Hutton and Shah expose Surrey's shortcomings

Surrey 418 and 203 Middlesex 325 and 300-4 <i>Middlesex win by 6 wkts</i>
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The Independent Online

When Steve Rixon was coach of New South Wales he was known as Stumper. After two Championship games, he must be feeling a bit stumped. Instead of strutting off the stage at Lord's, Surrey slunk away. Here were a team who had scored more than 400 in the first innings, and it was not enough to prevent their ancient rivals humiliating them in the fourth.

When Steve Rixon was coach of New South Wales he was known as Stumper. After two Championship games, he must be feeling a bit stumped. Instead of strutting off the stage at Lord's, Surrey slunk away. Here were a team who had scored more than 400 in the first innings, and it was not enough to prevent their ancient rivals humiliating them in the fourth.

Middlesex were expected to struggle to make 297 runs to win, but they strode along, treating the Surrey bowling with the disrespect it deserved - with a single, sad exception. Jon Batty, Surrey's new skipper, looked at his wits' end. Rixon himself was masked by dressing-room shadows, but you can imagine what he was thinking. If the rain had not fallen last Sunday, Surrey would have lost to Sussex too. The mighty are fallen, and Rixon must be wondering how to pick them up.

True enough, everything went right for Middlesex yesterday. Their openers put on more than 100 for the first time this season. Sven Koenig ended a depressing trot (13 runs in three innings) with a secure half-century off 94 balls before getting caught in the last over before lunch for 62. Ben Hutton took longer over his 50 (137 balls), but he stayed put. After 78 in the first innings, Hutton - grandson of Sir Len, of course - rode his luck. Dropped first by Batty on 48 and then by Ali Brown on 60, he hit hard and sometimes high on the leg side. He must have been cross to be caught behind the wicket 12 short of a century.

Hutton's turn came in the last over before tea, when only 71 were still required and there were 35 overs to go: 223 balls, 10 fours, and a lot of satisfaction for a good Saturday crowd. It was all white space on the Mound Stand side, but there was better than a sprinkling in the Grand and Compton stands. Maybe what deters English spectators on a Saturday is not the shopping but the rarity of sun.

After tea, Owais Shah, captaining Middlesex for only the second time, and Ed Joyce played festival cricket, scoring 50 in seven overs before Shah was caught at long on for 65. He had scored a good clip (50 in 70 balls), but Joyce was sumptuous at the death, his 47 taking only 42 balls, before he prodded a return catch to Saqlain Mushtaq. It was a memorable day for Middlesex's batsmen.

Saqlain, back from Pakistan, took all four wickets, but James Ormond deserved them. In two spells yesterday he bowled 15 overs for 29 runs. He swung the ball away from the left-hander, but catches were dropped and edges narrowly avoided. Start a pressure group and call it Justice for the Ormond One, and use as evidence the fact that a good batsman's wicket never deteriorated.

Batty's body language suggested that confidence was leaking fast. Consultations grew longer and involved more people as the day wore on. Rixon's first job must be to give his new skipper an injection of reassurance. As of now, he is seriously short of runs, catches and experience.

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