Surrey are a shadow of their former selves.
When Graeme Smith came into bat at Canterbury yesterday, Surrey were a sorry 47-4 and staring down the barrel of an innings defeat against Kent.
This is not how it was meant to be for Smith. International retirement should have given him a new spring in his step; Surrey expected runs, victories and, frankly, promotion. So far, so not good. Four matches, no wins, two defeats, seventh in division two.
The glory days of the late '90s and early 2000s, when Surrey were the Manchester United of cricket, seem very distant indeed (only if United's fall continues will the comparisons become apt again). The Oval remains a terrific place to watch county cricket but the quality of the fare on show needs a boost. KP?
Riley's wickets are under the radar; his batting is a blip
One reason for Surrey's demise in their current match was the excellence of Kent's 22-year-old off-spinner, Adam Riley, supposedly James Tredwell's understudy but picked ahead of him for the county's most recent Championship matches.
When nearly every other spinner in the country has found themselves mentioned in the debate about Graeme Swann's likely England successor, 22-year-old Riley has flown discreetly under the radar, taking 56 wickets in 23 first-class games since his debut. His average of 31.32 is almost identical to another whose name has been mentioned surprisingly little in terms of the summer's international programme, Monty Panesar. He also had a good day yesterday, taking 6-111 in 50 overs for Essex against Leicestershire.
Unfortunately for Riley, he has the batting prowess to match Monty too: an average of 7.30 from 27 innings appearing to put him firmly in the Panesar/Tufnell school of batsmanship. Still, every team needs a number 11.
England's allure queers Ireland's pitch
Defeat to Sri Lanka in an ODI yesterday should carry no shame for Ireland. The tourists are, after all, T20 champs and dab hands at all limited-over formats.
Neutral fans always want to see an underdog have its day. Wins by the likes of Ireland or Afghanistan against the big boys of world cricket always create a buzz, therefore. The prospect of an Associate Nation playing tests is also one that should gladden the heart of anybody with an interest in promoting the game.
With a population of 6.4million (combining the Republic and Northern Ireland), there is a potential pool of Ireland-eligible players to rival New Zealand’s (population 4.4million) and the West Indies’ (around 6million). Ireland's cricketing infrastructure is decent and improving; many of the country's top players have had considerable exposure to county cricket. That, however, is a double-edged sword because although it creates an opportunity to gain crucial experience, it also offers a route to playing for England. Fundamentally, this explains why it won't be an easy task for Ireland to compete with full ICC members on equal terms any time soon.
The cost of batting crisis
A promotion in The Cricketer magazine offers readers the chance to win £500 of Gunn & Moore kit for their club.
The chance to be padded up like Joe Root - or a latter-day Bruce French, perhaps - would be too good a chance to pass up. Yet a glance at the prices of top range equipment is enough to make a man drop a regulation chance at mid-off.
Sure, there is plenty of kit at the cheaper end of the market. But go for the good stuff and your £500 will be just enough for a bat, a bag and a thigh-pad. You might feel a tad exposed; but pity your naked team-mates.
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