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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Sunday August 19 2012

Cricket is a funny old game.  Today, for instance, playing for Surrey in a 40 overs each way game, a certain Kevin Pietersen was out first ball.  That bloke never does things by halves, does he?

But the four day game between Surrey and Middlesex that ended yesterday was far funnier, as it far more unpredictable.

Even since Tom Maynard got himself topped by a train earlier in the season, Surrey have been heading inexorably out of the top division of the County Championship.  They lost a top batsman, Maynard, of course.  They lost another (then) top batsman, Hamilton-Brown, who was Maynard’s good buddy from school, and who shared a house with him.  Hamilton-Brown just could not take playing serious cricket in the immediate aftermath of the Maynard catastrophe, and was given compassionate leave.

Just before all this blew up, Surrey had decided that Mark Ramprakash was no longer Mark Ramprakash, and he was retired.  In retrospect, they must have cursed the timing, but you can’t reverse a decision like that.

And the rest of the Surrey batting, notably Davies and de Bruyn, had a loss of form that has lasted pretty much ever since all this misery.

Into the side, on the back of no more than belief amongst the coaches, presumably, that they were the best people available, have come second string batters like, well, Burns and Harinath.  Burns showed sparks of adequacy, but Harinath scarcely even that.  Yet, needs must.

So, Surrey v Middx.  Day 1.  Surrey all out 144, after the usual batting fiasco.  Middx 99-1.  Game over, you’d think.  I certainly did.  But on day 2, the bowlers, notably the spinner Kartik, rally, and Middx are reduced to 188-9, only leading on first innings by 44.  Game on.  But then, a last wicket stand takes Middx to nearly a hundred ahead, and Surrey start to bat again, losing their first wicket at 13.  Ansari.  Ansari has filled in well in one day games.  Today, for instance, he hit a useful 30.  In general, this season, after the top order has disappeared for about nothing, Ansari, if playing, has tended to make enough runs for the game to last long enough not to be a total embarrassment.  But him getting out cheaply in a four day game was no surprise.

But then, Burns and Harinath, instead of following Ansari back to the pavilion with similarly small scores, leaving Surrey then to slump to something like 50 for 6 or 7 overnight (losing by an innings or nearly that the following morning), do something very peculiar.  They do not get out.  Instead they reach 86-1 by the close of day 2.

And then, on day 3, this is what happens:

image

Since the Maynard Death, Surrey have basically had only one batsman capable of making a big, game changing score, and he only very fleetingly: Kevin Pietersen.  Other than him, nothing.  No big innings.  And no big stands.  (See what I mean about how they must be cursing the Ramps retirement.) Yet, Burns and Harinath both make hundreds and put on over two hundred.  The rest of the Surrey batting do their best to lose the game, but by then it is settled, Middx will have to bat properly to win.

Only the Middx tail does bat properly, very properly as it happens.  But it isn’t quite enough, and Surrey win … by 8 runs.

Yes, Batty and Kartik did very well, each taking eight wickets in the match.  But they can bowl, that’s a given.  Spinners are, well, spinners, sociologically men apart, like goalies.  When a mere batsman dies during a drunken night out, they care, but not as much as normal cricketers do.  They just carry on spinning.  Also, if they do care, what do they do?  Bowl half a dozen long hops.  Big deal.  What do batsmen in mourning do?  Score half a dozen ducks.  Different, I think you will agree

The surprise was, in this Middx game, not that Batty and Kartik bowled well, but that Batty and Kartik got the chance to bowl well.  They did get that chance, courtesy of Burns and Harinath.

See Gareth Batty, now club captain following Hamilton-Brown jacking it in, talking about the game, in the video here (scroll down).

If Surrey do not get relegated, this will be when that did not happen.