Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Batty returns for T20 opener

Gareth Batty has been named in a 13 man squad to take on the reigning champions Hampshire Royals in the opening FLT20 game of the summer tomorrow at the Ageas Bowl.

After missing for over 3 weeks due to a side strain, it is great to have Batty back in the squad and he will take over the captaincy from Vikram Solanki.

Here is the squad in full:

Gareth Batty (C)
Jason Roy
Steve Davies
Vikram Solanki
Ricky Ponting
Azhar Mahmood
Glenn Maxwell
Zander de Bruyn
Zafar Ansari
Gary Wilson
Jon Lewis
Chris Tremlett
Matthew Dunn

It’s obviously not just his captaincy that we have missed over the last few weeks, with his bowling proving vital at times, and he had a successful Twenty 20 campaign last season which led him to being named in England’s provisional squad for the World T20 in Sri Lanka. Alongside Batty’s off spin is Ansari’s slow left arm and Maxwell’s off breaks, so it looks like we will field 3 spinners in most of the games this campaign, but Gary Keedy is left out of the party probably due to the fact he isn’t particularly quick in the field and is not the best with the bat shall we say.

When it comes to the seam bowlers, there are 5 named in the squad, including Matthew Dunn. It’s great to see Dunn named in a first team squad for two consecutive games but I don’t think he will make the final X1. It’s a massive blow that both Dernbach and Meaker are unavailable for the start of the competition due to different reasons, as it means that we will most likely field Jon Lewis as well as Tremlett which, along with Azhar Mahmood, means that there are 3 fielders who are less fleet-footed in the field than the younger players.

When it comes to the batsmen, it looks like the most explosive line up we have had in years. I presume the top 6 will be something like this: Roy, Davies, Ponting, Solanki, Azhar, Maxwell, all of whom can score at a rapid tempo and clear the ropes at regular intervals. That is something we have missed over the last few seasons of T20. We usually have a top 4 who can smash the ball out of the park, but it now looks like we have 6 who can do that role, and with 2 of Wilson, de Bruyn and Ansari at number 7 and 8, it is a very long batting line up. I personally would play Wilson ahead of de Bruyn as he had a superb time in the T20 last year and I don’t think Zander’s medium pace is required after his showing at Guildford against Lancashire.

A special mention for Jason Roy who had a difficult time of it in the Championship when he played, but since the Guildford festival he has worked hard and found some form. In his last 9 innings for Surrey second X1 and Reigate Priory he has scored: 127*, 124, 48, 13, 90, 6, 32, 78, 79. Some may say that the standard is nothing like first team professional cricket, but at least he has scored the runs. He could have easily gone back to the second X1 and Reigate and not put in 100% and not got many runs, but he didn’t do that, he put the effort in and hopefully he can have a good T20 campaign.

So, it all starts tomorrow against a strong looking Hampshire side. It’s important to get off to a good start and with 3 away games this week we must register a win as soon as possible, because as we have seen over the 7 years since we have qualified for the quarter finals, once you get off to a poor start, it’s very hard to produce that winning formula.

Surrey's greatest T20 X1

With it being 10 years since we lifted the inaugural Twenty20 Cup, I felt that it was a fitting time to look back at Surrey’s performance over the last decade in the razzmatazz of the shortest form of the game. Some players I have selected in Surrey’s best Twenty20 X1 were an easy pick, whereas others were more difficult to choose and more debatable. So, here is my X1:

Runs:  1170
Average: 23.40
Strike Rate: 156.00
Highest Score: 83
Being one of only 3 players to have passed 1000 runs for us in history, not many will argue with the selection of Ali Brown at the top of the order. Perhaps T20 came a few years late for Brown to really be at his destructive best, because in his pomp in One Day cricket he was unstoppable at times, but he still managed to hit the ball out of the park at a consistent basis in the early years of the format. It was a surprise that he never made a century, registering just 7 half centuries for us in 6 years, but he often got the innings off to a flyer and hit an unbeaten 55 to guide us to glory against Warwickshire in 2003. Brown has also claimed the most catches for us with 34, 13 more than next highest Stewart Walters.

Runs: 938
Average: 27.58
Strike Rate: 155.29
Highest Score: 99*
With 3 of the top 5 scores for us in T20 cricket being scored by Steve Davies, the former Worcestershire wicket keeper was an easy choice to open the batting with Brown. One of the most elegant batsman to play for our club for years, stroking the ball to the boundary in an effortless manner, it is a wonder why he hasn’t played more international cricket. On his day there are no better than Davo and he was undoubtedly the best signing in the Chris Adams era.

Runs: 729
Average: 22.78
Strike Rate: 137.03
Highest Score: 101*
One of the main reasons Jason Roy is in the team is purely because of the fact that he is the only Surrey player to have hit a T20 hundred. It was in 2010 against Kent at Beckenham and at the time he was a relative unknown around the county circuit, but he has since grown a reputation as one of the bigger hitters in the country. Don’t forget that he is still young and will, in my opinion, grow into the greatest T20 batsman in the club’s history.

Runs: 1032
Average: 22.43
Strike Rate: 130.79
Highest Score: 88
Ok, so James Benning was an opener and not someone who would bat at number 4, but I had to fit him in somewhere. Tipped for an England career for many years, Benning was an explosive batsman for us in the first few years of the competition and along with Ali Brown produced one of the best partnerships in the history of T20 cricket in England. It’s a shame that his time with us ended as it did and that his career has gone downhill, because at the age of just 30, he still could have had plenty of years left in him.

Runs: 1719
Average: 32.43
Strike Rate: 125.01
Highest Score: 85*
Probably my easiest choice to have in the team is the legend that is Ramps, who is our leading T20 run scorer by almost 600 runs. Perhaps not the format most suited to his style of batting, but he showed on many occasions that he was more than capable to put together an aggressive innings. He hit 13 half centuries, 6 more than the next highest Ali Brown, including a memorable unbeaten 85 to beat his old side Middlesex. Only 19 players have scored more runs than him in the English T20 game, with most of them playing far more games than Ramps did.

