Friday, April 13, 2012

Thunderstorms and a Day at Lord's: Day 1, Middlesex v Surrey

Surrey captain Rory Hamilton-Brown (on the right sitting on the step) shows his disappointment as play is suspended by bad light during the evening session.
On a day in which wickets tumbled across the country, I found myself at Lord's watching the first day of the London derby. Now, I come from a very rural background - I have to get ducks that try and bite me out of my local library and pheasants regularly turn up in my back garden. I am a Suffolk based Essex fan who only ever travels down to London to watch sport. I've been to Lord's around five times now, but as I left the tube at St John's Wood and began the walk down to the ground, I was filled with the same childlike excitement that I've had every time I visit. And it's in this mindset that I found myself in the lower tier of the Compton Stand watching Jon Lewis run in from the Nursery End to bowl to the Middlesex openers of Joe Denly and Sam Robson.

It was, ultimately, a frustrating day to be a cricket fan at the Home of Cricket. April showers threatened, rumbles of thunder were heard and there was even flashes of lightning in the distance behind the pavilion. With conditions like these, it's not really a surprise that Surrey decided to bowl first when they won the toss.

Middlesex began watchfully. There were a couple of LBW shouts, but Robson and Denly were playing OK. The pitch looked good and there was no devious bounce, meaning both were comfortable leaving the ball without the fear of doing a Michael Clarke/Shane Watson. Of the two, Robson looked more comfortable at the crease. Denly edged off Lewis through the vacant third slip area for a boundary, and then a couple of overs later, ended up nicking one behind to give Steve Davies a relatively easy catch.

Middlesex went into lunch 86-2, with Chris Rogers having been trapped LBW by Dernbach. They were playing steadily, especially when compared to the scores from around the country. Sam Robson had been playing well for his 40 and would be hoping to continue after the lunch break. Unfortunately, the weather decided to roll in.

It wasn't as grim as the CB40 final, but that's because Somerset can't lose here.
There was about an hour and a half delay, as the covers went on towards the end of lunch. During that time I'd had a look round the MCC Library, thanks to Liz, and then spent a small fortune on a cup of tea. An elderly chap nearby me struck up conversation with me, deciding to tell me about his knee cartilage, Steven Finn needing a mean streak and how he disliked the Rose Bowl being "built on a bloody great hill", how it was "a nightmare in the winter" and kept telling me that if this match had been there, we'd have been soaked because there's no shelter. Having been to Twenty20 Finals Day in 2010, I knew this all too well and was incredibly grateful to be sat in the lower tier of the Compton Stand.

Play restarted at around five to three. Unfortunately for Sam Robson, he couldn't capitalise on his good start and departed for 40, having been comprehensively bowled by Tim Linley for 40. Middlesex were 86-3 and continuing from the Pavilion End was Jade Dernbach.

In his second over after the delay, Dernbach could've had the Middlesex captain of Neil Dexter bowled, caught or LBW off the first three deliveries. On his fourth, he finally got his man. Dexter looked to leave, but instead ended up chopping it on to his leg stump to leave Middlesex 91-4 and Jade Dernbach to jump around in celebration. The wicketkeeper John Simpson came and went, as he was out LBW for a golden duck. Middlesex were reeling on 91-5 and Dernbach was on a hat-trick.

Jade Dernbach celebrates the golden duck of John Simpson, which left him on a hat-trick.
The South African-turned Englishman-turned Italian all-rounder of Gareth Berg came in to face the hat-trick ball. He survived and ended up getting off the mark with a single after a mistake at point. Dernbach then unleashed a scream reminiscent of Shan Yu in Mulan.

Surrey were bowling well in the seam friendly overhead conditions. Berg ended up being bowled for 11 by Tim Linley, who I apparently dubbed "The Inspector" when Surrey visited Chelmsford back in September last year, leaving Middlesex 108-6. Ollie Rayner was next in. Dawid Malan was good at protecting him from the strike, but when Rayner found himself facing Jon Lewis, he was eventually beaten and bowled on the off stump for 2. Middlesex went into tea on 142-7 relying on Tim Murtagh and the not out Dawid Malan to help them rebuild to a respectable total.

Tea saw me meet up with Liz and then join her in meeting some of the Test Match Sofa crew. They are a lovely and entertaining bunch, despite obviously being "nowhere near as funny as they think they are". It was probably for the best that the tea break was coming to an end when conversation turned to my favourite all-rounder, but the philosophy of "let's drink wine and watch cricket" is one that many people I know would approve of.

Cricket fans, especially county cricket fans, are a weird and patient bunch. In football, if you had an hour's delay for the floodlights going off in an evening kick off, you'd probably find that a lot of people wouldn't be very happy. The apocalypse looked like it'd missed Lord's midway through the afternoon session, but a huge cloud had gathered around the sun after tea and it wasn't long before the two umpires had come together and told the players that they were coming off. The hover cover came on, but the umpires and groundstaff could see that there was sunlight still to come on the horizon. It just needed the clouds to shift. A gentleman in the Grand Stand decided to shout "Get on with it!" having earlier told Jade Dernbach that a delivery was "Pitching miles outside leg". Both calls of frustration echoed round the near empty ground.

Bad light stops play.
When play eventually got started again, Tim Murtagh and Dawid Malan, who was playing very well, were proving a thorn in Surrey's side. They could not get the 8th wicket. The partnership was steadily growing, and with Surrey's over rate around -3, Hamilton-Brown decided to bring on Gareth Batty. Murtagh, possessed by the spirit of England's winter in UAE, went for a massive swipe across the line against Batty in his third over and was out plumb LBW. Middlesex were 182-8 and Surrey would be hoping to finish them off so they could bat in the morning.

It didn't go to plan. Malan continued his steady accumulation and he reached 50 with a single off Batty. He barely raised his bat in recognition. The single also brought up Middlesex's 200, something that had looked increasingly unlikely around the tea interval. At the other end, Chris Jordan, Surrey's most expensive bowler of the day, was being hit around. He was having no-ball problems and Middlesex capitalised on it, with both Malan and Toby Roland-Jones hitting him to the boundary for four. 

Roland-Jones could not survive until the close and nicked one into the slip cordon off Chris Jordan. Gareth Batty had a break from kick boxing with Steve Davies and just about clung onto the catch at first slip. Roland-Jones then walked off with the second slowest trudge I have ever seen at a cricket match, the first being James Anderson crawling off at Cardiff trying to hide his sheer disappointment at being 99 runs shy of a maiden Test century.

Corey Collymore and Dawid Malan survived until the close of play, leaving Middlesex on 225-9 and Malan on 62 not out. Surrey had let Middlesex off the hook in the evening session, perhaps the bad light interruption had impacted upon them, and Malan was showing that if you got in, survived the early tricky weather conditions and played patiently, then you would be able to build an innings. His anchorage of one end and his partnership with Tim Murtagh allowed Middlesex to rebuild to a fairly respectable first innings total, especially when compared to some of the scores from across the country.

A spectator's county cricket season would not be complete without a trip to Lord's. It would also not be complete without the typical British summer weather having a say in proceedings.

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