, but the skipper put down a straightforward chance at first slip.

Horton was looking imperiously good, but he also gave a chance straight after the lunch break, when Kartik couldn't hold on to a low chance at second slip, once again off Tremlett. The partnership went past 100, and even though they gave those chances, it reaffirmed the miscalculation Batty had made in electing to bowl first.

Meaker was brought back into the attack, and he picked up the second, and his second, when Brown looked to run him down to 3rd man but could only edge through to the safe hands of Steve Davies. Ashwell Prince was the next man in, and straight away looked at ease at the crease, as he and Horton took their side to tea just 2 down.

A heavy rain shower in the interval lead to a delay to the evening session, and after coming out for a couple of overs to gain their first Batting point, bad light led to another delay.

The players finally managed to get back out in the middle at 20 past 5, still with 17 overs remaining in the day. The batsman managed to negotiate 11 of those overs, with Horton going to a superb championship hundred, but Tremlett finally had his first wicket of the day, when Batty managed to hold onto Horton at slip. 

But just 3 balls later, the poor fielding returned, when the normally reliable Davies put down a relatively easy chance down the leg side off Croft.  A third drop off the bowling of Tremlett. Croft survived another chance toward the end of the day, this time off Meaker, as Kartik once again put one down, but this time it was an extremely tough chance down to his right. Prince and Croft took their side to the close just the 3 down, completing a fine day for the visitors. 

Plenty of negatives in our performance today, especially with the fielding, as 4 catches went down. We have 3 spinners in our side, but worryingly they were played extremely comfortably by the batsman, and im not sure why Batty persisted with Kartik in the final session as he was so ineffective.

The main positive was the return to First Class cricket of Chris Tremlett, who bowled extremely well, and on another day would have had 4 wickets. 

Outsiders looking in would say "What was Gareth Batty thinking?" when he chose to bowl first, but the conditions did suit it at the time and the pitch was one of the greenest I have seen at the Festival. However, it didn't play like he thought it would, and if we fail to pick up early wickets tomorrow, Lancashire may bat us out of the game.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Squad for Guildford Festival named

Chris Adams has named a 13 man squad for the return of the Liverpool Victoria County Championship, as Lancashire make their first ever First Class appearance at Woodbridge Road, Guildford, starting tomorrow.

Chris Adams has been forced to make 5 changes to the 13 man squad that was named for the last Championship game, the defeat against Sussex at Horsham. Rory Hamilton-Brown is on compassionate leave, Ramps has retired, Jade is injured, Gary Wilson is on Ireland duty, and of course Tom Maynard tragically passed away 3 weeks ago.

That means there will be a chance for the younger guys in the squad to impress, with Rory Burns and Zafar Ansari in contention of a starting place. Rory Burns has been in wonderful form for the Second X1 and his club side Banstead this year, and surely deserves a start at the top of the order.

I presume that Ansari will play and bat at that number 6 position which is currently vacant in the side. I have been impressed with Zaf this year, where he was very consistent with bat and ball in the T20, and I would be intrigued to see how he gets on when having more time at the crease.

Chris Tremlett has been named in the squad, and will presumably make his first Championship appearance of the season, alongside the two star bowlers for Surrey in the competition, Jon Lewis and Stuart Meaker. It is great to see Tremlett back, and even though he still needs some miles in his legs, he will add vast amounts of quality and international experience to our attack. Tim Linley, our star bowler from 2011, has been waiting in the wings for months but looks once again to miss out on selection for the starting X1.

If it is Rory Burns to open, then it would be either Steve Davies or Jason Roy to open with him. Davies was Surrey’s highest scorer in the FLt20, but only averaged 18, which outlines how poor the batsman were in the competition. Jason Roy had a torrid T20 campaign, not registering one half century, and averaging just over 10. However, he did strike a quickfire 40 against Middlesex last Friday to suggest that he is starting to find some form, and he has to play, as Adams doesn’t have many other options.

Lancashire are nowhere near as strong as they were last year, when they won the Championship for the first time in 70 years. They sit one place above us in the table, but have played one game more, so a win here will put us above them in 6th. Their side hasn’t changed an awful lot since last year, but one more year into the legs of Glenn Chapple and Gary Keedy make them look like an ageing side who can be beaten by a young and vibrant Surrey side. It is sure to be an intriguing contest.

It is almost certain that the weather will play a part in one way or another in the coming days, but as we have seen with Surrey this season, a result is possible in less than 3 days. After the difficult last few weeks for the club, we finally registered our first win since the passing of Tom Maynard at the weekend, and we will be looking to take momentum from that into this must win game. On paper we have a stronger bowling line up, with possibly 5 internationals in our attack, but with the likes of Prince, Moore and Horton, their batting line up looks experienced, so it will certainly not be easy.