Runs: 257
Wickets: 36
Highest Score: 65*
Best Figures: 5-21
He may have only played two seasons of T20 cricket for us before he retired, but I don’t think there is anyone who can question my choice of having Adam Hollioake in the side as captain. Leading us to glory in the first year of the format, where most of the players admitted that they didn’t know what to do and what to expect from it, Hollioake spearheaded the attack with his, unplayable at times, medium pace. He didn’t captain the side the following year but he still performed, and considering there were far fewer games in the tournament than there is now, to claim 36 wickets in 2 seasons was a remarkable achievement. He remains the only Surrey bowler to claim 2 five wicket hauls in Twenty 20 and will long be remembered as a Surrey legend.

Runs: 665
Wickets: 33
Highest Score: 65*
Best Figures: 4-20
At his best, Azhar was the perfect T20 player. With the ability to hit the ball to all parts in double quick time and be very effective with the ball at both the start and end of an innings. Ok, maybe he was never the quickest mover in the field, but he could make up for that by keeping it tight with the ball. He played a key part in our early success in the competition and always came back to haunt us when we played against him for Kent, and hopefully the leading wicket taker in Domestic T20 cricket with 103 can bring us some much awaited success this year.

Runs: 203
Wickets: 53
Highest Score: 30*
Best Figures: 4-12
Schoey was very much hit and miss with the ball with us, but in T20 cricket you could always rely on him getting you a wicket. He is the joint leading wicket taker for us and took his 53 inside just 4 years. He may go around the park every now and then, but that happens to the best of leg spinners, and his batting was more than useful at times. Personally, I feel that he often batted too low down in the side and he should have batted higher to exploit his ability to hit the ball into strange areas.

Wickets: 37
Best Figures: 6-24
Strike Rate: 15.60
This maybe a controversial choice because he is now at Middlesex, but Tim Murtagh is the joint leading wicket taking seamer in T20 cricket for Surrey. His strike rate shows that he would regularly pick up wickets and his figures of 6-24 against his current club at Lord’s in 2005 are still to be beaten by a Surrey bowler 8 years on.

Wickets: 37
Best Figures: 4-16
Strike Rate: 14.20
The selection of the big man may surprise many people but by looking at his stats alone it is clear that he can be a fine bowler in the shortest format of the game. He has taken the same amount of wickets as Murtagh in 4 less matches and his economy rate of 7.02 is very rare in this day and age. A fit and firing Tremlett will be vital if we are going to succeed in this year’s competition.

Wickets: 53
Best Figures: 4-22
Strike Rate: 12.5
Last but certainly not least is mercurial talent that is Nayan Doshi. He never really impressed in First Class or List A cricket, but when it came to T20 it was a different story. He destroyed the myth that spinners would be played with ease in this format by going at just 7 runs per over and picking up a wickets every 12 balls he bowled. He tailed off in his last couple of years at the club but still remains the joint wicket taker for us with 53, which made him a dead cert for selection in my team.

Who came close?
There were quite a few players who came close to getting into the team when I was deliberating. Batsman such as Rory Hamilton-Brown, Tom Maynard and Scott Newman as well as all-rounders such as Matthew Spriegel. Bowlers who could have been included are those such as Jade Dernbach, but with 37 wickets from over 40 matches I chose not to select him, and Jimmy Ormond who tore Warwickshire’s top order apart in the final in 2003.

So, that’s my team. As you would have noticed, over 50% of the side is from the years when we were successful in Twenty 20. Would that team win the Twenty 20 competition in this day and age? Possibly, but the game has changed since then. I feel that X1 has the perfect weighting of big hitting batsman, those who accumulate runs quickly, bowlers who keep it tight and claim wickets at regular intervals in a 4 over spell.

If you have any queries or objections to the team I’ve chose, then I would be happy to hear them, so tweet to @SurreyFanBlog.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

KP century but draw likely again

He may only turn up every now and again, but Kevin Pietersen showed his true quality today by striking a scintillating century on Day 3 at Headingley.

Pietersen hit an unbeaten 177 off 188 balls to take Surrey to 353-7 declared, before Yorkshire ended the day 52-1.

Rain meant the start was delayed for an hour, but with us starting the morning on 53-1, still trailing by well over 300, a quiet session was needed. However, that wasn’t to be, as night-watchman Linley was caught in the slips in the first over of the day. Captain Solanki was then caught well by Gale at mid-on as he looked for an extravagant pull on 4, and Burns was trapped LBW on 29 for Sidebottom’s second wicket, as the hosts made a superb start to the day.

However, KP had other ideas and alongside the rejuvenated Zander de Bruyn, started to rebuild the innings. After over 3 months without any time in the middle, he was understandably scratchy at the beginning of his innings, but the longer he was in, the better he got. His partnership with de Bruyn had reached 97 before Zander was caught off Brooks for 38, but Pietersen had already past his half century, and was starting to tear the Yorkshire bowling attack apart.

Davies came to the crease to support Pietersen and he flew to his century, taking a particular liking to the leg spin of Adil Rashid, depositing him over the fence a number of times, before reaching his hundred with a couple into the leg side off Sidebottom. It had come off 106 balls with 12 fours and 2 maximums, but he wasn’t finished there as he raced us towards further batting points.

He lost his partner when Davies was caught off Liam Plunkett for a typically fluent 44, but that didn’t deter him as he moved to his 150 with another huge six off Adil Rashid. Gary Wilson perished for 12 as he was caught at long off looking to force the issue, but Pietersen continued on his assault, hitting 2 sixes and a four off a Sidebottom over before the declaration came with a deficit of 80.

The declaration was a brave, but positive, one and with a win so desperately needed, it was the right move. Yorkshire had 21 overs to bat tonight, and even though they lost Leeds to Keedy, they managed to negotiate them well and see themselves into the close on 52-1, a lead of 132.

What a great knock by KP at a much needed time, because if he didn’t get a score, we probably wouldn’t have avoided the follow on. His knock was reminiscent of his double hundred against Lancashire at Guildford last year, showing his real class and I wish we saw more of him at Surrey than we do.

