Friday, May 10, Sur v Dur, mostly final session
So that was Graeme Smith then. Three championship matches (all drawn) and one YB40 (a stonking win). Presumably coach Adams was aware that Smith was carrying an injury/long-term dodgy ankle when he signed him? If he wasn’t, well, that’s a sore point indeed. Either way, Smith’s appointment, at least as far as this season goes, has to be regarded as a gamble that didn’t come off. His own batting form was middling for a player of his class. His captaincy? Let’s just say the job is much simpler when Steyn, Morkel and Philander are pounding in for you. Mere spectators are not privy to whether his “influence in the dressing room” had enough time to be significant. Adams has made noises that it was, and certainly Burns and Dernbach have looked like they were working hard for their skipper, just as Zander de Bruyn appeared to be taking some responsibility for the middle order and for breaking opposition partnerships. Otherwise, the old frailties remain, and become more glaring by the game.
Harinath, gliding a four attractively through gully, reached 50 as I arrived at the ground. The second ball that Thorp bowled from around the wicket had him playing away from his body. Pouched by Collingwood at slip. These kind of dismissals are all too common with Harinath. He’s meant to be a nice lad and all, but he shouldn’t be regarded as “promising” any longer. He’s 26 years old. It’s time to deliver grown-up scores. Last season, he made two centuries – his only two first-class centuries – and the talk was that he’d arrived. Yet his Cricinfo profile says he’s been involved with Surrey since the age of nine! If he was going to arrive he ought to have done so ages ago. Spriegel hung around too long without making the grade and left last season. Harinath should have been in the same boat. Alas, Surrey’s batting cupboard is so bare that Harinath, who can bat for long periods but not with much dominance, is deemed a first-team No 3. But, on what I’ve seen, he’s too slight a character (in all senses) to fulfil that role. One need only look at Burns’s progress to think there’s wisdom in skipping a cohort. Sibley, still at school, is meant to be something. And while we’re on the subject, Roy proved once again he’s not a championship opener, for all his List A exploits.
Worcester Man was with me – lured by the beer festival – so the batting of Davies was bittersweet for him. He would regal me with tales of Batty getting points on his bicycle and of his not quite Cantona-like attempts at crowd control. Thanks for the ale, too. What may have been Davies’s first ball was lazily chipped just out of reach (I’ll save the bowler’s blushes) of Durham’s debutant spinner Ryan Buckley. The youngster had a neat twirl, but not a huge amount of flight, and it was impossible to gauge how many “revs”, as Swann would say, he put on the ball. De Bruyn was playing solidly, his stance somewhat reminded me of that other Worcester legend GA Hick, and he swatted Thorp imperiously for four when the rather round-arm, almost rustic bowler dropped short. Not for the first time this season, Davies looked Surrey’s best batsman, all languid timing. He and de Bruyn seemed in no bother when Borthwick was belatedly introduced. In fact, the greatest danger to the batsmen appeared to be the pigeons on the adjacent strip. Borthwick bowled a couple of long hops and then a full toss, which Davies must have imagined sending our way, at wide long-on as he saw it. Unfortunately, he missed the ball and was bowled. At 221-5, a potentially catatonic afternoon was about to get lively. And catastrophic for Surrey.
With a rare bit of colour, Mark Baldwin in The Times wrote that Surrey’s lower order was “blown away like froth from the top of a foaming pint”. That’s unfair on the pint. Most of them batted like they were at the beer festival. Wilson got the only delivery that really turned and bounced, fending it straight to one of the now very animated close catchers. Poor de Bruyn fell to a repeat of the Wayne Phillips dismissal, although his attempted pull shot (was it a pull shot?) hit the keeper and popped up to short leg. I guess that must have turned a bit. Batty and Linley just propped forward and were caught. Keedy LBW. Surrey were all out for 237 and Buckley had taken 5-86. Later, Collingwood would say the pitch was a Bunsen Burner, as Borthwick bagged six in the second innings. To me, it was more than Surrey weren’t so hot.
In reply, Durham got off to a flyer. Stoneman, hitherto a player with a Harinath-like record, seemed buoyed by his fine start to this season. Mind you, Meaker was feeding his cut shot very obligingly. When he wasn’t bowling wides. Worcester Man made the valid comparison with Broad – Meaker either has it or has lost it completely – but Broad has a far better action and propensity for bowling. Meaker scurries in like Speedy Gonzales or a three-quarter on the break. Too much aggro and muscle in his delivery, not enough rhythm or finesse. He looks unbalanced at the point of release. Obviously, he can be a wicket-taking force, but he can’t be trusted as an opening bowler at the moment. Durham ended the day 48-0.
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