Marcus Hook’s Surrey CCC column: Outground cricket poses very different challenges but adapting to changing conditions is key to success in the sport

BY MARCUS HOOK

On paper, I’m still convinced Surrey are the side best equipped to win the championship. It’s just that they have been hit hard by injuries to key players, while, at the same time, some of the fit ones have suffered a dip in form.There’s a lot of cricket left to be played, but the table doesn’t lie and neither do the batting averages. Runs, better still runs that create “scoreboard pressure” are what’s lacking.

The theory that Ben Foakes could do a job for England batting at three in this summer’s Ashes is certainly being put to the test, given that in three out of his last five innings he’s found himself taking guard before the end of the 15th over.

Such was the amount of playing and missing on the second morning at Woodbridge Road on Tuesday, a number of Surrey fans would have been forgiven for watching the game through the gaps between their fingers.

But Foakes was in a class of his own – a man who found a method where, for others, it was a case of survival.

There’s an increased diet of outground cricket on offer this season, due to a number of county bases hosting World Cup games.

Surrey have decamped to Guildford, where Somerset underlined why they are now most people’s favourites to win the County Championship, and where another of the class acts, Yorkshire, will be heading next week.

Lancashire have gone back to Liverpool again, while Notts and Yorkshire are set to christen Nettleworth and York.

Next year, the new competition – The Hundred – will also push matches out into the counties.

The Hundred already has a lot to answer for, but at least it will force clubs to spread the gospel; whereas before that has become secondary to the cost of installing temporary stands, marquees and the like.

But there’s nothing like outground cricket for adding a different dimension. The very essence of cricket is adapting to a variety of conditions.

And while spectators complain about scoreboards that can only be seen by half the crowd, the temporary loo facilities and a shortage of areas where one can take cover if it rains, the trade-off is getting closer to the action – which is why outground cricket is a godsend for autograph hunters.

Admittedly, you do need to go prepared for all eventualities. So, my advice is to take an umbrella and, big tip, wear shorts under your jeans – and it has to be jeans, because they double up as a means of drying your hands if there’s a shortage of paper towels.

If it’s a new audience you want Mr ECB, stage what you purport to be the new flagship competition where people can get to see the matches.

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