Victory still looks unlikely as I feel that we needed to make a few inroads tonight to have any sort of chance, but that wasn’t to be, so it looks like a 9th game without a win. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

Gale blows Surrey away on Day 1

After winning the toss and electing to field, Surrey have endured a long day in the field at Headingley as Division One leaders Yorkshire have piled on the runs to put them in control after Day 1.

Skipper Andrew Gale struck an unbeaten 114 and Gary Ballance hit 90 as they put on a partnership of 204 to end the day in a strong position on 292-5.

The day started badly for Surrey as Ricky Ponting was declared unfit to play as he had a sore hand, so Gary Wilson had to hotfoot it up to Leeds to take his place in the side. Overhead conditions did suit the bowlers, so Solanki had no hesitation in bowling, but even though his bowlers kept it tight early on, they didn’t make the batsmen play regularly and once the opening pair of Lees and Lyth had done the hard work of getting themselves in, they reaped the rewards by finding the boundary more often.

Bad light brought an early end to the first session and the lunch break seemed to rejuvenate the Surrey bowlers, as Tremlett almost immediately got the breakthrough when Lyth edged to Solanki at slip on 41. Zander de Bruyn was bowling nicely and he picked up the second in the next over, trapping Lees in front for 15. The runs dried up and the pressure got to Joe Sayers who could only edge a drive off Linley to de Bruyn in the slips on 5, as Yorkshire had lost 3 wickets for just 15 runs to be on 77-3.

The decision to bowl started to look vindicated, but Gale and Ballance put paid to that by putting on a superb, almost chanceless partnership for the 4th wicket. Gale has recently hit a career best 272 and also a century at Lord’s last week, so came into this game in fine form. He looked at ease from ball one, striking the ball nonchalantly off anything that we threw at him, racing past his half century. Ballance was slightly more cautious after recently returning from injury, but he still showed glimpses of why he has been picked in England’s T20 squad for next week.

Gale was looking immovable at the crease until he skied Gary Keedy to Kevin Pietersen on 95, but the returning KP couldn’t hold on to a tough chance over his shoulder. Soon after he brought up his 100 off just 137 balls, with the partnership with Ballance moving past 150. Like his skipper, Ballance was looking for his 3rd Championship hundred of the summer and looked set for it, until Jon Lewis claimed his first LVCC wicket of the season when he trapped him LBW. Lewis then had the in-form Adil Rashid caught by Solanki for 5 late on, as Surrey started to claw it back slightly.

So after bowling first and reducing them to 77-3, it is disappointing that we have allowed them to get to where they have, but it shows why they are top of the table. Gale has hit a real purple patch recently and continued with that today and there wasn’t much we could have done about it. The sun came out after lunch, and even though de Bruyn got the ball to wobble a bit, the conditions were good for batting and the pitch equally as good. You can’t blame Solanki for bowling, because I think any captain would have, but his bowlers couldn’t back him up once again.

Obviously we need to get Gale as quick as we can tomorrow and roll over the tail, preferably to below 350, but with rain about over the next few days, victory is yet again going to be difficult.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Adams parts company with Surrey

As most of you will know already, both manager Chris Adams and first team coach Ian Salisbury have been sacked this morning by the club.

Many have been calling for Adams’ head over the last few months (possibly more for some), but I still feel that it is a shock that it has happened now. However, results simply haven’t been good enough so far this season, so perhaps it is the right thing to do and the right time as well to try and turn around our fortunes before we are relegated back to Division Two of the County Championship.

Adams came to the club for the start of the 2009 season, taking over an ageing, underachieving squad who had just been relegated after failing to win a game under the leadership of Alan Butcher the previous campaign. It was always going to be a tough task to build a squad to get promoted back to the premier division and for the first two years of his reign we finished towards the summit of Division two. 2011 was without doubt Adams’ best in charge of the club, under the captaincy of Rory Hamilton-Brown he led us back to where we belong thanks to 4 wins out of the last 4 games in the Championship, and collecting our first silverware for 8 years in the CB40. It was a great achievement with a young, vibrant squad, and long gone were the days of the likes of past-its such as Shoaib Akhtar and Andrew Symonds wearing the feathers.

Everything was looking positive for Surrey for the first time in almost a decade and many tipped big things for them in the years ahead. The start back in Division one last year wasn’t easy, but was far from disastrous, and we were competitive from the off. However, the unthinkable happened in June, a year ago tomorrow, when star player Tom Maynard was found dead. As a coach, how do you deal with that? It must have been by far the most difficult things for him to go through in his professional career, trying to get his talented squad through an unbelievably tough period, with on field matters understandably taking a back seat for a while.

Relegation looked on the cards from that point onwards and I don’t think there would have been many supporters who could complain after what the players had gone through. However, with Gareth Batty at the helm on the pitch, we managed to finish the season well and somehow keep ourselves in the top division. Yes, there may have been things that went on behind the scenes with Adams and Hamilton-Brown that we don’t know about, but you have to give him credit for what he managed to do in awful circumstances last year. I don’t think that achievement has been given the recognition that it deserved.

So after a good, young, talented squad had been built it was torn apart at the end of the 2012 season, with Hamilton-Brown understandably leaving for pastures new. A rebuilding job was needed, and what better way than bringing the most successful captain in test history to captain the side. Other decisions were certainly questionable, most notably the signing of Gary Keedy and the release of Chris Jordan and Matt Spriegel, but experience was needed and wanted by Adams.

The start of this season wasn’t bad, drawing to Somerset and Sussex, games in which we had chances to force home a victory but didn’t. We probably should have won at Lord’s for the first time in a long time and we looked a side difficult to beat. However, draws don’t get you anything in this game really, just an extra 3 points, and after losing two in a row against Durham and Notts it wasn’t looking quite so rosy as we languished in the bottom two. Was it a coincidence that our first loss was the first game Smith missed with injury? Well, I certainly think that was a factor, but if we use that excuse then we will get nowhere.

