Strange days, strange game!

If you make it to the end…perhaps you can tell me what to do with a bucket, drill, tub of margarine and a saucepan?

Now that the rail strikes were over (for the moment?) and the day set fair, I was intrigued by the Surrey/Kent game at the Oval. Surrey had scored 445/5 on day one with two centurions (each 124 – Amla and Geddes) in just under 96 overs.

Was the boundary short on one side? Was the batting lucky or the bowling poor? Kent had already this season broken a record for the number of consecutive innings against them going for over 500 each time…so they have a bit of ‘previous’.

After day one at Chelmsford (308 for 16), what a batting treat was in store! CurranS scored his first first class century, Jacks went to his century after lunch but together they added 190 (yes, one hundred and ninety runs) in the morning session of less than two hours – they came off for a rain break too!

This wasn’t thrashing but controlled batting against what must be said was a very feeble Kent attack – okay, injury plagued but 190 runs in less than 2 hours! Really? When your opening bowler goes for over 150 in the innings and only managed one maiden (and no wickets) you have a problem!

Surrey sailed from 445 to declare at 673/7 just after lunch. This was a slaughter of the innocents! And four centurions in one innings for only the fourth time in over 175 years!

Kent’s reply stuttered after two quick wickets fell but Bell-Drummond and Leaning steadied things (BD would go on to score the 5th century of the match on Day 3) but ended day 2 at 147/2; still 500+ behind. This after a rain break in play with clouds akin to a dark wet November afternoon threatening to end civilisation as we know it but within an hour the sun was beating down, play resumed and any trace of Stygian gloom vanished from the skies! Strange all round!

Compton found things challenging in the first innings
Well left!
Bell-Drummond didn’t look too comfortable to start with!

Equally strange on Day 3 was the decision not to bowl the first line quicks at the start – in fact CurranS did not bowl again in the innings. And as it quite clear that my other choice match of Essex/Hampshire would end that day, I’d get better value in terms of overs from the Oval.

And so it proved! As I said BD got his hundred, Leaning a half century but Kent then went on to lose 8 wickets for just over 120 runs and Surrey asked them to follow on some 342 adrift and with four sessions to survive or Surrey to extend their Championship lead after Hampshire slipped up.

Jacob Duffy at #10 – bet he wished this was all a dream just like Patrick Duffy in Dallas (one for my more mature readers!)
Better this time!

There’s always a part of each match where things go off the boil and so it was for Surrey in the 44 over extended evening session. Compton went to 1,000 runs for the season (first to do it…but could be the second; who knows?) whilst Denly plodded on to see them end the day at 121/0.

Whether the bowlers were ‘tired’ or jaded, who knows but heads went down rather than the foot on the jugular. Burns’ style of captaincy is very much of the Cook/Root style of waiting for something to happen as opposed to making things happen – and it showed. What is also clear for Surrey is the lack of on field chatter/noise…others do it better and appear to be more confident, Surrey just let their results speak for themselves.

Day 4 and strange things again! After a rain delay we had the absurd! Only at a cricket match would everyone come out to play, but before a ball is bowled the umpires stop for rain, covers back on, Kent scurrying back to the pavilion but Surrey and umpires stay out! Order restored in less than 5 mins!

Perhaps Kent should have stayed in the Pav? Curran S bowling – seemingly in very short spells (no reason given but the prime suspect is the ECB) – under the clouds was one of the best spells I’ve seen him bowl. Took out Compton with the ‘old one-two trick’. With Worral taking out Denly the chirping started and at one stage looked like wickets would fall regularly!

And a montage of CurranS in full flow on Day 4

But it was not to be! The afternoon session saw only 1 wicket; Leaning for 43; at tea BD is 59no and Kent 258-3. Over 1,250 runs so far for 20 wickets and with Surrey lacking the killer punch of a test class quick, a draw looks certain!

