Friday, May 3, Mid v Sur, afternoon session
It was a schoolboy error. Or, more accurately, a south London error. After a morning meeting in Paddington, I thought I’d go to Lord’s for the afternoon. Surrey members were allowed into the pavilion. I’d done the tour, been to a dinner in the Long Room, but never sat on the bleachers (not really bleachers, are they?). I swapped the Adidas for what teachers used to call proper lace-ups, even though the meeting was with designers. Wore a jacket and a good shirt. Got to the Grace Gate. Had forgotten a tie. FFS, Jackson! Still, I could pass into the Warner Stand, my favourite and semi-rarefied.
I was too late to watch the bowling of Roland-Jones, potentially the new Finn even though he’s a year older, and Finn himself, possibly not as good as the old Finn even though his run-up is (allegedly) smoother. Surrey had been dismissed on the stroke of lunch. Yet seeing Rogers, the Aussies’ newest old soldier, was the other main objective. Readers will discern that despite this journal purporting to deal with county matters there is more than a semblance of England themes. That can’t be helped. While I do enjoy county cricket, and respect the championship and many of its quirks, I am one of those cricket fans who feel its primary purpose is to funnel players to the England side. It may have been more sui generis in times past. No longer, in my view. For some county supporters, I know, that’s tantamount to treachery.
Nothing treacherous about the Lord’s pitch. Burns had scored a century for Surrey, most of the other batters had got in and then got themselves out. It was only a couple of days before that I’d learned, thanks to the estimable Neville Scott in The Times, that the reason for these docile surfaces was the return of the heavy roller. “It remains to be seen,” he wrote, reporting on Chesney Hughes’s 270, “whether the happy anthem for batsmen this summer will prove to be Ding Dong, the Pitch Is Dead.” Rogers was busy and well-organised but didn’t look particularly special. He knocked the ball into the gap at mid-wicket and scampered. His set-up was balanced, with the carefully held “square” that the arms make when the bat is raised his only obvious technical crutch. Robson, his partner, was more overtly pernickety in placing his feet; his stance opened a fraction, as is the modern way, his shoulders rather taut so that when he drove you could see the tension released like a spring. He is not yet qualified for England, but given Sydney is on his birth certificate, and the paucity of talent in the Baggy Greens’ top order, Australia might come calling. Rogers can obviously effect the introduction. Tremlett, bowling, seemed glad to have the sun on his back, but pitched a bit too short. That back-of-a-length stuff can look impressive, but Robson was able to leave with ease.
From the Nursery End, Dernbach was more on the money. He’s a funny bowler. I’ve never really rated him. Neat, almost prissy steps to the wicket, then that delivery action like a nodding donkey on an oilfield. The tricks, of course, that sometimes make him a one-day magician but more often a cheap conjurer. To his credit, he is trying to become more consistent. When he overpitched, Rogers crunched two drives to the short Grandstand boundary. At least Dernbach was making him play. The same shot was Rogers’s undoing when launched more expansively at the lesser pace of de Bruyn, dragging the ball into his stumps. Dernbach’s inswing trapped Denly on the crease after the ex-Kent man had "unfurled" a few attractive drives. Smith then shelled Malan, straight in and out, at slip. He immediately relegated himself to mid-off for the next over. Malan played one fizzing cut shot and blocked another delivery through extra for four. Sweet timing. He fell lbw to Batty’s first ball, however. And that was tea.
I missed the clatter of wickets afterwards, having decided I really ought to do an hour’s work at home. It hadn’t been an engrossing session. If anything, the chat around me in the Warner Stand had been more memorable. “Any female under 50 is a girl” was one remark about a second wife. “That Wendy Hurrell, who does the BBC London weather” did it for an old chap nearby. And the punchline of a joke involving a recently deceased prime minister and a recently debagged and already deceased TV presenter (now then, now then) both finding themselves on a Hellish track was (homophone alert) “shafting miners”.
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