Recent Match Report – Surrey vs Warwickshire Division 1 2022

Recent Match Report - Surrey vs Warwickshire Division 1 2022

Surrey 168 for 3 (Patel 75) vs Warwickshire

England’s collection of opening batters might be unproductive when it comes to runs, but they can certainly be relied upon to provide a rich seam of interest for a psychoanalyst. Mike Brearley even tried to do both, so did remarkably well to emerge from all that mental torment with a Test average of 23.

Rory Burns, arguably the best of them, said he had put the Ashes series to bed, retuned his technique, and got away from the game for a while, finding pleasure in family life. Throughout the morning at Edgbaston, he eased himself into the season, content to play a secondary role to the shot-happy Ryan Patel: Burns the England opener trying to re-establish his reputation; Patel merely welcoming the start of the Championship season with a skip in his step and a song in his heart.

As Danny Briggs, Warwickshire’s left-arm spinner, purred in for the last ball of the morning, Burns’ 41 from 76 balls represented a job well done. He had got off the mark in fortunate fashion, an inside edge past leg stump as he tried to run Henry Brookes behind square, but successive fours against Craig Miles as lunch approached suggested his game was slipping back into good order.

It was then that for no good reason he flipped a full, tossed-up delivery from Briggs straight back to the bowler. Briggs accepted the gift in customary silence. He is the electric car of English spin bowlers: smooth, peaceful and liable to run you over when you least expect it.

Burns sunk, hand on knees, in disbelief. He began the Ashes series with a first-baller, bowled around his legs by Mitchell Starc. Now he had finished the first session of the Championship with a last-baller. Only this time, instead of the convulsions of a packed house of the Gabba, there was only the nithered nods of satisfaction from a few battle-hardened souls braving winds straight from the Arctic. His Ashes dismissal was more understandable.

Lunch was probably taken with a good deal of psychological torment and, this being Birmingham, it is to be hoped he wasn’t offered anything Freud. Alongside him, Patel mentally feasted on a not-out score of 75, although the lunch interval and a break for rain did for him and he had not added to his score when, from the fourth ball of the afternoon, he drove at a wide one from Oliver Hannon-Dalby and was caught at the wicket. Ollie Pope then moved enterprisingly to an unbeaten 40 from 46 balls in the last session of a day, which was limited to 45.5 overs.

It was a miserable start to the season, contested in strong, chill winds. Burns’ mane blew around the back of his neck like a weather vane and the first time the boundary was crossed was when a cap flew one off one of the slips. But from the moment he pulled Miles in the second over, Patel was assertive. He kicked on his career during last summer’s Royal London Cup – one of the fringe players to take his opportunity while the great and the good were engaged in the Hundred – and he included two pulled sixes as he rattled to the first half-century of the season in only 52 balls.

He did survive one low delivery from Will Rhodes – and such observations should be made with caution, having noted how the Warwickshire groundsman, Gary Barwell, got involved in an emotional Twitter spat last month with a TV commentator who had described county pitches as “terrible”. Barwell responded that he might as well pack away his mower and have done with it. It was probably snowing at the time.

A groundsmen’s job is far from easy in England, with the season beginning before the squares have dried out, or the grass shown much interest in growing, and with Test grounds hosting far more cricket than the square can easily handle, so it’s best to add the rider that Warwickshire won the Championship last season on surfaces where games repeatedly went deep into the final day. Barwell, who honours ECB edicts on pitches more than most, has no need to ring up Rajapack.

Warwickshire will certainly find it hard work to begin their title defence with a victory. They are contesting this match without Liam Norwell, 49 Championship wickets last season, Chris Woakes and Olly Stone, although they have become hardened to the absence of the last two.

The return of Henry Brookes for his first Championship game since September 2019, having missed all of last season because of a quad tendon tear, was an uplifting sight and he deserves better fortune with injuries to build on the heady promise he showed as a teenager, powerful beyond his years, during Warwickshire’s Division Two title-winning year back in 2018.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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