Sunday, 21 July 2013

Where do we go now in the T20?

With just 3 games remaining (hopefully not!) in this year’s Friends Life T20, I thought that I would write a blogpost on where we are at the moment, and how we should rediscover the form we showed pre-Nottinghamshire game.

With 4 wins out of 5, we certainly looked in a great position to qualify for the quarter finals for the first time since 2006, with 3 wins needed to all but seal our place. However, 2 games later we still sit on 8 points, now requiring a victory in our final 3 games to have a realistic chance of going through.

So what’s been going wrong in the last couple of games? Well, I don’t think you can look too far past the batting efforts that we have put in those games. We haven’t performed with the bat at all in the competition so far, but I felt the Essex and Hampshire defeats this week were particularly poor. Before the mid-competition break, which I personally feel didn’t help at all, the bowlers won us the game in at least 3 of the 4 victories we acquired, with Kent the one exception, but we cannot keep relying on them to pull us out of the mire.

Hampshire and Essex both have very strong batting line ups, both better than their bowling in my opinion, and will chase down modest totals which we set them. In both of the games last week the bowlers didn’t do a bad job, but were not helped by inept performances from most of the batsmen. Ponting did well in the Essex game, but apart from that there was no one who hit a score of substance in either of the games.

As has been mentioned previously we rely a lot on our openers, usually Jason Roy and Steve Davies, in limited overs cricket and if they don’t fire, then we struggle to post decent scores. You can’t really argue with that in my opinion as the one time one of those two really fired in this year’s competition was when Davies hit an unbeaten 90-odd against Kent, our highest team total in the tournament. However, apart from that innings, Davies has been very disappointing in the games that he has played, often getting out in an innocuous fashion and not even making a decent start, let alone a big innings.

Jason Roy at times has looked the world’s best batsmen at the crease, especially with shots such as the reverse sweep for 6 off Dimi Mascarenhas, but he has also failed to make a large impact. He has had a  better time of it than Davies, but he would be annoyed at the way he gets out sometimes, especially after he took 10 off of Mascarenhas’ first two balls in an over before being bowled looking for another big hit next ball. Alec Stewart and most Surrey fans will know that Davies and Roy are our two gun players in this competition, and if they don’t find form, we will struggle.

We shouldn’t have to rely on two players however, but the others have failed to apply themselves to the situation in front of them. Ponting has had one good game, Maxwell didn’t really have any, Mahmood has been a real disappointment after the form he showed in the IPL and Ansari has also been a tad frustrating at times. Gary Wilson obviously has been invaluable at times, and got us to competitive totals, but he won’t blast you to victory with his style of batting I don’t think.

So what’s got to change? I would make several changes to the team/ batting order. I would stick with the top 3 because they are our best 3 and should stay there. Azhar shouldn’t really be batting in the top 7 I don’t think, and either Burns or Solanki should be brought into the middle order to firm it up. De Bruyn should be taken out of the side because I don’t think his bowling warrants a place in the team, and either Tom Jewell or Tom Curran should be given a go down at 8. Jon Lewis shouldn’t be playing as his little medium pace dobbers have been played relatively easily of recent times, and Tremlett should be backed to perform in this format.

Other than that, there aren’t many other changes I would make to the team because there aren’t many other options pure and simply! I knew at the beginning of the season we were a batsmen or two light, and when the ones you do have hit a bad run of form, it puts you in a spot of bother.

So, overall, to win our final 3 games we must post better scores. Two of our 3 games are away from the Oval, at Lord’s and Chelmsford where the boundaries are relatively small, so hopefully we can use that as an advantage and produce the goods when it matters.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Can we go back to playing T20, please?

I never thought that I would say this, but I would much prefer us to be playing T20 than the County Championship at the moment, after another very poor day for us.

Despite half centuries from Rory Burns and Steve Davies, we were knocked over for just 198 and then failed to pick up a wicket with Notts closing day one on 50-0.

With the sun beating down and without a cloud in the sky, Gareth Batty had no hesitation in batting first when he won the flip of the coin. Team news was that Rory Burns was fit enough to play, which meant that, alongside Tim Linley, Dominic Sibley missed out.

Burns started positively as he worked Harry Gurney for 4 in the first over, but lost his opening partner when Arun Harinath edged to Samit Patel at slip. Burns continued to play an array of stunning shots, especially straight down the ground, but the other batsmen weren't as comfortable as the Banstead 'keeper, as Vikram Solanki fell to an in-swinging Andre Adams delivery for 7.

