14 April 2017

Surrey vs Warwickshire - Review - Almost Perfection

Welcome to a (hopefully) regular series, where I review all of Surrey's fixtures this season, which will be between 36 and 42 depending on progress in the cup competitions.

 

Oh but for the one extra point. 23 points from 24, having been put in by Warwickshire, was a great way to start the season - and hopefully that push for the triple crown. We started off very well on day 1, with Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman hitting 5 runs per over about an hour in. At lunch, with over 130 on the board and no wickets lost, the initiative had gone straight back to us. Then followed an unnecessary slowing down of the run rate. By the end of day 1, Burns had gone to a jaffer for 71, before Stoneman and Scott Borthwick thrashed at wide deliveries for 165 and 27 respectively. That left Kumar Sangakkara and Dom Sibley not out overnight at 317-3. Ian Bell's captaincy was shocking. Despite leaking runs left, right, and centre, he persisted for about 40 overs with 3 slips and a gully. At 317-3 with 96 overs gone, I don't know why we didn't go like the clappers the following morning and aim for that fifth batting point. As it happened, as a result of these time constraints, by the time we decided to accelerate, the middle order and lower order collapsed to finish up on 454 when Mark Footitt's middle stump was uprooted.

A special mention should, however, go to Jeetan Patel, the Warwickshire spinner, who did a perfect "day 1" role that a spinner, particularly in England (albeit a rather hot April), should be doing. He didn't look like taking a wicket, but he managed to get Warwickshire a foot in the door by slowing the run rate down and tying up an end at a time when Warwks badly needed an end tied up. He really should have been supplemented at the other end, but with no other spinner available and the seamers leaking runs, I found it a surprise that Jonathan Trott didn't bowl more. Patel bowled 40 overs and thoroughly deserved 2 wickets - even if they were absolute gimmies from the Surrey tail. Patel, despite being a New Zealander, showed England that the holding spinner is not dead in the modern game, a fact that it has to be said England have lost sight of.

This was Jade Dernbach's first championship appearance since August 2015 - and for many was a surprising choice to play over Stuart Meaker. They had both bowled very well in pre-season. Many expected that Dernbach and Meaker would make way for Ansari and Footitt respectively. Whilst the latter occurred, Dernbach's selection - especially over Meaker - raised a few eyebrows. The four-seam attack of Tom Curran, Sam Curran, Mark Footitt, and Jade Dernbach proceeded to quash any misgivings about their selection by rolling over Warwickshire for 91. Yes, 91. In a week where Bell expressed his desire to return to the England setup, he, as well as Jonathan Trott, was dismissed by Footitt for a duck. Angus Fraser, one of the England selectors, was spotted at The Oval that day. The timing for Ian's duck could not have been worse.

However, the timing for Mark Footitt could not have been better. A one-time England squad member when they toured South Africa 15 months ago, his 6-16 was perhaps the single best spell of bowling I have ever seen. Every single bowl looked as though it could take a wicket. It said a lot that Gareth Batty and Borthwick didn't have to bowl at all. With only the two openers and Chris Wright at #10 making double figures, Footitt in particular won the Surrey the game.

Batty wasted no time in following on and by the end of day 2, barring a miracle from Warwickshire, Surrey would be victorious. Closing day two on 29-0, still 333 runs behind, I doubt many would have begrudged Warwickshire not even bothering to turn up on day three, leaving straight ones and getting back on the team coach as soon as possible. Jonathan Trott had other ideas. Ian Bell made a lovely 64 before slashing at a wide one which was beautifully caught by Scott Borthwick, but Trott ground out an excellent 151. Despite the middle order being completely spineless again, some good support from Keith Barker (57) and Jeetan Patel (29) took the game into a fourth day. It annoyed me that Surrey didn't take the extra half hour (what did we have to lose?) but closing day 3 just 3 wickets away from the win would have been an excellent position for anyone to be in.

Finally forced into bowling, Gareth Batty bowled very well indeed, bowling 20 overs for just 33 and bowled a fantastic over to Trott late on day 3, where, despite two appeals that looked plumb to me (and had Batty on his knees begging), Trott somehow survived. No one can question Batty's passion. His spell at the end of day 3 was particularly impressive - and when a chance off Barker was dropped at slip, he looked livid - although he took care not to be livid at the fielder directly. I only wonder why he didn't bowl around the wicket to Trott seeing as that's how he ran through the Bangladesh middle order in Chittagong (as praised by a Michael Atherton whose opinion of Batty increased dramatically during the game). Borthwick's 5-0-16-0 are slightly worrying compared to Batty's 20-3-33-1, and perhaps Zafar Ansari should be playing instead of him.

Tom Curran cleaned up the Warwickshire tail on Monday morning to give himself figures of 4-88, and Surrey ran out with 23 points and the top of the league table. Looking ahead to Lancashire, it will be a tougher proposition, particularly looking at the weather for that all-important toss, or rather, lack of it. Lancashire will almost certainly opt to bowl first, and that could put Surrey in the merde. However, having not lost at The Oval since 2014 in the Championship, I won't be too disappointed, particularly if Burns and Stoneman start whacking the ball around the park again...

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