Surrey’s marketing team have come up with a moniker for the Oval outfit’s brand of T20 cricket – ‘hits different’. Judging by this week’s epic four-day contest at Canterbury, it also epitomises the South Londoners’ County Championship exploits.
After posting their highest ever total in Twenty20 – 258 – to trounce Sussex by 124 runs at Hove a week ago and remain on course for a home quarter-final in the Blast, Surrey’s attention turned back to the championship.
If ever proof was needed that cricket, or any sport for that matter, isn’t played on paper, it was their four-day battle at the St Lawrence Ground, in what was the first of two rounds of championship matches with the Kookaburra instead of the Dukes.
The change of ball-maker served up four pivotal contests in Division One, which the Oval outfit led handsomely when they arrived at Canterbury to face the relegation-threatened Spitfires.
For the first two-and-a-half days, however, it was the hosts who gave the appearance of being champions elect, ripping up the formbook by brushing Surrey aside for just 145 – their lowest first innings total in nearly two years.
Kent then piled on the misery to set the visitors 501 to win. But the Oval outfit simply adopted the view that Sir Edmund Hillary would never have reached the peak of Mount Everest if he had stood at the bottom, looked up and concerned himself with how high it was.
Only Middlesex, against Notts in 1925, had made more batting fourth to win a County Championship game, so not only the odds, but history as well was stacked against Surrey achieving the near impossible.
After tonight’s T20 clash with South Group leaders Somerset, all of Surrey’s remaining group fixtures in the Blast are at home. This is because, last week, The Oval played host to the final of the World Test Championship between Australia and India.
I can only applaud the way the match was covered.
The TV cameras really captured the essence of a big matchday at the people’s home of cricket.
Many, me included, expected India to win, especially with every run India scored and every wicket taken was met with an explosion of sound.
But it all came down to India misreading the pitch and electing to bowl first.
For Australia, it was an ideal warm-up for the Ashes, which starts today with the Aussies narrow favourites.
Thirty years on from Shane Warne’s ball of the century, spin will be key again, which is why Australia seem to have the edge.
In terms of off-spinner versus off-spinner, Nathan Lyon has taken 88 Test wickets since Moeen Ali played his last for England, in September 2021.
Injuries will also play their part. The outcome of the 2005 Ashes – generally regarded as the last great series – could have been all together different if Aussie fast bowler Glenn McGrath hadn’t turned his ankle just before the Edgbaston Test, which England won by just two runs.
So, the nation is keeping its fingers crossed that skipper Ben Stokes, who has been struggling with a knee injury, can play a full part.
Will England’s Bazball style be a match for the mighty Australians? The stage is set.
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