Surrey’s Ollie Pope: I’ve struggled for rhythm with the bat in County Championship this season


Ollie Pope is the first to admit he would like to have made more of an impact for Surrey this summer.

But the 26-year-old views the Vitality Blast – in which he has hit 142 runs at an average of 47.33 – as the perfect opportunity to revive his season ahead of the home Test series against West Indies and Sri Lanka.

“I’ve struggled for rhythm with the bat a little bit in red-ball this season – I’ve been working hard, but things haven’t quite clicked,” said Pope, after making a T20 career-best 99 not out from just 59 deliveries, including three sixes, in last week’s defeat to Sussex Sharks. When Jason Roy (26 off 22 balls) departed in the 13th over, to make it 95-3, Surrey still needed an unlikely 119 off 46 balls.

“We were under par, but Sussex played really well,” said Pope. “Dan Hughes and Tom Alsop both played really good knocks.

“It was the same wicket we played on five days ago, against Somerset, and it was a bit more tacky and a bit more stoppy, so the top of the stumps was the length to bowl.

“Against Sussex it was different. Those two batters dominated and they probably ended up with 15-20 runs more than they should have, but that happens.

“Unfortunately, as a batting unit, when you lose a couple of early wickets, it’s always hard to drag things back. The asking-rate can go up quite quickly and it ticked up to 15 an over fairly sharpish.”

Pope, who has played in 43 Tests for England, added: “T20 is the perfect time to get used to picking the length early, getting into position and hitting strong shots. Hopefully, this sets me up not only for T20 cricket, but also puts me in a good place in the Test side and for my red-ball game.

Surrey v Sussex Sharks – Vitality Blast, The Kia Oval, 07 June 2024
Picture : Keith Gillard

“You’re never going to give it a big celebration when you’re walking off after a loss, but Rory Burns came up to me afterwards, shook my hand and said: ‘Well played mate’.”

The 26-year-old has made just 192 runs at 24.00 with a top score of 63 in the County Championship which resumes on June 23 at Worcester.

That said, Pope’s England team-mates Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett have only had one stand-out score apiece in this season’s championship.

Pope knows he can perform on the highest stage, like when he struck a match-winning 196 against India at Hyderabad back in January.

“It feels like a long time ago now, but I’m still very proud of that innings,” said England’s vice-captain. “It’s a good memory to have and it can still fill me with a lot of confidence to know I can do that against those kind of spinners in a pressure situation.

“The reason I didn’t have as much success throughout the rest of the India series was because the pitches were different. My game plan probably changed as well.

Surrey v Sussex Sharks – Vitality Blast, The Kia Oval, 07 June 2024
Picture : Keith Gillard

“I want to keep playing as much as I can and, hopefully, scoring consistent runs and remembering what works well going into the Tests.

“There’s always nerves when you go out to bat. I get as many nerves playing for Surrey as I do playing for England, likewise whether I’m in amazing form or bad form. But it’s a good level of nerves, because I trust what I do in terms of how I grow into each innings.

“I want to play as many games as possible for Surrey.

“It’s been a frustrating few years with [shoulder] injuries, but also with the way the Tests have been laid out I haven’t played much white-ball cricket.

“I love T20 cricket and I feel I’ve got a lot to offer. Test cricket, for me, is my number one focus and my priority, but I don’t see why I can’t keep developing my white-ball game.

“We’ve underperformed in the T20 Blast. Surrey haven’t won it for a while, so I want to put that right by putting in some winning performances.”


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