BY MARCUS HOOK
The weather rather than the cricket was the winner this week. But day two at Guildford proved to be Jamie Smith’s window of opportunity to affirm that his hundred on first-class debut, back in March, was a taste of much more to come.
Fresh from completing his A-Levels at Whitgift School, the 18-year-old marked his County Championship debut with a chanceless 56 against a Yorkshire attack weaned on the kind of overcast ball-swinging conditions Guildford now seems to offer in abundance.
With Notts losing even further ground at the foot of Division One, I do think some of the Surrey fans who came up to me at Woodbridge Road are being somewhat over pessimistic when they say Surrey are in a relegation scrap, especially as one team will go down this year.
While a journalist went to get his quotes after the defeat to Somerset, a Surrey supporter came up and made the suggestion: “Could you ask Rory Burns why Surrey are so…!” Then, on Tuesday, amongst the plethora of general despondency on social media – and I’m not just talking about the prospect of a “no-deal” Brexit – another so-called fan posted: “£5 says Stoneman is back in the pavilion by 12.00.”
Looking at the personnel at their disposal, it’s unthinkable that Surrey, or, for that matter, Notts, won’t turn their seasons around eventually. But, clearly, Surrey’s biggest fixtures to come are the two home and away to Notts, as well as the games against Warwickshire and Kent at the Oval. Three out of four of them are coming up over the next month.
India’s Ravi Ashwin will be Notts’ overseas player when they meet Surrey. Mankading aside, Ashwin is a class act; one of the best spinners in the world. Also, a feature of Division One this season has been the influence of spin [see Stat].
Surrey’s overseas is Dean Elgar who, other than a hundred against Somerset at Taunton at the first time of asking, hasn’t really delivered this summer.
Indeed, if you look at his Surrey career as a whole he has made 718 first-class runs in three stints with the Oval outfit at an average of 32.63. Let’s be honest, most sides would expect more from their primary import.
With Elgar earmarked as cover for Rory Burns, and assuming Burns will be a regular fixture for England from the end of July onwards, I would be astonished if Alec Stewart and Michael Di Venuto aren’t concerned at Elgar’s recent run, which reads 17, 4, 13, 4, 4, 1, 0 and 24.
The two players Surrey are really missing are Ollie Pope (out until September with a shoulder injury) and Sam Curran (whom the ECB seem intent on wrapping in cotton wool) – a batsman and an all-rounder; and, tellingly, two 21-year-olds!
If the whispers I’ve been hearing are true, and Sam Curran really is fit to play, the policy of England holding him back while the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad are regularly turning out for Lancashire and Notts really does make you wonder what our Ashes master-plan looks like.
But the reality is the future could hardly be brighter for Surrey fans with so many youngsters coming through – Jamie Smth, Ollie Pope, Will Jacks, Ryan Patel, just to name four, they’re not even anywhere near their peak yet.