HOOK SHOT: Ahead of Surrey’s one-day final showdown at Lord’s tomorrow, MARCUS HOOK interviews the skipper about the season and his recall to the England Test squad
Surrey are back at Lord’s tomorrow for the final of the Royal London One-Day Cup against Warwickshire. Their captain, Gareth Batty, goes into the match celebrating an England recall a decade after he last played Test cricket.
Batty, the 38-year-old off-spinner, was one of the more surprising inclusions in the England squad announced this morning for the tour of Bangladesh, which gets under way next month. Also in the England touring party, and perhaos less of a surprise inclusion, is another Surrey spinner, Zafar Ansari.
Quite whether Batty will be given the chance to add to his 17 international caps for England probably depends on an unfortunate fate befalling spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali or Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
But no one can argue with Batty’s recent record in first-class cricket. In the last five seasons, he has taken 177 wickets at an average of 29.92. An average of 26.26 runs per innings, this summer and last, has also seen him become a rock-solid lower-order batsman.
If Surrey’s two previous finals with Warwickshire are anything to go by, they should have nothing to worry about tomorrow. In 1982, they chased down a target of just 159 with more than 26 overs to spare. In 2003, in the inaugural Twenty20 Cup final, at Trent Bridge, Surrey barely broke sweat as they completed the job with nine overs up their sleeves.
The key to the latest 50-over contest will be getting among Warwickshire’s batting.
With former Surrey player Rikki Clarke and England star Chris Woakes down to come in at No6 and No7, it will not simply be a case of polishing off the likes of former Test batsmen Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott.
For Surrey, Jade Dernbach has come to the party in his two previous Lord’s final appearances, and there’s little doubt the 30-year-old seamer will need to do so again if Batty is to hold silverware aloft on Saturday evening. Against Somerset, in 2011, Dernbach returned figures of 4-30 in the final of the Clydesdale Bank 40. Twelve months ago, against Gloucestershire, he took 6-35, including a hat-trick.
A dewy early start, at 10.30am, combined with a pitch that will almost certainly start damp, will mean that winning the toss and bowling first, just as Surrey’s Roger Knight chose to do 34 years ago, could prove decisive. However, ever since Surrey’s six-run defeat in last year’s Royal London final, Batty has been adamant that his decision to stick Gloucestershire in ultimately cost Surrey the game, as his side owed their success in one-day cricket last year to batting first and setting a target.
“As captain, I made that decision and we lost a game of cricket because I changed the formula at the toss,” Batty said.
“We can’t wait for Saturday. It’s a massive game for us. It’s the showpiece.
“Hopefully we’ve learnt from the mistakes we made last year. If we’re being hyper-critical maybe we could have done a little bit better and kept Gloucestershire to 210, but we certainly should have been capable of chasing 221. I felt we were in the game the whole time and we just lost a couple of crucial periods within it.
“Warwickshire are a very fine team, so we’ll have to play at our best, but I think we’re a pretty confident and buoyant group at the moment. We’ve played some very good one-day cricket this season, it’s unfinished business and I still feel we’ve got our A-game to play. Hopefully, we’ll deliver that on Saturday.”
In fact, Surrey have had a remarkably good season in 2016, especially the last two months of the season.
Indeed, it’s now a case of Warwickshire having survival on their minds when the champagne corks are popped after the Lord’s showpiece. Who would have thought that when the Bears beat Surrey inside three days down at Guildford at the start of July?
Chances are, Hampshire will join Nottinghamshire, whose fate was decided last week, in Division Two next year. But, as Batty points out, Hampshire will not take the prospect of relegation lying down.
“Hampshire fight tooth and nail. They always have done,” said Batty. “That was evident down at their place. But when they came to The Oval last week, we didn’t bowl very well as a group and we didn’t field very well. So, we need to address that side of things and get it right.”
Batty admitted to there being similar failings in this week’s nail-biting 21-run defeat at Durham. Nevertheless, the veteran off-spinner says the 2016 season has been one of continued progress.
“Division One cricket is good solid cricket,” said Batty. “The margins are very fine. We just let ourselves down at a couple of key points, maybe.
“Anyone who watched the interviews with me, early on in the season, I was adamant we were in a good place. There’s been absolutely no doubt in my mind what we want we’re doing and what we’re try to achieve. That won’t change. You don’t panic when you’ve got a wonderful squad and a great coaching set-up.
“We should have won the first game, against Notts. The amount of runs we gave away on the opening day was unacceptable. We had to take that on the chin, as a group. So that should probably have been a good start.
“We should also have got over the line down at Somerset. We missed opportunities to win that game. So, if you add those two into the mix, we’ve had a pretty good year in the Championship. The good thing is we learnt from those mistakes, which is all you can ask for.
“In a lot of ways we finished the Championship campaign the way we started,” said Batty. “Against a team like Durham, you just can’t afford to do that and they made us pay. It was very good players going at each other, hammer and tongs. That’s what we play Division One cricket for. It was a great game of cricket, unfortunately we were just on the wrong end of it. It could have gone either way.
“We made strides on the last day to win the game, but it wasn’t to be. When you’ve got Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Graham Onions, it’s a good Durham attack.
“We can take a number of positives from the Durham game, but we need to learn from it. It’s not the first time we’ve given runs away this season and we’ve been exposed at times.
“Sam Curran bowled beautifully on day three. That spell should have turned the game for us, but as soon as we had them in trouble we allowed the game to drift again.
“The way Sammy batted on the last day, in tough conditions, he showed what a wonderful talent he is already. The sky’s the limit in terms of where he could go in the future.
“He’s a proper batsman. The key to Sammy is he’s a proper bowler as well. Is it possible to do both over a long period of time? I don’t know. You’re looking at a Jacques Kallis-type cricketer who gets you an awful lot of runs and a lot of wickets. That’s what he’s doing for us.
“Hopefully, he won’t have to do the donkey work with the ball. That’s for the rest of us, to take up the slack. But if conditions suit him, Sammy’s red hot with the ball.”
Batty also singled out Surrey opening batsman and vice-captain Rory Burns, who followed up his 1,019 championship runs at an average of 48.52 in 2016 with 1,144 runs at 42.16 in Division One this summer.
“Rory has been exceptional,” Batty said. “England keep talking about openers and I would like to think he’s featuring in discussions. He’s been playing well for a long period of time, not just this year.”
So what will England be getting from Gareth Batty? Experience, yes, but even at 38, he says he is still developing and adding further strings to his bowling armoury.
“It comes with age. Probably, for the last five or six years, I’ve known what I’ve been doing. I’m trusting myself and I think I can do my job, given the circumstances – yeah, I’d back myself now, whereas maybe as a youngster I wouldn’t have as much.
“Over last winter I worked on a ball that goes the other way and a couple of technical things with Murali Kartik, Dan Vettori and Ramesh Powar, while I was playing for the Virgo Super Kings in the Masters Champions League out in Sharjah and Dubai.
“Even at my age I’m picking the brains of other spinners, in terms of how to go about bowling in certain conditions. It’s nice knowledge to have – I just wish I’d had it 10 years ago.”
- Marcus Hook has reported on Surrey county cricket since 2000. Last year, his column for the South London Press was commended in the ECB’s County Cricket Journalism Awards
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