That wicket brought Ricky Ponting to the crease on his final first class game, and he and Burns had a rebuilding job to do. Burns moved to another Championship half century with a flick off Gurney, but in yet again the last over of a session we lost a wicket, when Burns could only tickle a leg side ball to Read behind the stumps. A disappointing way to end a very good 57 from Burns, and Notts were very happy with us going to lunch 3 down for 93.

And they would have been cock-a-hoop when Ponting edged onto his pad and into the hands of short leg on 29 just after the break. Zander De Bruyn managed to work his way to 16 until he flashed at Shahzad and was caught behind, leaving Steven Davies and Zafar Ansari with a big job on their hands. Davies played in his typically fluent manner, but Ansari struggled to tick the score along and in the penultimate over before tea (!) he firmly pushed Graeme White to Rikki Wessels at short leg and he held on at the second attempt. 175-6 read a very poor picture after choosing to bat.

It didn't get much better after tea as the last 4 wickets fell for just 23 runs, with the last 4 batsmen all registering ducks. Davies was the only one to put up a fight, as he was stranded on a very well made 65. 18 fruitless overs were to follow, where Wessels and Steven Mullaney made batting look far easier than we did, as the closed less than 150 behind with all their first innings wickets still intact. 

So after the joys of the last week or so in the T20, any thoughts of transferring that form and confidence into the Championship seem to have been distinguished. It often happens after some T20's that a side gets rolled over easily when they return to 4 day cricket, but the way the batsmen performed today, they can have no excuses.

Burns and Davies were the only two who seemed to adjust to the apparent very good conditions to bat in, with the others getting out to some rather poor shots or some very good bowling and fielding from Notts. Burns' wicket was key as he was looking better than ever today, but the others need to take a look at themselves.

We won an important toss but failed to capitalise, and if we can't find some wickets in the morning session tomorrow, we could be in for a very long couple of days indeed. 

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sibley may make debut in Ponting's last game

As one of the great batsmen of all time plays his final First Class game, a 17 year old prodigy has a chance of making his debut in the County Championship match against Nottinghamshire this week.

Ricky Ponting first played a First Class game back in 1992, 3 years before Dominic Sibley was born, and after 288 games, with almost 24,000 runs, Punter is bowing out of the game. Sibley, born in 1995, was just 3 months old when Ponting made his test match debut and now has the chance to play with a batsman that he grew up watching.

Here is the squad in full:
Gareth Batty (C)
Arun Harinath
Rory Burns
Vikram Solanki
Ricky Ponting
Zander de Bruyn
Steve Davies
Zafar Ansari
Dominic Sibley
Chris Tremlett
Jade Dernbach
Tim Linley
Gary Keedy

It’s not a certainty that Sibley will get a debut, however, as that rests on the shoulders of whether Rory Burns is fit enough after a hamstring injury he sustained in a second X1 match last week. Burns retired hurt and later wrote in his column for the Surrey Mirror that he had torn his hamstring, but I think if that was the case he would be out for a while, so hopefully he only tweaked it. We obviously need a win in the Championship and we want our best players available for the game, but if Burns wasn’t to make it, then it will be some occasion for Sibley.

The Ashtead CC opener is a graduate of the Pemberton Greenish Academy and doesn’t turn 18 until the 5th of September, the same birthday as a certain Mark Ramprakash, and has been talked about for a while. I first head of Sibley a couple of years ago when, at 15, he struck a double century in a Surrey Premier Division match against bowlers such as Jimmy Ormond, and since then I have been waiting to see him come into the side. It would be great to see him play tomorrow, but if he doesn’t, the experience for him would be vital for when he eventually does get a go.

What can I say about a man who is 21 years older than Sibley? Ponting will go down as one of the greats and it is a privilege that his last First Class match will be for Surrey at the Oval. He hasn’t had the best of times at our ground, obviously losing the Ashes in both 2005 and 2009 there, but hopefully he will bow out by providing us with one more superb innings. He will carry on to play in the T20 for us and in the Caribbean T20 in August, but this is the format that made Ponting who he is today.

When it comes to the bowlers named in the squad, there is a bit of a selection headache for Stewart and Barnes. 3 seamers plus de Bruyn have been named in the squad and two spinners plus Ansari, so there are plenty of options. Notts’ attack is much reliant on their seamers so I would presume that the groundsman would be told to try and produce a turning wicket, which may mean that Keedy, who took a 7-fer in his last game, will play alongside Batty. Another option is to not play Keedy and have Ansari and Batty as the two spinners and therefore play Trem, Jade and the Viscount. I’m not sure which way they are going to go.

So this is a massive game for us as we still look for our first win of the season. However, we have won 4 in a row in the FLT20 which could only prove beneficial for us when it comes to the Championship, because when you get that winning feeling, you don’t want to give it up easily.