Thursday, April 18, Sur v Som, second session
After a morning of errands and a gobbled lunch, I dash to the Oval, the crumbs barely brushed from my Uniqlo cardigan (the qualifier is important, but county cricket is one of the few places where cardigans of all denominations have freedom of conscience). Alviro Petersen has scored a shedload for Somerset in the first innings. Surrey are digging in. A stocky left-hander is joined by Solanki. The latter, on his Surrey debut proper, maintains the same unhurried air he’d shown last week in the ITV4 studio doing IPL punditry. Steve Kirby, a weight-trained Matthew Hoggard, steams in from the Vauxhall End, all perseverance and closing-time menace. He’d be played by Sean Bean if they hadn’t been spent the budget elsewhere. Sean Pertwee then. From the Pavilion End, Alfonso Thomas, lithe and slippery, muscles to the crease in a different way, like an eel through water. Surely he deserved at least one Test cap for South Africa? Too late now.
The bowling is accurate and “at” the batsmen. The left-hander is still stocky, unfazed. He’s hard to shift, with a productive shovel through mid-wicket. Stylistically, he may be the back end of a bus to Solanki’s sports car, but an appetite for runs, big ugly runs, is obvious. The Proteas and Surrey captain, GC Smith (at 6ft 3in, “stocky” only in his stance), has been dismissed cheaply though. The southpaw holding the fort is Rory Burns, the 5ft 9in 22-year-old from Epsom.
I first saw Burns in Surrey’s last home game of 2012. On a blazing September day, I’d gone to see KP blaze away. He’d holed out right in front of me at long-off to Graeme White. A slow left-armer? Naturally. Burns had hung around for 40-odd. His application evident even then. That year, Surrey had used seven different opening batsmen (Rudolph, Jordan, Davies, Roy, Ramprakash, Ansari and Burns himself). Eight if you count Spriegel, who played in a university game. Why coach Adams never brought in a proven championship opener as part of his new regime is beyond me. Admittedly, Rudolph batted like a reindeer. Arguably, though, Surrey haven’t had a decent opener since Darren Bicknell. Newman never fulfilled his potential; Carberry moved away to fulfil his; Butch, when not injured or with England, often batted three or four in the order. Burns might not look pretty, but he looks the part.
A great welt of black cloud loomed up over the OCS stand. Ken Clarke, sitting in front of me, might have been reminded of the funeral he’d attended the day before. I didn’t ask. Nor, when the thunder clapped, bother to stay in the long room – not so much a senior common room as a senior citizens’ common room – to see if there’d be more play that day. Peering out into the rain before making the dash home, I realised I was standing next to the guitarist of the Maccabees. Who said county cricket wasn’t very rock’n’roll?
Postscript: a quick Google turns up said guitarist’s musings on a fantasy pop cricket XI. Take it away, Mr White… “Having spoken to the boys about my team I’m very happy with it with the exception of maybe having Josh Homme in a Klusener enforcer role at six and Flava Flav has a shout at batting at three.” After a bit of back and forth: “Alright. Flav bats three just to see him in pads. I’d imagine he’d bat face-on like a late era Chanderpaul. Big shout. Let’s have Jagger bat four and Josh Homme allrounder at six. What a side.” So then, here’s Felix’s final XI: 1) Kraftwerk #1; 2) Kraftwerk #2; 3) Flava Flav; 4) Jagger; 5) Roots Manuva; 6) Josh Homme; 7) Keith Moon (wk); 8) Karen O; 9) Rue from the Maccabees; 10) Serge from Kasabian; 11) Nick Drake. Read more at http://www.alloutcricket.com/blogs/interviews-blogs/aoc-interview-felix-white#s4Us5QBpVuLz2yCM.99
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