Surrey 290 for 8 (Foakes 62, Stoneman 61, Smith 56, Patterson 4-71) v Yorkshire
A day’s cricket many doubted would take place eventually featured two players who had, until last weekend, scant reason to think they would be taking any part in the match. Had not family reasons prevented David Willey representing Yorkshire Jordan Thompson may not even have travelled to Guildford; and had not a back problem confined Rory Burns to the treatment table, Jamie Smith may have been turning out for Surrey’s second team at Polo Farm, near Canterbury.
Yet instead of looking forward to Pudsey St Lawrence’s match against Townville on Saturday, Thompson marked his first-class debut by taking the wickets of Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick. And instead of watching the groundsmen mopping up in Kent, Smith responded by making a polished 56 on his first appearance in the County Championship. “World is suddener than we fancy it,” wrote Louis MacNeice in “Snow”, “World is crazier and more of it than we think, / Incorrigibly plural.”
By close of play Thompson could look back on three sessions in which he had not looked out of place. Smith, meanwhile, had helped Ben Foakes add 118 for Surrey’s fifth wicket and seemed to have given his side a sniff of building a total which would allow them to control this three-day game. Yet even as an appreciative crowd at Woodbridge Road was assessing the contributions of two cricketers taking their first steps in the competition by which their careers will be judged, a 35-year-old playing his 146th first-class match made off with their thunder.
For just as it seemed this day’s honours would belong to Surrey, Steven Patterson castled Foakes, Will Jacks and Smith in the same over. Without bowling at any great pace – Jonny Tattersall stood up to him – Patterson nipped one in to defeat Foakes’s skew-whiff shot off the back foot; next ball he made Jacks looks as foolish as a batsmen will when he lets an inswinger go; and he then bowled a ball of fuller length which Smith played both over and around. The virtues of aiming at the stumps have rarely been better illustrated.
But even when the spectacular intervention of one of the most unspectacular cricketers on the circuit have been considered the most remarkable feature of this day’s play may have been that it took place at all. “Try praying” suggests a poster outside St Saviour’s at the top of Wooodbridge Road and some folk may indeed have believed only divine involvement could have caused play to start on time after the deluge that soaked Guildford on Monday afternoon. The truth was more prosaic: efficient drainage through sandy soil, a few hours without rain and the fine efforts of the club’s groundsmen were quite sufficient.
All the same, there was a sense of unexpected bounty among the spectators who turned up early and it was noticeable how many more Surrey supporters arrived once they realised there would actually be something to watch. They probably enjoyed what they saw as well for the first 90 minutes were dominated by their side’s openers. Dean Elgar, compact and vigilant as a man might be when he has scored 43 runs in his last seven innings, batted as if fate was likely to hoodwink him at any moment; Stoneman, more confident and assertive, drove Ben Coad’s overpitched balls through the off side and then rocked back to punch Yorkshire’s spearhead past cover.
Dom Bess replaced the seamer at the Railway End for the 13th over but Yorkshire did not make their first breakthrough until 45 minutes later. Even then the bowlers had their opponents’ help as Elgar contrived to reach a wide ball from Patterson and squirted a catch to Bess at point. Ten minutes later Stoneman reached his fifty but having served a hard master, he then became Thompson’s first victim in Championship cricket.
The late golf-commentator Henry Longhurst might have described Thompson as “a well set-up young fellow”; in our own rather less lyrical age we settle for “a big unit”. Either way he bowls at a fair lick and gained his reward when he speared one across Stoneman, who thin-edged a catch to Tattersall and threw his head back in anger.
That left Surrey on a respectable 117 for 2 at lunch but it changed the temper of the contest. On the resumption Coad bowled seven overs for 11 runs and picked up the wicket of Ryan Patel when the Surrey batsman played clumsily across the line. At the other end, Patterson bowled with his typical parsimony; every run was begrudged as if it was an insult to his home town of Beverley. When Thompson finally replaced Coad, Borthwick drove at his first ball but was betrayed by a lack of foot movement. Adam Lyth took the catch at second slip and Surrey were 147 for 4.
The next couple of hours were Surrey’s best of the day. Smith’s cover driving of both seam and spin bowlers was a delight while Foakes advanced down the pitch to Bess and hit him safely over mid-on. Surrey were 250 for 4 when Yorkshire took the new ball and had the home side survived the next hour there was every chance they would have had to bat only once in this shortened game.
But when Yorkshire calls, Patterson rarely fails to answer and the skipper’s intervention has already done much to shape this match. When bad light ended pay nine overs early folk who had thought this might be another lost day could reflect on some rich entertainment. They had arrived telling tales of flooded gardens, sodden clothes and hazardous drives home amid stair-rod rain. But visiting supporters left the ground talking about a 22-year-old Loiner who looked a little as though he hadn’t taken his coat-hanger out of his shirt. Home loyalists, meanwhile, were understandably excited by the talent of Smith, an 18-year-old who was taking his A-Levels a mere 12 months ago. Further examinations await him but it is safe to say he cannot wait to sit them