Poor performances in the YB40, including being decimated by Graham Napier at Chelmsford, and another 3 draws in the Championship didn’t help Adams’ cause, resulting in him losing his job after probably our best performance of the season in the LVCC against Sussex at Arundel.

So where do we go from here? Alec Stewart has been put in temporary charge alongside bowling coach Stuart Barnes, but with the club stating that a search for a long term successor will start soon, that makes me think that Stewart may not want the job full time. But, who would blame him? One of the most high profile positions on the county circuit, where you are expected to win most games due to the amount of money we have compared to others. Peter Moores has been tipped by some as well as former South Africa coach Gary Kirsten and Tom Moody. Graeme Smith is expected to come back to the club next year as a player, but also later this season in helping the team off the pitch, which may make Kirsten the favourite for the job.

So, it is an end of an era at Surrey CCC. Whether you agree with it or not, the results this season haven’t been good enough and a change was inevitable at some point. I don’t envy the man who replaces Adams, but hopefully he can do better than get 16 wins out of 72 games in charge.

Good luck in the future Chris and Ian, but now is the time to move on. As I said before, Alan Butcher was sacked with an ageing, underachieving squad and there is very much a sense of déjà vu about the dismissal of Adams.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Solanki and de Bruyn dominate but draw on the cards

A first Championship hundred for Surrey from Vikram Solanki has put his side into the lead heading into the final day tomorrow, but a draw is very much on the cards.

Solanki struck a stylish 130 as Surrey closed on 362-6, a lead of 67, with Zander de Bruyn finding some form to end the day unbeaten on 99.

The first port of call this morning was to try and see off the new ball against the most potent attack in the country at the moment. There was nearly the worst possible start when Harinath set off for a single off the day’s first ball, then sent Burns back which left his partner stranded but the throw missed. Magoffin and Anyon hit their straps from ball one and repeatedly beat the outside edge of the left handed pair and it was the Aussie who created the first chance with the ball but Joyce couldn’t hold onto a chance at slip after Harinath nicked off.

We were definitely riding our luck, which to be honest has been long awaited, as Magoffin once again took an edge, this time Burns, but Yardy couldn’t hold on this time. However, despite all the luck of the first 20 minutes or so, Harinath couldn’t make them pay as just after the 50 partnership was brought up, as he edged Chris Jordan’s 9th delivery to Joyce when on 23.

Jordan couldn’t be kept out of the game, because if it wasn’t his bowling it was his fielding, as 10 minutes before lunch he held onto a great catch at slip of Panesar to remove Burns for 36, but I would have thought Adams would have accepted 102-2 from the first session. But when Ponting went not long after the break for 13, with Jordan once again taking the catch this time off Magoffin, Sussex would have scented a chance.

However, Solanki was joined by de Bruyn and they made sure the hosts couldn’t get amongst the Surrey lower order as the put on a superb partnership in glorious batting conditions at the picturesque ground. De Bruyn struggled early on and rode his luck with a few edges flashing down to third man. Solanki was typically fluent though and brought up his half century as the first batting point was brought up and de Bruyn became more confident at the crease as his innings wore on, bringing up his half century just before the century partnership came up as we went to tea in a strong position at 231-3.

The tempo was then upped by Solanki in particular and he brought up his hundred with a stunning extra cover drive off Anyon for 4. It had come off 161 balls, but he wasn’t finished there as he was playing a shot a ball until he held out to Prior at long on off Panesar. Davies and Wilson both came and went for 10 as they looked to force the issue and those two wickets seemed to change the method for Surrey as de Bruyn and Ansari slowed down against the new ball.

It seemed as though there were enough overs for de Bruyn to complete his century but it wasn’t to be so he will have to come back tomorrow morning.

That was a very good day for us all in all, but once again it looks like we are going to pick up another draw, which isn’t really any good to us. Solanki was superb and another hour of him would have made the game more interesting, but that wasn’t to be. It’s great to see Zander hit some form finally, because he has had his critics (me included), but he has worked hard and hopefully it is paying off.

The only thing I can see happening is a draw, unless we can roll Sussex over for next to nothing, but the pitch still doesn’t seem to be playing that bad so that is highly unlikely.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Season's best for Linley helps dismiss Sussex

4 wickets from Tim Linley has helped Surrey bowl Sussex out on Day two of the LV County Championship game at Arundel.

Despite a half century from Michael Yardy, Linley claimed figures of 4-62 as the league leaders could only make 295 after the washout yesterday.

The start was once again delayed this morning, but for just 15 minutes this time due to early morning drizzle. The toss was won by Vikram Solanki and in favourable overhead conditions he elected to field first, with Jon Lewis and Gary Keedy the two players from the 13 man squad to be left out of the final X1.

Chris Nash and Surrey’s nemesis of the last two season Luke Wells opened the batting for the hosts, but Dernbach made sure that the classy left hander didn’t improve on his average of over 100 against us by trapping him LBW for just 3. Despite that early wicket the pitch didn’t seem to be doing much for the seamers, so taking advantage of the new ball and the conditions was vital. However, Nash and Yardy steadied the ship well until Linley had the former caught by Solanki for 32 10 minutes before the lunch break.

After choosing to bowl Solanki would have wanted at least 3 or 4 wickets inside the first session, but that wasn’t to be, but after a flurry of boundaries after the interval, the Viscount had his second when captain Ed Joyce was caught behind. Ex-skipper Yardy was joined by Prior and made sure that we couldn’t get 2 wickets in quick succession as another partnership was built to frustrate the Surrey attack. However, despite his luck of being picked in the side, de Bruyn helped to build pressure onto the Sussex pair, and removed Yardy LBW for a well made 69.

Prior was looking strong but straight after tea Zafar Ansari had his first Championship wicket of the season when he got the big wicket of the England ‘keeper, and in the very next over Dernbach bowled Ben Brown for 1 to reduce Sussex to 206-6. Ideally, we would have liked to restrict them to less than 250, but a 59 run partnership between Luke Wright and Chris Jordan stopped that before Tremlett had Wright caught by Ponting. The last 3 wickets fell relatively quickly, with Trem also picking up Anyon and Linley bowling Jordan for 41 to finish off the innings.