So it proved…BD scored the 6th century of the match, parity reached and they all walk off. Kent did well after the earlier shambles, Surrey lacked the firepower for the knock out blow but perhaps they’re thoughts at the moment are on the trash and bash and deal with the championship later?

And finally if things couldn’t get any stranger…members of the ground staff this afternoon spotted walking round the boundary and stopping from time to time – with a bucket, drill, hammer, tub of margarine, a saucepan and a mystery container. They seemed to know what they were doing ! Strange or what? And people say ‘nothing happens…’!


Balance restored?

After a brief hiatus whilst the ‘bash and trash’ filled county grounds, coffers, bars and in a few cases police cells (lager lout brigades in full drunken abandon), the Championship starts again. The ‘fun’ of the rail strikes means that some trains are in the wrong place in the train set that is Network Rail and a trip to the ‘Fortress’ is the best option.

There’s always an issue when you call yourself something grandiose and then don’t live up to the mark. ‘Fortress’ Chelmsford is about as impregnable as a molehill! But there we are…marketeers showing themselves up for what they are!

Sir A – full concentration inc tongue!
Even when non-striker!
Lawrence goes…lbw

By lunch time it’s clear that Essex are still hungover from the bash and trash and seem to think that footwork in batting is an added or optional extra.

Rossington plays from the crease

They’ve managed to scratch together 72 runs in 30 overs but with five bats back in the Pavilion. Hampshire – their opponents – showing why they’re towards the top of Division One with a good display of seam bowling in the first session.

Holland – born in the USA, educated in Australia but playing cricket in England and named after a near continental neighbour – takes two in three balls to make the opening dents in the Essex side even larger. One however – Pepper – looked a bit lucky but the umpire only has one look, whereas those of us with cameras can linger over a freeze-frame!

Pepper – out caught second ball? Did it come off the bat or glove?

The great news is that the North Korean stewarding has been given permission to allow spectators onto the outfield and even to look at the pitch at lunch time but for a Sunday there is a distinct lack of families here to take up the option of playing on the ground!

The afternoon session is a bit better for Essex as they go to tea on 194/8; Snater 52no (Dutch one day international player but born in Zimbabwe) steadied the ship with Harmer as Essex lost two more wickets within 50 minutes of lunch. Nothing spectacular but it’s clear that the odd ball will still swing to the odd bowler so this looks like a strip where once the new ball is seen off, it’s ok for batting but you need to take care. If you don’t use your feet, you’ll lose your wicket.

Snater – literally launching himself at the bowling!
And again…

One of the challenges of the ‘Fortress’ is that you’re either roasting alive on the open sunshine stands, being blown away by a cold wind (almost a gale) under the Pearce stand or cramped into the temporary stands which have been here for several seasons and would now be permanent! Spectator comfort is not high on the list!

A fly past by an old US warplane/bomber over the ground this afternoon failed to do make any improvements! 🤣🤣

One seemingly useless stat is that in the last 11 seasons, the Championship has been won 10 times by the team with the highest average score at the fall of their fifth wicket (both innings)! Not quite sure how this adds to the price of fish, but at the moment Lancashire are on course to be crowned champs but there’s another three months to go!

Essex had a bit of a trash after tea…Snater and Cook S deciding to copy the current England thinking of assertive play – both fell to loose shots in the deep for 72 and 33 respectively with Essex ending on 238ao. Match awareness seemed to go out of the window since a 2nd batting point was only 12 runs away and very achievable! Will that tell at the end of the season?

Beard gets in on the act!

Hampshire decided to copy the Essex innings almost to a man with wickets falling rapidly. Vince was the worst – charging Harmer second ball and being stumped by a country mile. Harmer seems to be getting more spin and grip than Dawson did after Cook S had damaged the top order. One wonders if the fielding side watch their opponents bat since lessons from the Essex innings have not been learnt!

Gubbins gets into a muddle!
Dawson didn’t look confident?

Hampshire close on 68/6 but after what we’ve seen this season on flat tracks and plasticine balls, I must admit it’s nice to see a match where ball dominates bat – for a change!