Cricket

Gareth Batty’s Jedi mind tricks turn tables on Kent after Sean Dickson ton

Surrey 439 and 11 for 0 lead Kent 294 (Dickson 128, Crawley 63, Batty 3-49) by 156 runs

In deciding on the readiness of young players to compete at the highest level, it is often said “if they’re good enough, they’re old enough”. Seldom though do you hear people opining that “if he’s good enough, he’s young enough”. In the 41-year-old Gareth Batty and the 37-year-old Rikki Clarke, Surrey quite definitely possess two of the more mature players on the circuit; yet they are both very much young enough.

With this match drifting listlessly to what already seemed an inevitable high-scoring draw, Surrey’s gnarled old pros, longer in the tooth than your average walrus, broke the game open with a pair of interventions after tea.

On Monday, it was Darren Stevens assuming the role of Yoda. This time, with Kent cruising comfortably at 227 for 2 on a placid pitch offering nothing to the bowlers since before lunch on day one, it was Batty to whom Rory Burns turned, much as Princess Leia did to Obi Wan Kenobi.

Batty was, it seemed, Surrey’s “last hope”. The pitch was offering little by way of turn, but Batty summoned his most seductive Jedi mind tricks in assuring first Heino Kuhn and then Ollie Robinson the very next delivery that “these are the balls you are looking to edge”. Two arm balls, albeit with a little more bounce than either batsman was expecting, assisted by two very sharp Ben Foakes catches had suddenly thrown this somnolent, soporific match wide open.

Wiaan “agent” Mulder came in to face the hat-trick ball but knew “the truth was out there”, just on a length outside off stump and spoiled the fun with the middle of a stoutly defensive bat.

What Mulder didn’t see coming was the leaping left hand of Will Jacks at gully who dived impossibly far to snatch the ball an inch off the ground to an audible collective gasp from this now thoroughly engaged crowd. Jacks repeated the trick in the first over of a new spell from Clarke to remove Alex Blake, and when Stevens, who had survived two mighty close shouts for lbw off Clarke was finally put out of his misery by umpire Graham Lloyd, Kent had lost five wickets for 33 runs.

All the while, Sean Dickson, who scored 318 the last time Kent played a first-class fixture at Beckenham, was looking on aghast from the other end. Just three hours earlier he and Zak Crawley had been busy compiling an untroubled, and often attractive opening stand of 128.

Crawley really does look the real deal. Against a seam attack of Morne Morkel, Clarke, Sam Curran and the distinctly brisk Conor Mckerr, he appeared to have all the time in the world. Granted, there was little happening off the pitch, and neither did it swing, much to the surprise of the odd luminary in the commentary box, but there are few more testing attacks than Surrey’s and it came as a surprise when he was spectacularly castled by Clarke for 63, pushing out at a ball he should have been defending and losing his middle and off stumps in the process.

Just as Clarke had sprung that first surprise, it was down to Batty to deliver the second when he too removed the middle stump, this time of Daniel Bell-Drummond who was attempting to run the ball down through third man. It was both too close to him and way too full. An ugly drag back ensued. Those Jedi mind tricks again. Frustration, disappointment and unfulfillment again from a player who has promised so much for years, at least since that terrific hundred against the touring Australians in 2015.

The second new ball was taken as soon as it was available. Curran immediately accounted for Dickson, getting him caught strangled down the leg side to end an unspectacular but highly efficient innings from the opener in rather unfortunate circumstances. The last two wickets soon followed, the final one to another quite brilliant catch from Jacks at short leg to give Morkel his only wicket. Surrey’s catching had been exemplary, even spectacular on occasion.

One bad session had produced eight wickets for just 91 runs. What at one time looked like a possible first-innings lead had resulted in a deficit of 145 runs. It is frequently the challenge for promoted sides to maintain intensity across the full duration of a match in this highly competitive top tier. Kent’s squad in large part lack Division One experience. Experience, though, is something Surrey have in abundance, and Batty and Clarke were quite simply the difference. Young enough? You bet.

Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1185061.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

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