Rory Burns and Arun Harinath had four overs to survive, and they did that by ending the day on 1-0.

So I think that’s a good day for us all in all, but with this game theoretically a 3-day game, a draw is the most likely result. All the bowlers bowled well today in patches but didn’t really bowl well at the same times, because whenever we seemed to get a wicket, a partnership was then built. In a game like this you perhaps need to roll a side over for less than 200 to force a result, but if you would have asked me at the beginning of the day if I would have taken 295 all out, I probably would have said yes.

With just two days to go we most likely need to bat positively tomorrow, gain a first innings lead and have another go at Sussex at some point on the 4th morning. Draws are no good to us at the moment, so we need to play attackingly and hope that we get that much needed bit of luck which is very much overdue.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Ansari in squad for Sussex clash

Zafar Ansari has been named in a 13 man squad for the LV County Championship match against Division One leaders Sussex at Arundel starting tomorrow.

After finishing his studies at Cambridge University last week, Ansari has been drafted straight into the squad for the first time this season for another must win game for Surrey.

Here is the squad in full:

Vikram Solanki (C)
Rory Burns
Arun Harinath
Ricky Ponting
Zander de Bruyn
Steve Davies
Gary Wilson
Zafar Ansari
Jon Lewis
Tim Linley
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach
Gary Keedy

Even though it isn’t certain that Ansari will play, it is still great to see him back in the set up as his temperament and ability has certainly been missed. I personally would select him in the final X1 and bring him in for de Bruyn, who once again struggled at Guildford last week. So far this season we have predominantly gone with 3 seamers, 1 spinner and de Bruyn as the makeup of the bowling attack and de Bruyn has bowled far more often than he did last season, so possibly Adams will stick with him ahead of Ansari as a 4th seamer, but I do hope that is not the case.

Ansari opened the batting for the last half of the 2012 season but not with sustained success, hitting just one half century in 12 innings, averaging just over 22. Therefore, I would put him in the middle order at perhaps 5 or 6 because I feel in the long term that would be his position in the side. Anyway, why tamper with an opening partnership between Burns and Harinath which put on two stands at Guildford larger than any previous this season.  

You may well have noticed that Stuart Meaker is missing from the party and this is because he sustained a knee injury at Guildford and will be missing for around two weeks. That is a blow because on his day Meaker can make things happen that others can’t, but this season he has struggled to start games well, often going at an expensive run rate. That gives another bowler their chance however and I presume that alongside Dernbach and Tremlett will be one of Lewis and Linley. I’m not too sure who I would go with but Lewis may get the nod as he can bat, because a tail with Tremlett or Linley at number 8 is extremely long!

However, it all depends on who other selections in the side. If Ansari plays ahead of de Bruyn, Adams may opt to have him as the sole spinner in the side and play all 4 seamers and not Keedy. However, Ansari’s left armers were reluctantly used last year in the 4 day game so Keedy may be picked despite his average being over 120 so far this season.

As stated previously, Sussex sit at the top of the Division and will prove another tough test this week. With the league’s top wicket takers in Magoffin and Jordan and the likes of Prior, Joyce and an in form Luke Wright, no wonder they are doing so well but we have to ignore that and go out and win the game.

By the laws of averages we are due a win in this competition and it could propel us up 3 or 4 places if we manage it, which would certainly reinstall some much needed confidence and belief into the dressing room.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Prince and Katich end YB40 hopes

Half centuries from Ashwell Prince and Simon Katich have guided Lancashire to victory over Surrey this afternoon at Guildford.

Prince struck 76 and Katich an unbeaten 57 as Lancashire recorded a 5 wicket win to end our hopes of qualifying out of group B.

Lancashire won the toss and elected to field first and the team news was that Tom Jewell and Gary Keedy missed out. That meant the returning Zafar Ansari was the lone spinner in the side.

Steve Davies and Jason Roy got the innings off to a flyer, especially the former England 'keeper who was at his fluent best. He took a particular liking to Kabir Ali early on and Glenn Chapple, hitting both of them for majestic maximums. He reached is half century of just 26 balls, but shortly after perished to an outstanding catch on the boundary by Stephen Moore with the score on 101.

Roy was less aggressive but still looked good, but also straight after getting to 50 he looked to advance Jordan Clark but could only edge behind. Ricky Ponting joined Solanki, and there was a moment of controversy early in his innings. He pulled Clark towards the boundary, Ashwell Prince took the catch but fell over the rope as he tried to evade some eager young fans who were too close.

A disgruntled Chapple didn't had to wait long or Ponting's wicket though, as he hesitated when he set off for a single and was run out by a direct hit for 17. Solanki and Wilson milked it around for a few overs but a superb catch from Katich saw off the skipper, and when Wilson went LBW, we had fallen to 190-5.

We needed a partnership, but instead Azhar looked for a six down the ground and was caught at long on, and when Ansari was caught behind without scoring, we were struggling at 198-7 in the 32nd. We were in serious danger of getting a score well below par, and when Jon Lewis went for 14, it looked bleak.

However, Zander de Bruyn and Chris Tremlett put on a vital stand of 45 for the 9th wicket. It wasn't explosive but was just what was required, and with 18 coming off the last over thanks to a six from both batsmen, we had reached a competitive, but under par, 264-8, with de Bruyn's unbeaten 34 being a timely return to some sort of form.

Lancashire's openers of Stephen Moore and Prince got their side off to a great start, taking a liking in particular to Azhar, who bowled two no balls in his first spell. They were ticking along at the required rate, but Jon Lewis got the much needed wicket when Moore top edged to Wilson at mid-off with the score on 85. That wicket brought about a bit of pressure, as the required rate headed over 7, but Prince was still looking at ease at the crease. He and Croft looked to take the game away from us, but Croft wasn't as comfortable as Prince and fell when he edged Dernbach behind for a much deserve wicket.

