Friday, 19 July, Sur v Ham, T20
This was painful to watch. Not, of course, from the Hampshire point of view. In that regard, it was as sweet as the equivalent YB40 fixture had been sour. And don’t forget, I’m really a Hampshire hog rootling among the Brown Caps. Surrey were stuffed by a Hampshire side superior in all departments – from the hustling medium-paced swing of Mascarenhas and Briggs’s stifling spin to the power of Carberry’s blade and the elegance shown by Vince. So academic did the victory become that, with the Royals chasing 126, I left well before the end. (T20 games with their fizz gone being very flat indeed). No, the reason for the pain – the sting in the tale for any true lover of cricketing aesthetics – was seeing Ricky Ponting struggle so profoundly on what turned out to be his last appearance in England.
What a different story it was from his final first-class outing. That was a leave-taking worthy of the man: an undefeated 169, carved if not on a burning deck then certainly on one that was causing plenty to wobble. Here, Punter was all at sea. He couldn’t yank across the line; he couldn’t hit on the up; he couldn’t clear the front leg. Admirable failings all, in a way, but obviously they meant he couldn’t buy a run in this format. It was as if a person of unbending morals had been asked to adopt a compromising position. His body simply wouldn’t play ball, or so it seemed. It was like a classical musician having to strum a power-chord at a rock festival. Oh, the indignity. It looked as angsty and ugly as John Cale's viola can sound, all the more so for not being a deliberate mess. You get the gist.
Somehow – singles having been granted in sympathy, perhaps – Ponting had made 3 when he backed away to loft the bustling Chris Wood over cover. He succeeded only in skimming the left-armer towards James Vince, who dived forward to take the catch. I’ve tried to wipe this innings from my mind, but it’s always there now – like a scratch on the otherwise pristine long-playing vinyl of that 169. So it goes.
Ponting had come in at 31-1 in the third over, Jason Roy having scintillated for seven balls, scoring 22. Roy looked for all the world like Pietersen’s apprentice. Reverse-sweeping Mascarenhas for six; a driving on the up that just evaded mid-off; and, most spectacularly, a scything baseball hit of a six over mid-wicket. Off this eighth ball, he was bowled leg stump. If he could be even slightly more judicious with this shot selection, he might be world-class in this form of the game. Davies had floated above the fray’s bish-bash-bosh. He still found the fence at cover point despite a packed off-side field. I’ve not seen a better timer this year. His batting can seem too refined for T20, though. Tuck him up and he’s less good at making room for leg-side swipes. He was dismissed by Mascarenhas swinging the ball back into him as he backed away to leg. Trying to clip through mid-wicket in his adjustment, Davies chipped a leading edge to mid-off.
Mahmood came and went, leaving Surrey 44-4 in the sixth. Wilson and Ansari busied themselves with singles and twos and threes. Some rebuilding was required, sure, but this was hardly IPL stuff. The two batsmen played like roadies shifting speakers before a show. Both fell trying to play the big shot. Boundary-clearing power simply not being theirs to deploy. Belatedly, Kevin O’Brien appeared, but lacked sufficient time to make an impression. A six of the last ball was greeted with rather ironic cheers.
In reply, Carberry’s hitting was so full-blooded that he nearly lost his balance with the effort. He hurls himself at the cut and the pull. I became fascinated by his feet, though. He takes a pace or two down the track – nearly crossing his legs in the process such that I’m surprised his doesn’t trip – and, from a narrowish base, hoists length deliveries beyond long-on or extra cover. It’s fierce but almost ungainly. Not so much an English Gayle as a mighty wind. Still, he’s closest we’ve got. The cussedness he would later display in the ODI series suggests a gutsy character, too. Might he be able to do a Michael Hussey-like job for England’s Test side in the troublesome No 6 position as well as being a back-up opener? Just a thought.
Vince again impressed in his similarity to MP Vaughan. He will surely interest England soon. Especially if his bowling can develop into a Collingwood- or Watson-like proposition. Once again, careless placement was his undoing. He pulled without aiming, and picked out deep square. When Carberry got too much loft on one of his up and overs, it was 47-2 in the sixth. Adams, brisk at first then overzealous, was run out by a direct hit to make it 90-3. Ervine, who is almost a limited-overs specialist now, and Dawson, a very handy little cricketer, took Hampshire home.
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