Specsavers County Championship. First Division. The Oval. 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd September 2017. Surrey v Somerset.
Overnight. Somerset 269. Surrey 42-0. Surrey trail by 227 runs with all first innings wickets standing.
20th September. Second Day – Sangakkara
Farmer White (IP Logged) 21 September 2017 8.40 a.m.
“The real world sometimes impinges on a day at the cricket. It did, briefly, today as I neared The Oval on the tube for the second day’s play. “Is this anyone’s bag?” someone shouted from next to one of the doors in my carriage. It wasn’t. At least it didn’t belong to anyone still on the train. People started to gravitate towards the two ends of the carriage. There was nothing remotely approximating to panic, just a calm though visibly anxious quiet on people’s faces. The bag looked so innocuous as it rested there, now quite alone. At the same time it looked numbingly fearsome as the implications of what it could be began to sink in.
There is nothing to do in such circumstances on the tube but wait for the next station. When we reached there someone activated the alarm and we all filed off the train. Within seconds a member of staff removed the bag and we all filed back on as another member of staff deactivated the alarm. Then, as one of the members of staff peered rather gingerly into the bag, the train pulled out of the station. I was back on my way to the cricket and London’s world continued to turn on its axis. Five million journeys take place on the tube every day. Forgotten bags must be a common occurrence for staff to have to deal with, although not with quite the same equanimity as they once did.
Soon I was ensconced in The Oval into which a crossbow bolt was fired last week. The world is an interesting place just now. But life and cricket carry on and so did the Surrey batting, 77 for 0 as I arrived. I had entered through the Hobbs Gate, memorial to Surrey’s greatest batsman, perhaps an ominous omen given what followed. I found my seat in the Peter May Stand, no mean performer with the bat himself.
As I settled, Tim Groenwald went past the edge of someone’s bat and then induced an edge which fell short of Trescothick at slip. The clouds were closing in and the floodlights were on. Peter Trego came on at the other, Vauxhall, end and promptly went past the edge of Mark Stoneman’s bat. Stoneman replied with a lofted drive for three to the OCS Stand. Those few balls pretty well set the pattern for the rest of the day. Somerset endeavour, balls frequently passing edges, and Surrey accumulating runs.
They didn’t all pass the edge. Trego took his third wicket of the season when he took the edge of Stoneman’s bat and Davies took his first of four catches in the day. 97 for 1. Somerset had been 96 for 1. By then though Overton and Groenewald had completed their opening bursts and, perhaps in an admission that Somerset had got the balance of their attack wrong for this pitch, Abell was bowling his medium pace opposite Trego with two unemployed spinners on the field.
There was an anxious look about the Somerset supporters I saw and a growing buzz among the Surrey ones. Then Trego splayed Burn’s stumps and danced down the pitch in celebration. 114 for 2. In this Surrey innings Trego had doubled his wicket haul for the season. He nearly added to it with his next ball as he all but got through Sangakarra’s defence, the ball ending up wedged between Sangakarra’s feet.
This is Sangakarra’s third and last season with Surrey. This is his last match at The Oval. This season he had batted 12 times, scored seven centuries, 1250 runs and averaged 113. The Surrey members rose to him and applauded him all the way to the wicket. When Trego’s ball failed to get through you just had the feeling if there was going to be another Bradman’s last innings moment on this ground it had just gone.
As news came in that both Middlesex and Yorkshire were ahead in their games, Tom Abell was bowling at Sangakarra as Somerset strained to cover their lack of a fourth seamer on a wicket apparently not suited to the two spinners. It was an uneven contest, and by the end Abell’s 11 overs had cost 52 runs. “It’s too easy,” a Somerset supporter behind me said. They were runs Somerset’s 269 could ill afford to allow. Trescothick, the sole slip trying to cover both first and second slip another indication of the pressure Somerset were under.