Lancs were still on top, but when Azhar had Prince caught at mid-on for 75 and then bowled Karl Brown next ball, we were right back in the game. The rate was creeping above 8 an over, despite big hitter Clark going well at the crease, but when de Bruyn trapped him LBW, the Surrey fielders felt confident with 76 needed off 9.

However, as he did against Essex last Monday, Solanki had left too many overs for de Bruyn to bowl at the end of the innings. He was reluctant to use Ansari who had suffered some tap off one of his two overs, so de Bruyn had to bowl in the last 10, and it didn't go well. With 58 required off the last 7 overs, de Bruyn conceded 5 consecutive boundaries in the 34th over, which allowed Katich and Cross to comfortably knock off the runs.

So that was a tight game at some points, but I personally didn’t think that we were on top at any point apart from when we were 100-0 in our innings. Either Roy or Davies had to go on and get a hundred because I think that 290 was a minimum on that pitch, with the outfield seemingly much quicker than in previous years at Woodbridge Road. However, that wasn’t to be, and Lancashire bowled and especially fielded superbly throughout, and restricted us well.

As I say, I never thought that we were on top at any point in the Lancashire innings, even when the rate was above 8, because that is pretty comfortable at Guildford. When Clark went, we needed another quick wicket, preferably Katich, but that wasn’t to be and when de Bruyn was left to bowl late on, the game was up. I’m not sure why Ansari only bowled 2 overs and ultimately it was the wrong call by Solanki, and those decisions in my opinion led to the defeat.

So we are just about out now of this competition, so focus needs to go back onto the Championship with a visit to Arundel to play Sussex next week.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Late Rankin wickets put Bears in control

3 wickets in an over from Boyd Rankin late on Day 3 has put his side into a winnable position heading into the final day of the Championship game at Guildford.

Surrey had eased their way to 262-3 as the end of the day drew close, but Rankin stormed in from the railway end and picked up de Bruyn, Meaker and Wilson in the space of 4 deliveries as we closed on 269-7.

Unexpected morning rain meant that the start of play was delayed, and even though it wasn't particularly heavy, it was persistent and wiped out the entirety of the morning session. Play finally got under way at 2:30, with Burns and Harinath resuming on 49-0 in reply to Warwickshire's 631-9 declared.

The pair had no problems in reaching our first 50 opening partnership of the season, but the visitors made an early breakthrough when Barker got one to leap at Burns, and the left hander could only fend the ball to Clarke at slip for 34. However, Vikram Solanki immediately looked at home at the crease, unleashing a variety of boundaries around Woodbridge Road.

He overtook Harinath in no time at all, and was seemingly dealing in fours, bringing up his half century at just under a run a ball. The pair moved their partnership beyond 100, but as he did at Derby last week, Solanki got out in the last over of the session, LBW to Javid for 69, as we went to tea on 169-2.

Ponting came to the crease and he and Harinath continued from where they left off at Derby last week, with the former Australian skipper immediately looking comfortable at the crease by hitting back to back boundaries off Jeetan Patel early in his innings. While the crowd were fixated on Ponting, Harinath continued on his merry way at the other end and brought up his half century with a smash over extra cover for 4 off Javid.

Ponting then swept Javid over the temporary stand for a huge six to get the crowd going, as Surrey were frustrating the Warwickshire bowlers. However, Rikki Clarke was brought on and immediately made an impact when Harinath drove in the air to Troughton at cover point to end his dogged innings on 65. That brought the out of form de Bruyn to the crease who started well with a cover drive and a flick down to fine leg off Wright to give him a couple of early boundaries to build the confidence.

However, as they looked to take us to the close 3 down, Rankin had other ideas. He first bowled de Bruyn for 17, before doing the same to night-watchman Meaker two balls later, and then trapped Wilson LBW for 2 second ball to really put a cat amongst the pigeons. Ponting was watching helplessly at the non-strikers end, and that wasn’t the last of the wickets, as Roy was caught for 2 in the last over of the day off Barker, to leave us on 269-7 at the close.

With half an hour left, I thought that we had done well today, but that has completely changed now. Harinath and Ponting were so comfortable, and even de Bruyn was looking solid before he got out so the pitch is still good for the batsmen, but they failed to apply themselves to the situation. Losing 4 wickets in an over against Essex last Monday felt bad, but losing 3 in one over tonight was arguably worse, as we have now got to hold onto dear life to get a draw out of this game. Once again de Bruyn can’t find form, and you can’t say the pitch is seaming around corners because it isn’t; the last two he has batted on have been superb but he has a combined 28 from those 2 innings.

Another missed opportunity for Roy, who had a chance there to prove he has what it takes to dig out a much needed innings, but falling late on means that he will probably go back out of the side unless he can get runs tomorrow.

Ponting’s still there, unbeaten on 50, but with only Tremlett, Dernbach and Keedy to come, we will most likely be batting for a second time come 12 O’Clock tomorrow morning, with a big job on our hands.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Record breaking Bears make Surrey toil

Warwickshire have recorded their highest ever score against Surrey to put themselves into a commanding position heading into the third day at Guildford.

The visitors struck 631-9 declared thanks to a century from Keith Barker and a highest First Class score for Ateeq Javid.

With Warwickshire starting the morning on 359-3, early wickets were an absolute must to prevent them from batting us out of the game. And early wickets is exactly what we got from Jade Dernbach, who had Chopra caught in the slips by de Bruyn for a superb 192 just 10 minutes into the day's play.

Dernbach was really bowling with pace and aggression and removed the other overnight batsman Tim Ambrose LBW to leave two batsmen at the crease on 0. The battle between Guildford boys Rikki Clarke and Dernbach didn't last long, as de Bruyn held onto another sharp chance at slip, with Warwickshire slipping to 398-6 within the first hour. However, Javid and Barker pulled their side out of the slight hole that they had got themselves in, as the other bowlers failed to build on the pressure made by Dernbach and the Bears went into lunch on 446-6.

