From all directions?

Another day of cricket watching and blogging, another venue but the same lack of batting application (with one exception so far).

Today is spent watching Surrey v Hampshire at the Kia Oval where as we approach lunch on the second day a total of 17 wickets have fallen for a total of just over 330 runs – 211 for Surrey and 125 for Hampshire. What is interesting today is just how many overseas players -Kolpak and others – are on display here and elsewhere.

Here at the Oval I’ve seen today as strong a cohort of South African players as any to grace a test or international side. Abbott and Roussouw for Hants have not shone whilst Amla is just pure class and the first 50 I’ve seen this season. A player of skill and class putting the rest to shame. Elgar for Surrey should have his chance to shine later whilst Dernbach for Surrey is England qualified by Jo’burg born. And we all know the Currans Southern African connections! And not forgetting Brad Wheal for Hampshire – the SA born Scotsman (I know…confusing, but they come from all directions!).

Elsewhere we have Harmer at Essex, Vilas at Lancashire, Markram at Durham (with an unenviable record of two ducks on the same day yesterday) to name a few. So why?

Well, for a start it’s the off-season in the Southern Hemisphere and players have a living to earn. The SA test side has its quota system so if you’re a fringe player or likely to become one, there’s the Kolpak system to help you play in England (not sure what happens post 29/3/19 but that’s not high on Brussels’ list). Experience in England is always good for a cv and if you can play all three formats then there’s money to be earned and from 2020 seemingly shed loads of it! So, overall it’s quite an attractive option for a class player…and let’s face it, SA have produced and still produce class players over the years. So the direction has to be northwards!

The direction for one English player is like a dodgy satnav…Northeast’s move west from Kent to Hampshire is going south in terms of his form but like every other batsman across the country (it seems) batting is nigh on impossible.

The folks at Surrey really make you welcome – all spectators are welcome to walk and even play on the outfield at lunch and tea and being one of the larger grounds, there’s plenty of room and space; and the whole ground is open for matches which means you can spread out and not be crammed in like sardines as happens elsewhere.

Within 20 mins after lunch Hampshire are 147 ao with Amla the last out for 55 lbw…although from side on it looked a little high but then I’m not umpiring and Hashim didn’t look best pleased either! A lead of 64 looks handy. One benefit of employing overseas players (and it’s 50 years this year since it started in earnest) is that as a county player you can be facing a test class attack to really put you through your paces – and here’s where Hampshire should do well; they open with Kyle Abbott (ex-SA fast bowler and probably still at the top of his game) and Fidel Edwards of WI fame at the other. The opening spells look lively.

One aspect you get especially from watching side on is the different batting stances…few of which seem to follow the MCC coaching manual. Here today we have Rory Burns doing a forward press even before the bowler starts…his head is in front of his right leg with his weight fully forward too. Yesterday I noticed Liam Livingstone prefers a slightly raised shoulder in his stance and we’ve all noticed Stuart Broad’s preference for an exaggerated forward approach following the nose issue from a few years ago. But who is to say what is correct…I’ve seen enough of Steve Smith in the Ashes to know that individualism rules the day and I’m convinced Shiv Chanderpaul is looking at square leg when he’s batting but for both the resulting runs tell the proper story.

And onward plods the game. Tea should have been taken 10 mins ago but there’s another 7 overs to be played before it is.

Even the umpire can’t wait for a drink…

Poor over rates are just not a test thing, it seems county sides can’t maintain 16 an hour so how they’ll cope with the 100 balls in 75 mins is beyond me and probably beyond the bright young things at the ECB. Anyway, here at the Oval Surrey lead by 151 with seven wickets left…almost matching the game at Leeds where Yorkshire have almost the same lead over Notts. Wonder how each will pan out? Anyway, lights on here as clouds move in.

Not so many wickets falling across the country so far today…just over 50 in all nine games but there’s rain at two of them! Tea (eventually) here at the Oval…Surrey 118/3 leading by 182 but a touch of rain here too. What’s enough for them?

The rain coincided with the tea break – not intentionally since if tea had been taken at the appointed hour then they may well have come off for a while.

However Borthwick and Foakes, who have each had a paid holiday Down Under courtesy of the England touring team at some point in their careers – Borthwick got one cap but Foakes has not had the call yet, booked in for bed and breakfast or so it seemed. As the weather improved so did their batting or is the Hampshire second string bowling not yet effective enough? The season will tell. Foakes looks a very accomplished keeper/batsman.

The day ends with Surrey 217/4 and a lead of 281 which is probably enough. Borthwick made a solid 74 whilst Foakes is still there on 50.

And there’s probably only one direction where this match is going but the South Africans will have some impact for sure!

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