The efforts of Somerset’s bowlers this year have been Herculean as they have stood against the flood tide which flows when insufficient runs are posted. Yesterday, they tried to stand against a tide which few have resisted this year. A tide of runs from Kumar Sangakarra. He rolled out the godlike cuts, drives and glides which might have convinced even Plato that he had witnessed perfection.
There were though signs of the human in his play in this innings. That first ball he received from Trego that so nearly ended his innings before it started. The one from Dom Bess that nearly got through as he tried to launch him into the Pavilion, only to succeed with the very same stroke off the next ball. The lofted cover drive that bounced just inside the rope a yard beyond where a racing Jack Leach had reached as he ran rocket powered along the boundary. The airy swish which so nearly had him caught behind on 99. Always ‘nearly’ for Somerset against Sangakarra..
It was a classic Sangakarra innings only in parts as someone said to me. It had the feel of a last day at the office celebration. and how the Surrey supporters celebrated when he reached three figures for the eighth time in 13 innings this season. You do not often see his like. A quiet sigh of relief must be rippling around the First Division that he has decided to call it a day.
As to the humans in the match. Patel and Foakes edged Groenewald and Trego behind to Davies before they were allowed to get going. Surrey 169 for 4. Somerset hanging on. Just. 19-year-old Ollie Pope hit the best merely human innings of the day. He all but matched Sangakarra’s scoring rate in a partnership of 109 which threatened to take the match completely away from Somerset. Eventually he fell to Groenwald whose trademark quiet perseverance took two wickets, both caught by Davies who has taken four catches in the innings so far. Pope 50. Surrey 278 for 5. Sangakkara 88 not out. Surrey nine ahead.
The catch of the day came off the bowler of the day, but first Sam Curran edged Trego infuriatingly past slip. “We are not having a lot of luck today,” someone shrugged, for there had been much playing and missing and ‘catches’ not carrying. The luck improved immediately afterwards. Curran edged Trego again. It went fast and low past Overton at slip, but not quite fast enough for Overton got down and caught the ball behind him just as it looked to be through. It was some catch and Overton is turning into some cricketer.
Trego bowled a full ration of overs in this innings for the first time for a long time and it paid off, but in the end Surrey stretched their lead to 59. Looking back on it, Sangakarra apart, Trego and Somerset had matched Surrey. Trego was not only Somerset’s most successful bowler, he was the most economical, conceding only two and a half runs an over in a three and a quarter runs an over innings. Some have questioned his value in recent Championship matches where he has failed with the bat. His bowling has been worth his weight in gold in this match. Somerset may need some more from him if they are to contain Surrey sufficiently not to lose.
At least, from a Somerset perspective, the news from the Yorkshire and Middlesex games improved through the day. At Lord’s, by the end of the day, Lancashire had fought back to even their match up against Middlesex. If they could just keep going long enough to win today, and Somerset lose, Somerset will still start their match against Middlesex next week a whisker ahead in the table. If Somerset could hang in long enough to force a draw when they bat again, perhaps helped this afternoon by some rain being sent up from the West Country by all accounts, they would start with a considerable points advantage. They may need it, for without The Oval’s floodlights much of today would have been lost to bad light as the low cloud blotted out the weaker sun of autumn. Taunton has no floodlights which at this time of year may make it more difficult to force a win.
After the cricket it was off to the Southwark Playhouse to see ‘Mrs Orwell’, a play about George’s Orwell’s last days and his second marriage. Nothing much about his books in it, they were taken as read. An excellent production. A brief conversation afterwards with the actor who played Orwell revealed he was a native of Weston who played in his childhood in those very same Quantocks which reassuringly look back at you if you sit in the top of the Somerset Pavilion. His face lit up at their very mention and so did mine. Orwell’s books a reminder that we live in a society with precious freedoms. That bag on the tube in the morning a reminder that they are under attack. The play, or at least Orwell’s books, a reminder that we must not unduly curtail them in response. It puts the cricket in perspective.”
Close. Somerset 269. Surrey 328-6. Surrey lead Somerset by 59 runs with 4 first innings wickets standing.