Which to choose?

My best photo of the season…so far! Patel b. Morkel (but a no ball!)

One of the ‘advantages’ of being a member of Surrey and Middlesex is the chance to come across the ‘great and the good’ popping along to watch the game, none more so than at the Oval which is the ‘local’ ground for our friends in Westminster – past and present. But the grounds also offer brilliant viewing facilities and you feel you’re never too far from the action. So today I’m left with a choice of which of my photos to put first in this blog.

So whilst the World Cup continues in its seemingly never ending quest to find a winner (we’re only just over half way through and it seems to have been going on since time began), there’s the refreshing alternative of the longer game to relish !

After other commitments yesterday I’m faced with earlier choice – the relegation battle of the Oval or the dash for the pennant at the CloudFM County Ground Chelmsford.

Both matches were evenly poised overnight but having seen Essex eviscerate Hampshire only last week, the lure of the relegation zone match between Surrey and Warwickshire won the day today.

A forecast of hot humid weather and the prospect of Surrey’s seamers and swingers to claw themselves back into the match sees Warwickshire overnight 89/1 in response to a feeble 194 from Surrey.

And I’m not disappointed – Morkel and Curran S followed by two Clarks (one with an ‘e’ the other without) keep things tight all morning with seam and swing and make batting a test of character as much as skill. Yates reaches 48no just before lunch but Warwickshire lose four wickets in the session; at the break they’re 176/5 – nearly at parity.

Overcast conditions are having their sway and the odd drop of light rain is sprucing up a green pitch, which, from afar looks incredibly similar to the rest of the square in being so green but when up close looks very dry and nowhere near as green as from a distance.

Sibley, Hain, Hose and Lamb have all departed this morning and in moments of deep though give rise to…is it possible to name a team of 11 garden implements to play a team of 11 farmyard or other animals but all must be first class cricketers? One for a cold November afternoon I think!

Interestingly all the Warwickshire wickets today have been caught behind or in the slips (one exception of an lbw) but swing and seam are doing it here. The only concern for the Champions is how they’ll bat against the Warwickshire attack if they have to chase down a large lead? And who said Championship cricket was boring? It’s a matter of knowing where to look (as well as patience)!

And as the following photos show, batting was never easy in these conditions against test class bowling (in the main) and batsman after batsman turned inside out. The occasional cover drive got through and was so pleasing on the eye.

Tough going against a swinging ball for most Warwickshire batsmen
But classic shots were still possible!

The end of the fifth session of the match comes with the end of the Warwickshire innings for 230 and a lead of 36. Morkel extracting some real nip and bounce from the Pavilion End after lunch; each taken by Foakes with consummate ease. The test of a good keeper is that you don’t hear the ball thud into the gloves and Foakes is in that class. Undoubtedly the best keeper in England by a long way. There’s something in the pitch and the overhead conditions that the ball is swinging madly – seven of the 10 wickets fell to catches behind or in the slips.

Surrey face a long session after tea with the aim of wiping off the deficit and taking a decent lead into Day 3. This they achieve with some style – Burns batting with flair, Stoneman settling in for a score and the runs come at a fast pace, against bowling which, to be honest, can only be described as ‘moderate’ which then questions the Surrey first innings!

By the end, a lead of over 100 with the power to add; but it all depends…on the choices the batsmen make, and, of course, the overhead conditions tomorrow which seem, in the current spate of hot humid weather to be the ultimate decision maker. But what I can say…this is the best day for Surrey all season (and about time too!).

Burns in full flow

Surrey justifiably proud of their Champions pennant (at last)!

My choice tomorrow is ‘fortress Chelmsford’ but come Wednesday when each match reaches Day 4…who knows?

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