Surrey youngsters grab attention in County Championship opener against Essex

BY MARCUS HOOK

Not for the first time of late, Surrey’s youngsters headlined after dominating the early exchanges in the Oval outfit’s defence of their County Championship crown.

The South London outfit drew with Essex in their opening Division One fixture.

Ryan Patel (21) and Will Jacks (20) led the way with the willow against Essex – Patel hitting a maiden ton – an unbeaten 100 that took more than six hours to hone – and Jacks blasting 88 in rather quicker time to go past his previous first-class career best of 63 for the England Lions against India A at Wayanad in February.

“It was a special day for me, playing for Surrey throughout all the age groups and with mum and dad here to see me,” said Patel. “After only playing a few games last year, it was a great way to start the season.

Surrey’s Ben Foakes and Ryan Patel during day one of the Specsavers County Championship, Division One match at The Kia Oval, London.

“I think I’ve been guilty of giving my wicket away in the past, but, speaking to a lot of the boys, if I hang in there long enough and bat a long enough time that just showed what the outcome can be.

“I was happy with how long I batted and, obviously, the tempo of my innings suited the situation we were in.”

Patel admitted that he experienced a few jitters when three figures came into view.

“Credit to Morne [Morkel] and Freddie [van den Bergh] before him for keeping me from not being so nervous,” said the 21-year-old all-rounder. “The butterflies were starting to go a little bit with 84 to my name when Morne came in at number 11.

“Morne is the perfect man to speak to at the other end. He told me he’d be with me all the way. He’s a great man to have around, both in the dressing room and on the park.

“The closer I got to my century I just needed to get there as quickly as possible. Thankfully, I got there eventually and it was a special feeling.”

“It was a moment I’ve always thought about, and always dreamt about. But for it to happen, it was a bit surreal.

“I looked up to mum and dad on the pavilion balcony and it was so special to get to my first hundred for Surrey. It was also good for the side and it was important we held on in there because, as we saw throughout our first innings, wickets seemed to fall in clusters.”

Jacks already knew what it felt like to hit a hundred for Surrey, after becoming the youngest player to crack a one-day century for the Oval outfit – against Gloucestershire 10 months ago – and having recently smashed a 25-ball ton against Lancashire on Surrey’s pre-season trip to Dubai.

On getting off the mark with a six against Essex, the 20-year-old said: “I just thought to myself: ‘All the fielders are in, let’s take a bit of a risk’ and it came out lovely.

“Ryan and I have played in the same sides for ages and it felt really good to spend time with him out there in a first-class game.

“The ball was doing a little bit first thing, so to get to 75 for none was really good from the openers.

“We lost a few wickets, but then Ryan and myself put on a good 150-run partnership to put us in a good position.

“Ryan took something like 35 balls to get off the mark, but that didn’t fluster him at all and then he played how he plays, which is just what we needed and he did it brilliantly.”

Surrey’s focus turns to the 50-over Royal London One-Day Cup campaign which, for the Oval outfit, gets under way against Gloucestershire at Bristol on Wednesday, followed by a day/night showdown with Sussex at Hove on Good Friday.