Blog #200 – English Pope sets Oval alight but these you have missed!

For those of you who have ploughed through my previous 199 blogs (well done!) the most exciting thing I can say about Surrey v Hants at the Oval is that you haven’t seen it all!

The match got more exciting after this local van fire!

Interestingly it’s more noticeable of late how many players need their tongues to help them concentrate – seen it already this season with Cook (Sir A) but it’s also noticeable for Cummins and Archer (both of Ashes fame) but also here Liam Dawson and Scott Borthwick (on opposing sides here but doing it together in the field!). Wonder why?

Scott Borthwick – tongue out on his way to a century
Dawson joins in…

The cricket was overall about as nondescript as you can make it but there’s something I’ve never seen before at any match (although history tells me there’s a precedent) in that Ricky Clarke signalled after the fifth ball of an over that he needed a substitute for the next over. Nothing unusual in that but he then dismissed Rillee Rossouw with a master catch by Stoneman only to dash off the field (clearly with only one thing on his mind), up the stairs and into the dressing room without a change of pace – so much so that he overtook outgoing batsman and left him for dust in his wake. He returned one over later and went straight back to bowling mark!

Whatever he had worked well since he eventually takes 7/74 in the innings (which doesn’t say a lot about the other bowlers)

The slow over rate on the first three days -not helped by rain breaks on days 1 and 2 just added to the general apathy of approach. There hasn’t been any clear imperative to grab the game by the neck since ball one. I suppose it’s endemic of the division where only one team will be relegated, neither can realistically be champions and both are mid-table with Nottinghamshire so far behind that they look certain to go down.

On day 1, rain delayed the start (and a lot of faffing around by both sides ‘in preparation’ but could have been faster as they were supposedly taking lunch) and rain and bad light eventually day ends play after 70 overs with Hampshire at 222/7. Hampshire progress on day 2 to 234/8 with the prospect of new ball but Surrey don’t take advantage – Hants reach 327/8 after a shower delayed lunch but a storm at lunch delayed the restart until 3.20 pm and lost 26 more overs; the game then shoots itself in the foot by announcing tea at 4pm – sun is shining, half naked sunbathers but still no play! Ground staff wonderful as ever but think…the ECB could ‘do better’

Eventually Hampshire are dismissed for 367 – with tailenders Abbott 72 Stevenson 51; Clarke 7/74 but this is a flat track and getting flatter

A random question – why are seats outside pavilions so uncomfortable? Lord’s is a back breaker after a couple of hours, Chelmsford rock hard and risk of splinters and the Oval, cramped? Is the idea not to watch ?

After an early alarm, Curran is promoted in the batting order since he’s off to join the England squad on the morrow – clear instructions came from ECB to give him as much match practice as possible – else, why bowl so much with the new ball when he was so off colour/direction/length?

Surrey end day 2 on 109/2 seemingly without any further alarms. Unless something dramatic happens here…this will be a four day bore draw.

Day 3 sees three wickets fall all day as bowlers toil and batsmen flourish – Stoneman grafts a 63 but with more runs this year he could have been in contention to get his England place back, Borthwick (remember him? One test wonder but as a spinner! Now a fine middle order batsman – that’s the same path as one SPD Smith – whatever became of him?) makes 100 and fails to press on but Pope (back after injury and surely due to get back in the England side) makes his highest first class score of 176no and ably accompanied by Aaron Finch (90) push the Surrey score close to 500 with the power to add.

A lead of 200 would give them something to bowl at on day 4 but as the pitch dries, flattens out I fear it will be more of the same. Strange how skills and pitches can be so different – 26 wickets fell at Canterbury as Kent succumbed to Essex! Same game, different scenarios!

Pope combating Dawson by plonking outside leg stump but this ball ran up his pad!

That’s what a century feels like!

Just over an hour into day 4 sees Pope make his double hundred and ends at 221no as Foakes (eventually declares) at 579/7 – a lead of 212. Hampshire should bat out the day and we’re sent on our way about 5pm but this lead is enough for Surrey to make things interesting! Pope really has brightened up this match and played a fine innings – how many more for Surrey after England call him up?

Olly Pope…batting comes so easy, he can do it laying down!
And that’s what a double hundred feels like!

It transpires that this match is really the 13 of Surrey vs the 12 of Hants. The England team have called in Pope as concussion cover as they try to regain the Ashes (and that explains the odd timing for the declaration), Curran left ages ago and now Donald who left the field yesterday afternoon after a hit on the head has been replaced by Harry Came. I appreciate all the reasons but it looks like the ECB are demeaning the Championship. Now where have I read that before? What would Surrey have said if they really needed these two players to force a win for maximum points?

One of the drawbacks of blogging cricket matches as you go along is the risk of being made to look foolish when early predictions blow up in your face. At tea on day 4, Hants trail by 28 runs with 5 wickets left and 36 overs to go! Could we see an unexpected Surrey win from nowhere? The match has only really got to be interesting after the local fire yesterday- perhaps it’s added fire to players’ bellies? But no…it peters out to the draw expected for so long. Nearly 1,200 runs in four days for less than 22 wickets.

And for those readers who haven’t ploughed through the previous 199 blogs, you missed…seagulls with diarrhoea, bananas used as contraception, Australian ‘out houses’, odd named players, new guidelines on streaking, groping, drooping, best hairstyles, fairy rings, diplomatic incidents over tea, how to sex an elephant…and much more! All 199 are still available on line…and who said cricket was boring?

And at one stage, it looked like a remake of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’