Things got far worse after the break as Barker took the attack to the Surrey bowlers. He blasted his way to his half century with the 100 partnership between him and Javid also coming up, as they passed 500. Javid also went to his half century, his first in the Championship, at a slower pace than Barker's but was doing exactly what his side wanted. 

All attention turned to Barker, who was still hitting the ball to all parts, including pulling Meaker into Dapdune Wharf for the first six of the game. He brought up a superb century with a couple off Dernbach and had batted his side into an un-losable position. Meaker then misjudged a mistimed a pull from Barker and his return throw went for and overthrow to sum up Surrey's day, as the Bears went to tea on a massive 587-6.

Jason Roy, who bowled one over before tea, continued afterwards and would have left the frontline seamers scratching their heads, as he picked up career best figures of 3-35. He first removed Javid for a well-made 85 to end the 211 partnership between him and Barker, before trapping Barker in front with a yorker for 125. When Tom Milnes mistimed a hook to Wilson behind the stumps, Warwickshire finally pulled the plug with 21 overs remaining in the day.

Harinath and Burns did well and looked comfortable at the crease apart from one slight chance where Javid couldn’t hold onto an extremely tough chance at short leg of Clarke, as they closed on 49-0; our highest opening partnership of the season.

So, another highly frustrating day for us then. After Jade got us off to a great start this morning, there were aspirations of restricting them to less than 450, but Barker and Javid quickly stopped that from happening. They batted superbly and barely offered a chance throughout their innings, but it was disappointing that the bowlers couldn’t back up Jade’s good work. That has often been the case this season, where one bowler has created an opening and the others haven’t supported them. There was a slight glimmer that we could have reduced them to a below par score on this surface, but once again we failed to capitalise on opportunities that arose.

The sole objective now is just not to lose the game, as it has been far too often this season. The pitch is too good to bat on to collapse to 250 all out for example and Burns and Harinath did well this evening, but the follow on target is still a long way away at 481, so hard work is needed tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Surrey look to break Guildford hoodoo

Surrey will be looking to win at Guildford in the County Championship for the first time since 2002 when they take on reigning Champions Warwickshire at Woodbridge Road tomorrow.

A draw against Middlesex in 2003 brought an end to 8 consecutive years where we won the 4 day game at Guildford, and we haven’t won there since. It was 11 years ago in July when an unbeaten 124 from Ian Ward led his side to victory over Yorkshire by 6 wickets, and with relegation a possibility for both us and Warwickshire this season, this week’s game couldn’t be any bigger.

Here is our squad for tomorrow’s game:

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

As you can see there is no Gareth Batty in the squad for this game and Vikram Solanki will once again captain the side. Batty has a side injury and by the sounds of how he was speaking on commentary yesterday, he could be missing for a while, with Churchy confirming on Twitter that he is likely to be out for 4-6 weeks. That is a massive blow for us after already losing Graeme Smith to injury earlier this season, but it’s not just Batty’s leadership skills that will be missed, his off spin his so key to our success, especially as pitch’s take more spin further along in the season.

So the reigns are passed over to Solanki for the time being and he doesn’t lack experience in the role, as he was Worcestershire captain from 2005 to 2010. However, last night’s demoralising defeat to Essex in the YB40 highlighted some pointers that he may not be up to the job anymore. Bowling Stuart Meaker’s 8 over allocation before 30 overs were up and leaving Zander de Bruyn and Tom Jewell to bowl towards the end of the innings was a massive mistake and ultimately allowed the hosts to get a score well above par. I personally would have given the role to Ricky Ponting, but after hearing his interview on talkSPORT this morning, he is happy just turning up an focussing on his own game, rather than having the captaincy on his shoulders.

Ponting will be looking to continue with his good batting form from Derby on a traditionally good pitch to bat on at Guildford, even though it has been slightly more favourable to the bowlers in recent times. Arun Harinath played one of his better innings for us last week and he will continue at the top of the order alongside Rory Burns, who has had a lean couple of games and will be looking to improve on his golden duck he picked up against Lancashire at this ground last season.

Zander de Bruyn has once again been named in the squad, despite obviously lacking in form but probably more importantly in confidence. He has a good record at Guildford with 2 half centuries from 3 innings, but sadly I can’t see him discovering the superb form he showed in 2011. I want nothing more than to see him score good runs because he was one of the better players on the County Circuit when we signed him, and also there are no other all-round options until Ansari turns up. I’ve said this all season but he should bat at 7 if he plays, with Wilson at 3, Solanki 5 and Davies 6. But, it is unlikely that Adams will go down that route and will continue with Zander at 5.

With regards to the bowlers, it is a blow that Dernbach is once again unavailable. He has been in good touch with the ball in this format this season and it is rather surprising that England haven’t let him go after his very poor performance in the second ODI against New Zealand. Gary Keedy will play as the sole spinner, and the seam attack will be made up of 3 of Tremlett, Lewis, Linley and Meaker. Considering that our batting line up will be shortened with Batty out of the side, I think Lewis should get the nod ahead of Linley. The Viscount has worked hard recently but hasn’t exactly grabbed his opportunity with both hands, so I believe Lewis should play alongside Trem and Meaks.

As stated at the beginning of this blog, this is a massive game for both sides. Warwickshire have only won one game this season to our none, and currently sit 6th in Division One, just 11 points ahead of us. That means that a victory this week would propel us above them and Somerset into 6th place, which would make things look a bit rosier and install some much needed belief into the dressing room. It might be a good time to play them as well as Chris Woakes is with England, but Boyd Rankin and Keith Barker have both been named in their squad meaning their bowling still looks relatively strong.

A good start is an absolute must tomorrow, because if we allow Warwickshire to get on top, they have the ability to hurt a side when they are down. Hopefully we can have a successful first day and force home a victory over the next 4, with the weather set fair for the whole week.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Game ends in draw at Derby

As expected the County Championship match between Derbyshire and Surrey has petered out into a draw on the final day at the County Ground.

The result doesn’t suit either side as both are still yet to register a victory in the competition this season, with relegation looking a real possibility unless their form can be turned around.

