Time running out for Surrey CCC to reach Alec Stewart’s win target

BY MARCUS HOOK

As someone who has witnessed 20 wickets fall on the first day at Leicester, only for the match to end in a draw – in 2001 – it seemed inevitable, when a lifeless pitch was unveiled, that last week’s contest would end in stalemate.

I’m all for good pitches, but even without the threat of rain, it showed a lack of ambition on Leicestershire’s part. That said, the game will live long in the memory for the Foxes’ three centurions as well as Surrey’s Amar Virdi and Mark Stoneman – Virdi for his 100th first-class wicket, and Stoneman, pictured, for his highest score in the County Championship since August 2018.

Stoneman’s 119 means each of Surrey’s top six have now spent time in the middle this season. They will take confidence from that going forward.

At the start of the campaign, Alec Stewart reckoned five championship wins in the 10-match group stage would virtually guarantee a berth in Division One – and therefore a crack at the title – at the end of the season.

Looking at Surrey’s group, time is running out given Gloucestershire and Somerset have already chalked up four wins apiece.

The visit to Taunton could therefore determine which team joins Gloucestershire in terms of progressing from Group Two to Division One, with Hampshire’s bubble having seemingly burst.

But, perhaps their back-to-back drubbings at the hands of Surrey and then Somerset, underlines that there are no givens.

Whenever I think of Somerset, I’m reminded of the three successive teenage summer holiday stays with my great aunt, who lived in Weston-super-Mare, which just so happened to coincide with the cricket festival.

I guess that’s why I have always had a soft spot for Somerset, whose golden era of success in the early 1980s was down to their West Indian imports Viv Richards and Joel Garner.

In recent years they have come within touching distance of silverware on so many occasions it’s been cruel to watch. But Somerset have stayed true to a philosophy of sticking with home grown talent.

Other than overseas signing Marchant de Lange and wicketkeeper Steven Davies, Somerset’s first choice 11 is testament to their academy system. Surrey’s line-up includes just five homegrowns.

However, following the postponement of the IPL, that could rise to eight once Sam and Tom Curran and Jason Roy are back in the UK and quarantined. The word is all three could be available for the championship game against Gloucestershire, which starts on May 27.

With no IPL for a while, Sky have, to their credit, replaced its coverage with live action from the County Championship. That’s on top of the astonishing numbers YouTube has been attracting – now at over 600,000 views for each round of matches.

PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD

 


 

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