One of the joys of cricket watching is that your mind can wander off into other areas yet still be fixed on what’s in front of you.
So today I have a dilemma from being a member of three ‘home counties’ sides. Middlesex are away so do I choose the wicket carnage at Chelmsford or the flat plains and batting paradise for which the Oval has great renown?
Ben Foakes formerly of Essex and now of Surrey has the reputation of being the best keeper around and is also having his batting praises sung by all who have seen him this season. So, off to the Oval.
There is talk that he should be picked for England for his batting alone and having been in the squad for Australia last winter is clearly on the radar. If he is picked, there’s the delicious possibility of Foakes, Woakes and Stokes all playing in the same side at the same time…now when did something like that last happen? Lillee, Willey and Dilley could have played in the same match back in the ’80s but there’s nothing since?
Which leads my mind onto selecting teams by types of name and promoted by the Worcester side here today which has a Tongue and a Head in its current eleven! So can I put together a side whose surnames are body parts? How about professions or composers?
Of the current era…Virdi, Elgar and Wagner come immediately to mind for composers; Archer, Cook, Clarke, Smith, Pope, Porter, Carter, Buttler, Procter, Taylor, Abbott, Fletcher, Carver, Fisher as a starter for professions!
But back to the cricket…Surrey progress without too many alarums to 350/6 just before lunch with Burns after initial struggles sailing into the 160s in fine form. His pre-delivery fidgeting is not on a par with Steve Smiths but is annoying yet effective.
There’s also a habit forming of keepers standing up to fast bowlers- this may be an indication of the lack of pace in pitches so far this season but I shudder to think what Truman, Statham, Snow, Willis, Lillian Thomson and others of yesteryear would think!
And into the afternoon with Surrey 377/6 and Burns 182*. During lunch the non-playing Surrey bowlers had a run out on the outfield to everyone’s delight and joy, especially the toddler who joined in at the end- Surrey seem to tick all the boxes! And some famous names on display.
Surrey make you feel welcome from the moment you arrive and you’re not corralled by temporary barriers into guided walkways as other grounds can do. Also security is present but light touch. Other grounds seem to worry that you’re bringing glass into the ground for reasons which are not clear. Perhaps they’re worried that the local WI are trying to smuggle cakes and sponges to subvert the local catering? Who knows but it’s all a bit haphazard.
So…all these names and sides should really concentrate the mind on one side – the England test XI due to meet Pakistan in the first test at Lord’s in just under three weeks. Pundits in the press claim that current Championship form should not count as the matches and pitches have been so poor but if you marginalise the Championship then you have to deal with what you’ve got not what you want! This is why pundits may not make good business entrepreneurs! Anyway, on the basis that class is permanent and form temporary Root, Cook, Bairstow and Anderson pick themselves. To open with Cook I would have Burns (ok just out here for 193 but looks a good prospect and has shown decent form for a while). At #3 I would have Malan – his class is developing and the century at Perth was pure class and skill; Root at 4, Bairstow 5 and bring in Foakes at 6 (as a batsman but with a view to taking the gloves within a year or so, swapping with Jonny), Stokes at 7. If that doesn’t give us the runs we need then we are in peril as a team. Bowling is a bit trickier – Broad and Anderson on their past form but not for much longer (end of 2019 Ashes for both of not earlier). That leaves two spaces to fill. Ali will fill the spin role as there’s no one else and he can hide behind English conditions and Stokes, so I would give the last place to Porter. Lord’s, late Spring, English conditions – when will there be a better time to make your debut?
Cook, Burns, Malan, Root, Bairstow, Foakes, Stokes, Ali, Broad, Porter and Anderson. Wood would be my 12th man. Woakes needs to find form after Australia, Ball – out of his depth at this level…but what do I know? Finn hasn’t played this season and Curran T is earning a crust in India, so it looks a bit bare and hence B&A are being kept on!
Here at the Oval after a calm post lunch session (probably been overfed again have the teams!), Surrey 434ao with Burns 193 a fine knock and dominating all else. Worcester look like the team to take two wins from across the season…I think they’re a bit out of their depth in Div 1 but?
At tea Worcester have reached 32/0 with no real issues. The pitch looks good for batting and will probably improve but if it dries a bit before Monday, then spin could feature strongly.
(Batsman thinks to self…hmmm, I’m glad I didn’t nick that!)
After tea, Worcester are putting up a sound display and workmanlike response to Surrey helped by some wayward bowling. Foakes is diving effortlessly both left and right saving byes and runs. The sign of a good keeper is that you don’t hear the ball thud into their gloves and Foakes is almost silent!
At the end of the day Worcester are 135/1 just about 300 behind and half way to saving the follow on not that it would necessarily be enforced). The pitch looks a typical Oval batting paradise and no need to call it names!