Saturday, April 20, Sur v Som, all day
Had he seen the team sheets in the 21st-century, TS Eliot might have changed his tune. April is the best month for county cricket, if you want to see a few Test players finding their feet. England past and present strode out for Somerset. Trescothick, the titan of contemporary county batting, and Compton, the Tatler-friendly famous grandson of a god. Lady Kitty Spencer watched all of Compo's innings. She was able to enjoy an early lunch.
“Young Nick” makes a fetish of watchfulness, just as Trotty enjoys scraping the pitch. There were more leaves and practice leaves than shots. Fair enough. He was opening, no longer No 3 as he has been previously for Somerset, because of England duty. Dernbach and Meaker, rank outsiders for the Test squad but full of hopeful intent, were there to be seen off. Compton’s meticulous method was being rehearsed for a bigger stage. One backfoot punch through cover was pure class. His upright rigour and half-raised bat missed Meaker’s most direct mode of attack: the in-ducking yorker. Compton castled, off stump, for a sweet 16. Too much theory and not enough basic nous? Maybe. Meaker must angle 80% of his deliveries in. His skiddy pace warrants respect. Compton was very late on the one that bowled him.
Meaker accounted for Trescothick, too. The wrong sort of vintage Banger. Not a swat for six or a crunched drive, but fencing at ball going across him. I missed Hildreth, having found an agreeable corner of the tearoom and a newspaper. Petersen, meanwhile, was playing with a calmness that felt ominous for Surrey. They needed a cluster of wickets. Too many balls from Meaker were on Petersen’s pads. He brushed them away undemonstratively. Dernbach, too, failed to build sufficient pressure. And was visibly cross with himself for it. Batty, the off-spinner, is a tremendous trier, but a slow pitch gave him no help. Keedy, the newly signed veteran, looked half-retired already, innocuous and lethargic.
There are no obvious strengths to Petersen’s play, but no obvious weaknesses either. Few flourishes, fewer risks. Together with Buttler, he took the sting of out the post-lunch session. Kieswetter had been lbw to de Bruyn, whose bowling seems galvanised by Smith’s presence as captain. The batsman was a long way forward, probably plumb. Kieswetter’s bat and pad never seem fully acquainted. Petersen’s dismissal, for 91, was a surprise, partly because I didn’t see it. Caught by Burns off Batty. At 193-5, it gave Surrey a sniff. Trego and Thomas left no impression, Jamie Overton quite the opposite. He’s a big fella. Biltong big, sheep-station big. Like his identical twin, Craig, the Devon paceman puts the barn door into Barnstaple. I don’t remember much about his batting, except that he didn’t look 19. More like Tim Bresnan on steroids, though without the artificiality that implies. I’ve only seen him bowl on YouTube, but the Aussie U19s didn’t like it up ‘em. Some prospect. And there’s two of them.
Buttler is a cool hand duke. Realising some quicker runs would dampen Surrey’s ardour for a possible chase, he delivered. Swivelling pulls and swashbuckling drives, as Dockrell doggedly held up the other end. He is a team player, Buttler, like Prior (as his brief England appearances have shown), and not an unthinking one. I saw his innings at Lord’s in the CB40 final of 2011 (86 off 72). Faced with a batting collapse, he bided his time and then attacked with unfussy outrageousness (he should patent his own brand of the over-the-keeper flick). Those are Dhoni-like qualities. That’s not to say he’s like Dhoni or the next Dhoni, but it does suggest his Champions’ Trophy knocks will be worth watching. He fell for 94, attempting a second straight six as his hundred became the only reason to continue play. Not the finished article then, but the match ended there in a draw.
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