We started the morning on 362-4, trailing by 90 runs, with Davies and centurion Ponting unbeaten at the crease. It was clear that there had been a chat before the day’s play and that we would try and set something up and force a victory later on as both batsman, especially Davies, batted at a high tempo throughout the morning. Ponting went past his 150, the first player on debut for Surrey to do so, and Davies also brought up his half century at over a run a ball as we took the lead just over an hour into the day’s play.

However, just as we looked to up the rate even higher, Davies was caught in the deep off Wainwright for 59. Wilson came in and looked busy, but attention turned to Ponting who was nearing a double century, but on 192 he looked for a quick single off Durston and was run out. An outstanding innings from Punter, a great way to start his 2-month stint with us, and I think run out was the only way Derby were going to dismiss him!

Shortly after lunch the declaration came on 563-8, after Wilson (45) and Batty (15*) hit some lower order runs, and our lead moved onto 101. The pitch was still a belter to bat on though and it would have been remarkable if we managed to roll the hosts over in less than 2 sessions. Tremlett started tightly but the other bowlers couldn’t back him up, and Chesney Hughes batted superbly to distinguish what little hope we did have of picking up a win.

When Tremlett was brought back on for his second spell, he removed Billy Godleman with Derby still 25 in arrears, but when they went to tea on 101-1 the game was all but over. Trem was kept on after the tea break and picked up two quick wickets, first bowling centurion from the first innings Wayne Madsen with one that kept low, and then bowling Hughes for a superb 68 to put a few jitters into the Derbyshire camp.

However, that was the last wicket to fall, as the captains shook hands just after 5 with Derbyshire on 164-3.

Even though the draw was expected it is still quite disappointing. These are the games that we need to win if we are going to stay in this division. I can understand that the pitch was brilliant to bat on and we lost most of the first day to the weather, but the bowling on the first day wasn’t the best, and that allowed Madsen and Chanderpaul to score quickly and put their side into a commanding position. And also today, where I know that it was always going to be a massive task to get a victory, our bowlers didn’t start well enough. Early wickets would have worried the home dressing room slightly and then you never know what might happen. However, that wasn’t to be and the inevitable draw was the outcome.

Next up we face Essex in the YB40 tomorrow evening Live on Sky before the start of the Guildford Festival on Wednesday. This year we come up against champions Warwickshire in the Championship, and even though they haven’t started the year as well as they would have liked, it is sure to be a tough task. We haven’t won a 4 day game at Guildford for over 10 years now, so now is the perfect time to change that.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Harinath and Ponting star on Day 3

Sumptuous centuries from Arun Harinath and debutant Ricky Ponting have dominated the third day’s play of the County Championship game between Derbyshire and Surrey.

Harinath hit 154 and Ponting is unbeaten on 120 as Surrey closed on 362-4, trailing Derbyshire’s first innings score of 452 by 90 runs.

With us starting the morning on 35-1, Derbyshire knew that early wickets would put them into a great position considering we were still over 400 runs behind. However, Harinath and Solanki made sure that that wasn’t going to happen, by batting sensibly on a pitch that was still really suited to the batsmen. Harinath was scoring fluently, taking a liking to the spin bowling of David Wainwright throughout the morning session, but Solanki found things a bit tougher. After being struck on the side yesterday by Mark Foottit, he suffered a barrage of short stuff and was clearly uncomfortable at the crease.

However, he managed to get through that spell and helped Harinath to his half century, but in the last over before lunch Solanki was caught off Durston for 35. A rather fortuitous wicket for the hosts, as the ball rebounded off ‘keeper Johnson and into the gleeful hands of short leg; not the greatest time to lose a wicket. We started the afternoon session on 137-2, and off just his second delivery Ponting got off the mark with a couple off Durston and immediately looked at home.

The Aussie legend ticked along at his usual effortless pace and supported the stubborn Harinath who didn’t give the Derbyshire attack a chance. He eased his way towards three figures and brought up his first century of the summer in perfect style with a six over long on off Durston. It had been a splendid innings and had come off 224 balls with 13 fours to accompany that maximum.

Around the time that Harinath reached 3 figures, it became somewhat clear that a few of the Derbyshire players were ill as they had to leave the field at numerous points. Umpire Nigel Cowley also fell unwell and Ian Salisbury had to stand at square leg in his place for a quarter of an hour or so. Ponting didn’t let that affect him though as he moved to his half century with a pull through midwicket off Wainwright; finally an overseas signing immediately making an impact. The partnership went past 100 and a second batting point was achieved just before the tea interval in which we went in on 255-2.

The pair continued on their merry way in the evening session, as Harinath found the boundary at regular intervals, bringing up a brilliant 150 40 minutes after tea. Attention then turned to Ponting who was heading towards his century, but before he could get there Harinath looked to pull Wainwright and was bowled for 154. A top knock from the young man, coming when it was very much needed by his side. A couple of overs later the moment came, when Ponting inelegantly pulled Durston to the boundary. His hundred had come off 149 balls with 13 fours and had been a pure master class like many we have seen before.

Zander de Bruyn joined Ponting and the pair took us towards the close before Wainwright bowled the South African for 11. It was a perfect time for Zander to get some runs but once again he has failed. Davies joined Ponting to take us to the close just the 4 down.

So what a day for Harinath and Ponting. Firstly, it is fantastic to see Arun get rewarded for his hard work. He has always been able to bat time at the crease, but has often batted at too slow a pace to get a substantial score. However, that wasn’t the case in this innings as he batted at a good tempo and showed huge confidence by bringing up his century with a six. In regards to Ponting, what more can you want from your overseas batsman in his first game? Simply superb throughout but that’s what you expect from the second leading run scorer in test history, right?

Looking at the game as a whole, it is very unlikely that a result will come out of it. After Derby reached 452, our job was just to make sure we didn’t lose the game, because if we did we wouldn’t only be bottom of Division One, but it would have seriously dented what confidence was left in the dressing room. I don’t think Derby will want to try and set up a game tomorrow because the pitch is still good to bat on and claiming 10 wickets in say 2 sessions, looks a tough ask.