Ball One – Surrey open the bowling with skipper Rory Hamilton-Brown – a change spinner at best. Nothing wrong with that – except that Surrey are fielding four other frontline twirlers: Spriegel, Ansari, Batty and Schofield. With only two proper seamers – Linley and Arafat – this could be the way forward on a flat strip, forcing the batsmen to make the pace off the bat.
Ball Two – Cricket’s pool of players is shallower than football’s, but it’s as deep as rugby, so it’s surprising that so many sons of famous fathers make it in the fierce meritocracy of sport. Going well for Northants is David Willey, son of ex-England man and umpire, Peter Willey. He doesn’t look quite as teak tough as his father, but he plays more shots and manages to face the bowler in his stance.
Ball Three – Perhaps the sharpest contrast between domestic and international cricket lies in the urgency of the players – the sheer willingness to get the next ball bowled. Nobody wants the vast canvas of Test cricket to be hurried through, but it’s good to see an acknowledgement from county players that there’s an obligation to entertain and it’s not much fun watching short leg strapping on leg-guards and players standing about having drinks.
Ball Four – Off their last 17 overs, Surrey scored 102-7, partly due to some decent Northants bowling, but mainly as a result of batsmen forcing the pace too early in their innings. Taking wickets is now imperative for Surrey as Northants approach the half-way mark over thirty runs ahead on Duckworth-Lewis, the best guide to the balance of a match.
Ball Five – With wickets the only route for Surrey to win this match as it stands now (151 needed off 22 overs with all ten wickets in hand) there are no close catchers and a real sense that Rory Hamilton-Brown is waiting for something to happen. My feeling, indeed my experience at The Oval, is that what will happen is a comfortable Surrey defeat.
Ball Six – In these circumstances, it’s the powerplay that often brings the wicket since it forces the fielding captain to attack a little. There’s a case for allowing the batting side to refuse the powerplay should they so wish, and put the onus back on the fielding captain to make the decisions.