Monday, May 6, Sur v Ham, YB40 match
Surrey is a flag of convenience. I’m a Hampshire hog really. As a former teenage member at Northlands Road in the late 1980s, I prize Gordon Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall in the memory bank. And the young Robin Smith, often batting helmetless (that mullet of steel wool being protection enough). Mark Nicholas, skipper and future broadcaster, swaggering like a Clapham estate agent. The valiant Paul Terry and the virtuous elder Tremlett (my mental image of him now a mix of Derek Shackleton and Tim Henman’s dad, though that might just be the Tim thing recurring). The miniature spinner Raj Maru, a sort of proto-Samit Patel without the batsmanship or the pies. The dependable CL Smith, Robin’s big but not bigger brother. Steve Jefferies taking 5-13 in a B&H final. Yet, above all, Greenidge and Marshall.
I saw Greenidge score 172 in a Sunday league match (still the Hampshire record for 40-over cricket) with 10 sixes and two broken windows. The shots that resulted in collateral damage at the City End were driven arrow-straight, with grouchy fury. He didn’t smile much, but he must have grinned then. His son Carl, who became a professional bowler, was an under-10, always near the hot-dog van, getting other kids to bowl at him. My geography teacher, and Dorset opener, Mr Merriman, required more rigorous practice ahead of facing Marshall in NatWest game. He cranked up the bowling machine to 90mph; some of us gathered behind the net to listen to the balls rifling past. Merriman made 17, bowled Tremlett.
Rather than specific scalps, it's Marshall's run-up that I remember. That sinuous yet sophisticated curve, both panther-ish and precision-engineered. He reached the crease at optimum pace, as if he were a long jumper hitting the board, except that nothing as unsightly as effort appeared to be expended. He was so light on his feet, like a Bajan Fred Astaire. Then his right arm whipping through in the blink of an eye. It's not an analogy I would have drawn in 1987, but today I think of Top Hat's Jerry Travers tapping his cane with a crack. Mark Nicholas says Marshall was a master of everything – speed, swing, seam – in the fast bowler’s armoury. I don’t doubt it. Marshall was certainly the best I’ve seen in the flesh. Odd to think that the ground has been built over now. The pretty Edwardian pavilion gone. There's a Greenidge Court and a Marshall Square, according to Google Maps. I hope someone there knows who they were.
How Hampshire could have done with players with even a fraction of their ability here. While I didn't see Carberry's briefly combustible knock, as far as I was concerned the "Royals" were anonymous from ball one and careless thereafter. Vince was the obvious strokemaker, the comparisons with Vaughan good and bad. That is, good Vaughan and bad Vaughan. Vince's back-lift is a bit higher, and his forward press not as apparent, but he cover-drives with the same regal magnificence. His leaves were equally disdainful and his dismissal, caught off a pull to square leg that was neither up nor down, reeked of that moment when arrogance becomes fatally overweening. Adams hung around until the slow scoring rate forced him to hole out at long-on, off Batty. The very ordinary-looking Bailey would do the same, off the second ball faced from Ansari, as the spinners applied the squeeze. Adams is mildly quirky. He starts on leg stump and rather jumps into position, his bat flexing upwards, like a cross between Trescothick and a startled cat. Dawson was neat and nurdly. He fell attempting a big shot when Smith dived full length to his left at mid-off to catch him. Ansari again the bowler. That was the first time I'd seen Smith do anything positive in a Surrey shirt. It was all down to Ervine now, and he did his clean-hitting best. Wood dinked a ramp shot that Buttler would have be proud of, then succumbed to a silly run-out.
In warm sunshine, Surrey meant business in chasing 228. Dawson's part-time left-arm spin bowled the first over to Smith. Why bother? Such gimmicks are telegraphed by teams' previous matches now. All surprise in the strategy is lost. How about the second over instead? Or just bowling properly? Smith had done his homework. He backed away to make room and smote Dawson twice over his head. Eight runs got the innings up and running nicely. Davies stayed wonderfully still and, lovely timer that he is, lifted Tomlinson's medium pace into the Peter May stand. Surrey were soon 43-0 off four overs.
Hampshire had no answer to the two Surrey left-handers in this form. Smith clumped his drives through mid-wicket as easily as closing a door. Davies played Wood through point off the back foot with the full face of the blade. Gower-like is not too fine a way of putting it. Briggs belatedly went over the wicket but the 100 partnership came in 12.3 overs (Davies 50, Smith 47). It is customary to describe Smith as a bruiser of a batsman and, next to Davies's delicate foil, he was a bludgeoner, it's true. At the same time, though, he is not without finesse. You had to admire how he opened his body a tad (twice) to scythe Briggs through a vacant cover. Or his array of leg glances, as choice as a butcher slicing cuts of meat. OK, this is a graceful as Smith gets, but give him credit for it.
Only Carberry stemmed the scoring rate. Shuffling in like a rapper approaching the mic at an awards ceremony, he bowled his off-spin with no fielder within 20 yards on the bat on the legside. Six singles duly followed. A triumph in the circumstances. Vince took a sliding catch to dismiss Smith for 74 off Dawson (162-1 off 20.3). Davies moved serenely on to his century in the 26th over, and Surrey went on to win by nine wickets. Their best performance of the season to date. By far.
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