We haven’t had the greatest records at Woodbridge Road in recent years, as we haven’t won a County Championship game there since 2002, where we beat the White Rose of Yorkshire by 6 wickets. However, last year’s defeat to Middlesex will be remembered by Surrey fans for one outstanding innings, 141 by Tom Maynard. It was one of the greatest innings I have ever seen, and let’s hope our boys can put in a performance this week that Tom would be proud of.

Surrey Squad:
Gareth Batty (C)
Steve Davies (WK)
Rory Burns
Zander de Bruyn
Kevin Pietersen
Jason Roy
Zafar Ansari
Jon Lewis
Murali Kartik
Stuart Meaker
Chris Tremlett
Chris Jordan
Tim Linley

Lancashire Squad:
Glenn Chapple (C)
Stephen Moore
Paul Horton
Steven Croft
Ashwell Prince
Karl Brown
Gareth Cross (WK)
Tom Smith
Ajmal Shahzad
Kyle Hogg
Gary Keedy
Simon Kerrigan
Oliver Newby

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Mark Ramprakash: The Career of a Legend Part 3

Here is the final part of three blogposts I have written about Mark Ramprakash’s career between the years of 2009 and 2012.

2009 was yet another disappointing year for Surrey, as they failed to bounce straight back up to Division One under new coach Chris Adams. Ramps’ close friend, and club captain, Mark Butcher, announced his retirement from the game halfway through the season after a persistent knee injury, and Surrey were struggling to find a settled line up, as experienced players didn’t perform and the youngsters were still raw.

However, Ramps once again had a prolific year, averaging over 90 in the Championship, which led to many calling for him to be recalled to the England side for the final test of the 2009 Ashes. However, it wasn’t to be as Jonathan Trott was given the nod, and as they say, the rest is history.

This disappointment didn’t deter Ramprakash, who once again was the leading run scorer in the country the following year, scoring over 1500 runs, but a refreshed Surrey side with Hamilton-Brown as skipper couldn’t get promoted, but were certainly looking more promising.

At the end of the 2010 season, Ramprakash had gone past 40 and in October suffered an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. This was the first real injury that he had suffered throughout his career, and according to many, was the reason why his form has dipped dramatically over the last two seasons.

He had his worst season for Surrey in 2011, failing to reach 1000 First Class runs and scoring just the one century, and failing to get into the limited overs side. The team enjoyed success in both forms of the game, reclaiming promotion to Division One and winning the Clydesdale Bank 40, but Ramps failed to rediscover the form he had shown previously.

This year was even worse. Ramps looked absolutely nothing like the player he was before and even though nobody wished it, retirement looked more and more likely, as he was dropped from the side for the first time in ten years, and once again couldn’t break into the limited overs side. He scored just 107 runs from 10 innings, and it was hard for me as a supporter to see a man so good before, struggle so badly.

Mark Ramprakash is not only a hero of mine, but a legend of the game and Surrey County Cricket Club. As you have seen, he had an illustrious career, even though he never quite made it at international level.

As well as being a wonderful First Class batsman, he was also a fantastic one day player. He didn’t have the ability to score a 50 ball hundred, but his record of 13,273 runs at an average just over 40 speaks for itself, and for many years he was the leading run scorer in Domestic Twenty20, finishing his career with 1719 runs at a good average of over 32.

There are many wonderful memories that Ramps has given us throughout his career, but my favourite without doubt is when he got to his hundredth hundred. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at the time, when he cut David Wainwright behind square for four, and it still gives me goose bumps when I hear it now.

One of the greatest batsmen to ever play for our wonderful club. Thanks for the memories Mark, you will be sorely missed.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Mark Ramprakash: The Career of a Legend Part 2

Here is part two of three blogposts I have written about Mark Ramprakash’s career between the years of 2002 and 2008.

Ramps could now concentrate on playing for Surrey with less media pressure on him, and had a good second season for his county in which he scored 4 centuries, including 2 double centuries, helping Surrey to their 3rd Championship in 4 years. The Championship was won even though the team had suffered a tragedy before the season started, with Ben Hollioake dying in a car crash in March at the age of just 24.

This obviously hit the team, and especially his brother and club captain Adam, hard, but they managed to win the Championship that year, and follow it up the year after, by winning the inaugural Twenty20 Cup, in which Ramps was a vital part of. He also scored 6 centuries in the Championship, but without being able to catch the selectors eyes enough, as he was ignored for all international games.

