Marcus Hook’s Surrey CCC column: Ravaged roster has reflected London Cup struggles

After flashes of early promise – a win away to Durham and a pulsating comeback to tie with Warwickshire – Surrey’s Royal London Cup campaign has hit the buffers.

It would be unfair to be overly critical given the extent to which the South Londoners’ roster has been ravaged by The Hundred. But what’s disappointing is their decision not to imbue the side with any overseas players – guys who can not only act as role models, but also make the Oval outfit competitive.

En route to last season’s Royal London semi-finals, Surrey plucked Tim David out of the Dutch League. The soon-to-be Australia international repaid the faith by hitting 340 runs – including 20 sixes -at an average of 68.00.

This summer, seven of the competition’s top 13 run-scorers have represented their country, as have the joint-leading wicket-takers in the Royal London – Sussex’s Ari Karvelas, who took care of Surrey’s top order last Sunday with figures of 4-35, and Middlesex’s Umesh Yadav.

The drubbing at Hove started well, with Sussex being reduced to nine for two. But the visitors’ hearts must have sunk at the sight of India’s Cheteshwar Pujara – scorer of 6,792 runs in 96 Tests and a man averaging 109.40 in this year’s County Championship – striding to the crease, fresh from making a hundred against Warwickshire.

After Pujara had eased his way to a 69-ball fifty, it seemed inevitable he wouldn’t be going anywhere soon. He finished up making 174 – the highest individual score for Sussex in all List A cricket.

Tom Clark (104) also dipped his bread. The 21-year-old has really come on this season, having also hit championship hundreds against Notts and Leicestershire. One reason must surely be the experience Clark has gained from batting with Pujara.

In years to come, I’ve no doubt we will look back on this year’s Royal London and say it was the making of some of Surrey’s youngsters. But, right now, one of the concerns has to be what it’s doing to their confidence, because it really has become a case of sink or swim.

That said, I’ve been very impressed with Tom Lawes, who has kicked on from averaging 25 with the bat and 22 with the ball in the County Championship. Whatever his contract status, the 19-year-old warrants being offered a lengthy extension.

Yousuf Majid, 18, is another who has caught the eye. As much as Surrey have missed their first-choice slow left-armer, Dan Moriarty (who appears to be surplus to Southern Brave’s requirements in The Hundred), Majid has proved a capable like-for-like replacement.

Nick Kimber’s whirlwind 84 against Warwickshire suggests he could be a useful lad to have around, although the jury is certainly out in terms of the 21-year-old’s bowling.

Even though Sheridon Gumbs only made 12 on debut, the two fours he hit at Hove had a real flourish about them.

The future’s calling, but in the here and now, it’s tough, really tough.



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