Surrey v Hants – a day of delights

The first match of the Oval season sees Hampshire as visitors on what looks – from a distance – a very green, early season pitch which clearly encouraged Vince (Hants captain) to insert Surrey in the hope of quick wickets, drying out under warm Spring sunshine and making batting easier as the match progresses.

How wrong can you be – or so it appears at tea on Day 1. Surrey breezed along to 212/2 – with fifties from Patel, Amla and Pope (the last two still there and close on a hundred partnership). The occasional ball does something, the change bowlers seem to be more successful than the out and out quicks and a number of slack shots all indicate that the pitch is/will be important. Both wickets went to lofted shots!

Classic forward defence from Amla

Interestingly Burns has changed the extent of one or two of his many trigger movements. Not immediately discernible but for seasoned watchers, definite but small changes. Hopefully this will aid his batting after what was a mentally scarring Ashes series for him.

One of the delights of the Oval is the average age of the crowd – lots of younger people (ok, everyone looks young to me) but also families, children and the occasional grandparent! Long may it continue!

And another delight for the spectators is the ability to wander around the outfield at lunch and tea, have the odd impromptu game, ponder the state of the pitch or even just soak up the atmosphere of this iconic ground. It’s a shame that others don’t all follow suit – the ‘orders’ given at Chelmsford could lead you to think the outfield was mined! What do they think spectators are going to do? Plant their early potatoes? So there’s work to be done in places!

By the close we had witnessed a fine century by Ollie Pope – made a change from all those 12th man duties regular readers will recall from recent Windies blogs. He is an elegant player of the highest order and a delight to watch.

Pope against spin
Elegance personified

With three wickets down for over 300 runs, Hampshire seem to have got their strategy a bit wrong today but who’s to say this is not a ‘400 plays 400’ pitch? We’ll have an inkling by this time tomorrow as I suspect Surrey will drive on at speed tomorrow and put Hampshire under pressure – but there will be more delights to come I’m sure!

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