Cricket

Liam Dawson serves reminder of under-stated qualities as Surrey are left with more regrets

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Hampshire 307 (Dawson 108, Markram 88) beat Surrey 254 (Stoneman 70, Dawson 2-39) by 53 runs

Schoolkids! Hordes of them! Packing out the Harleyford Road side of the ground and creating a racket far removed from your average Tuesday morning in April. They were long gone, of course, by the time Hampshire had torpedoed Surrey’s last realistic hopes in this year’s Royal London Cup – 50-over cricket drags on far too long for the youth of today, especially on a school day …

But at least the kids were treated, at the peak of their excitement and interest, to 19 balls of poetry from the World Cup-bound James Vince. For just over a quarter of an hour, Alex Hales’ nominal replacement scorched his drives with the alacrity of the Chosen One, before losing his off stump to a pearler from Stuart Meaker and departing for 28 to sighs of a less contented variety.

Oh yeah, and the kids were also treated to a Man-of-the-Match display of understated game-seizing from the non-World Cup-bound Liam Dawson – the understudy that no-one seems likely to call upon this summer despite this latest demonstration of his inestimable allround prowess.

Hampshire had been a ropey 124 for 4 after 22 overs when Dawson strolled out to join the steadfast Aiden Markram, whose 88 from 90 balls had withstood a fast and furious new-ball burst from Meaker, a man fresh from a second XI hat-trick earlier this week, and who had opened his day’s work by finding Tom Alsop’s outside edge for a duck.

Meaker’s day’s work, in fact, epitomised Surrey’s error-strewn campaign to date – he finished with three wickets for 58 in 8.5 overs, and also rattled Dawson on the grille with a savage bouncer early in his innings. But in his penultimate over, Meaker lost his range entirely, and was hoicked from the attack after two wides and two beamers, the first of which was dangerously fast and straight at Dawson’s forehead.

Undeterred, Dawson planted his front foot to swing through the line as Conor McKerr was dragged into action to complete a ten-bowl over, and dumped him unceremoniously into the Pavilion for six. McKerr did recover his poise to remove James Fuller and Kyle Abbott with consecutive balls, but Dawson slapped a cut through point to bring up his third List A hundred from 90 balls, and lift his side to a daunting total of 307.

“At the start of the year [England selection] wasn’t something I was thinking about,” said Dawson afterwards. “If selected, brilliant, if not, I just want to perform for Hampshire. I like to think my one-day record is pretty good, but it’s not something I worry about anymore. I’m 29 now, so I just want to enjoy my cricket. If I play brilliant, if not I’ll keep doing well for Hampshire.”

Surrey never entirely convinced in their efforts to pull together the chase, even while Mark Stoneman and Will Jacks were adding 66 for the first wicket in the first 13 overs. With Jason Roy still hors de combat after his back spasm a week ago, Stoneman led the reply with 70 from 68 balls, but not for the first time this season, their set batsmen were all too quick to flounder when a bit of pressure was applied.

That said, Surrey’s first wicket was a superb piece of bowling from that man Dawson, who lured Jacks out of his crease with flight and guile, before getting one to grip and explode past the edge for Tom Alsop to complete a simple stumping.

Dawson’s first three-over spell yielded just ten runs, as he burgled his way through the middle overs with scarcely a shot in anger, and after adding Rory Burns to a mildly desperate slog to long-off for 38 in the 35th over, he finished with 2 for 39 in ten, precisely the sort of professional performance that earned him his England call-up in Sri Lanka before Christmas, until a side strain opened the door for Joe Denly’s run to the World Cup 15.

Burns’ departure – at 175 for 5 – was the final straw, both for his side’s hopes and for the final stragglers of the youth brigade, one of whom yelped a plaintive “Good luck Surrey!” as he was hauled off to the tube by a teacher deep into overtime.

Ben Foakes, so often Surrey’s batsman of last resort this season, had already fallen to a checked drive off Gareth Berg, and the remainder of the middle order departed to a rash of airy slogs. Jamie Smith gave Vince catching practice at mid-off, before Kyle Abbott scalped two in two, including a brilliant effort from Aiden Markram, diving forward at backward-square to intercept a Ryan Patel pull.

With five wins out of six, Hampshire’s defence of their title has begun with poise and intent – barring an extraordinary collapse in resolve (and Vince’s absence will not help in that regard), they are coasting through to the quarter-finals in a fortnight’s time.

The same, however, cannot be said of their hosts, who have been derailed by injury and absence – even a squad with Surrey’s depth struggles to account for 12 missing squad players. They’ve made a habit in recent times of needing favours to qualify from the Royal London group stages, but this time they need a miracle.

Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/story/1182689.html?CMP=OTC-RSS

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