In 2004, Ramps had his most prolific season yet for Surrey when he struck 7 centuries in the Championship to lead them to 3rd place in Division One. However, the wonderful Surrey side from the previous few years started to break up, as Adam Hollioake retired at the end of the 2004 season, which was a year after another Surrey legend, Alec Stewart, had hung up his gloves. 

Young players had to be brought into the team quickly, and even though they were talented, they weren’t anywhere close to what had preceded them. Ramps took over the captaincy at the beginning of the 2005 season because Mark Butcher was injured, and even with players such as Azhar Mahmood and Harbhajan Singh, Surrey were relegated to Division Two, finishing just one point behind London rivals Middlesex. Ramps still managed 6 centuries, as he continued to show the selectors what they were missing.

Even though it was Division Two, Ramps had his best season for Surrey by far in 2006, as he scored over 2000 runs in the Championship at an average of over 100, to lead Surrey straight back up into the first division. He scored his highest First Class Score in his career with an unbeaten 301 against Northamptonshire and he claimed the PCA player of the year award at the end of the season.

The return to Division One was a struggle at the start, as Surrey were right at the bottom for a long time in the season, but largely thanks to Ramprakash, they managed to survive. People doubted whether he could repeat what he did in Division two in the First Division, but he did. He once again scored over 2000 runs in the Championship, he hit 10 centuries, and became the first batsman in English Domestic cricket to average over 100 in two consecutive seasons. He was named one of the Wisden cricketers of the year for 2007, and even at the age of 37, a recall to the England side must have been on the cards.

However, once again the recall didn’t come, so Ramprakash had to concentrate on his time at Surrey. 2008 was a difficult year for Surrey, as they failed to win a game in the County Championship, the first time they had done this in their history, and were duly relegated back to Division Two, with Ramps covering Mark Butcher as captain. However, 2008 was once again a fantastic year for Ramprakash and one that will most definitely stick in the memory bank for years to come.

He started the season off by scoring 2 centuries in the first 3 matches, to take his overall tally of First Class Hundreds to 99. Media and fan pressure seemed to get to Ramprakash, as he went months without being able to secure that illustrious ton. However, on August 2nd he finally completed the feat when he scored an unbeaten 112* against Yorkshire at Headingley, the place of his first hundred back in 89. He was the 25th man to reach achievement, and as I said before, he will be the last.

Check back here for tomorrow for the 3rd and final part of my take on Mark Ramprakash’s career.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Mark Ramprakash: The Career of a Legend Part 1

At the age of 42, after a 25 year career spanning 4 decades, Mark Ramprakash has decided to retire from First Class cricket. Here is part one of three blogposts I have written about his illustrious career, between the years of 1987 and 2002.

Let me start by throwing a few stats at you. Mark Ravin Ramprakash has played a total of 461 First Class matches, a massive amount which with the way the modern day game is evolving, no-one will ever get near again. He is 38th in the list of all time leading run scorers in First Class Cricket, with 35,659; another stat that will never be reached again. Of the 37 people above him in the list, only 3 have a better average than his of 53.14. But he will most likely be remembered for his remarkable achievement of being the 25th, and likely the last, man to reach one hundred First Class centuries.

He made his First Class debut back in 1987 at age of just 17, and immediately made an impact scoring an unbeaten 63 for Middlesex against Yorkshire, and on July 20th 1989 he made his first First Class century at Headingley. From there on then, he began to get better and better. At the age of just 21, Ramps was selected for his first Test Match against the firepower bowling line up of the West Indies, which included the likes of Ambrose, Walsh and Marshall. He made 27 in both innings, and even though it wasn’t an excellent start, it was promising.

However, his Test career never really lit up, but while he continued to score heavily in county cricket for Middlesex, he was always in the selectors minds. It wasn’t until March 13th 1998, nearly 7 years after his debut, that Ramps made his first Test Match century, against the team he played on his debut, the West Indies. After being in and out of the team, he finally made another century against Australia in the Ashes of 2001 at his home ground the Oval.

The winter before his Ashes hundred, he moved south of the river to Surrey, a team who had won the County Championship in the previous two years. It didn’t take him long to make his mark at his new club, scoring 146 on his debut against Kent at the Oval in April 2001. At the end of his first season, he toured New Zealand with England, in what turned out to be his final test appearances. He finished his Test Career with 2350 runs at an average of 27.32 from 52 matches. Many compared him to Graeme Hick, who also struggled to adapt to international cricket, but was a prolific county batsman.

Check back here tomorrow for part 2 of my take on Mark Ramprakash’s career.