So near, yet so far.
Surrey’s last, albeit outside, chance of success this summer – promotion back to the first division of the County Championship – somehow slipped through their batting-gloved fingers on Friday at New Road Worcester, when from a commanding first-innings position, they were spun out by Moeen Ali and the left-armers of Jack Shantry.
Needing 217 for victory, from 122 for 2 at lunch, Surrey were bowled out for 189.
The four-day game against Derby, which begins at The Oval tomorrow (10.30am September starts) is therefore a bit of a dead rubber, and might have offered a chance to experiment with the line-up, maybe give a bit of first XI playing time to the likes of young leg-spinner Freddie van den Bergh, fresh from his five-fer in the final second XI game of the season. That such an opportunity has been spurned with the naming of the same 13-player squad as lost at Worcester is just the latest example of the enigma that is Surrey cricket.
Nothing is ever straightforward with the county side, of course. Following the near disintegration of the team a couple of summers ago, the abortive captaincy of Graeme Smith left a big hole to fill when the South African suffered injury.
As skipper, Gary Wilson has certainly impressed this season, and he has had the mighty benefit of captaining a side which has had the most exciting batting prospect in English, if not world, cricket, in Jason Roy.
Comparisons in batting style and aggression with Kevin Pietersen, that other enigma which still prowls the Long Room at The Oval, are inevitable, given the Whitgift-educated Roy’s South African twang and his awesome batting power. But while Surrey splashed the cash on expensive overseas imports such as Amla and Dilshan to try to fill the void left by Smith, it was six-hitting Roy who starred.
Roy’s England T20 debut against India this month was inevitable after his batting almost single-handed powered Surrey into the finals day of the shortest form of the game – where disappointment came once more, this time with defeat in the semi-final.
In the four-day version of the game, albeit against second division county attacks, Roy amassed three centuries and four 50s, though he needs another 53 runs in the Derbyshire game to achieve the season milestone of 1,000 first-class runs.
The experiment with Steve Davies shedding his keeper’s gloves to focus on his batting looked as if it was beginning to work for Surrey, and Rory Burns was also improving with the bat.
But look at Surrey’s last eight first innings totals in first-class games, and you get a clear view of where the problem lies: 626-6d, 421, 522-9d, 474-8d, 589-8d, 398, 480 and 406.
It is not in the batting department.
Finding a set of bowlers who can take 20 wickets in a four-day game, and who can work their wonders in the one-dayers must be the task over the winter – that Dilshan was Surrey’s most effective T20 bowler showed when he was unavailable on finals day.
Of course, in 2015, the Australians will be back for another Ashes summer, so there’s unlikely to be much focus on the county game at The Oval, which will bank the proceeds of the Test match’s five days of full houses and ponder where to spend it. Digging up and re-laying some of former groundsman Harry Brind’s one-time hard and fast pitches to put some life back in them might be as helpful as signing a match-winning bowler.
After all, it’s not as if Roy & Co won’t score enough runs to give the bowlers something to play with.
Coming to Croydon
- Soul Symphony Community Choir sessions, Sep 16-Dec 23
- Police question time, LNK at Centrale, Sep 17
- David Lean Cinema: Chef, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: Remembering the Great War, Sep 18
- The Complete History of the BBC – Abridged, Spread Eagle, Sep 19-20
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Sep 20
- South Croydon business breakfast, Sep 20
- Open House London weekend, Sep 20-21
- David Lean Cinema: A Night At The Cinema in 1914, Sep 22
- Activity to Work back-to-work workshops, Sep 23
- David Lean Cinema: Jimmy’s Hall, Sep 25
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Fancy dress family funday, Sep 28
- Ukrainian choir concert, St John’s Shirley, Sep 29
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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