Sunday, 1 September 2013

The day ahead

This will be a close one...

The rich array of opinion that manifests itself in your comments is replicated in those of the media, as we head into the final day at The Oval.

Take a look at these comments:

"Surrey close in on first victory" (BBC)

"Patient Madsen boosts Derbyshire prospects" (England and Wales Cricket Board)

"Surrey still in control despite Madsen knock" (London 24)

I'm firmly of the conviction that the BBC staff writers work to a template and base their comments on it. A team needs under 200? It will be a breeze, irrespective of the conditions. Over 200? Tense. Over 300? Facing defeat.

I'm with Vithushan Ehantharajah of Cricinfo, who came up with two telling paragraphs last night.

"Both sides performed admirably, but Derbyshire will go into tomorrow as favourites by virtue of having runs on the board.
As expected, the pitch has deteriorated sufficiently over the last two days to shift the balance towards the bowlers. However, this assistance is skewed towards the Pavilion End, which has displayed some drastic variable bounce."

If we can nudge and nurdle another 30-40 runs this morning Surrey will not fancy it. If we don't, it will be touch and go and they could get there with the aid of a little luck and their greater experience. Yes, I agree with notoveryet that I would be happier if we had Tony Palladino to bowl today, but specifically last year's model. It should not be overlooked that Tony has eight wickets at 48 in an injury-hit summer and may or may not be fully fit. His replacement, Matt Higginbottom, has eight wickets at 32, taken in fifty overs less bowling and in recent matches.
Tony will work hard in the winter and will come back strong next summer, but his inclusion in the match was far from a foregone conclusion. Had he played AND been at his best, we would have breezed this match. He's not been though and it should not be overlooked that his two wickets at Colchester last weekend came courtesy of brilliant catches, one by him, one by Chesney Hughes. Maybe he's not getting the movement he did last year, as he's not sure his body could cope with putting everything into it. I don't know if that's true - but Krikk and AJ Harris will be aware of his current physical and technical condition. We're not and must defer to the greater knowledge of the experts.

The final place appeared to be between Palladino, Wainwright and Poynton. Wainwright took three wickets in the first innings and will be crucial today, while the runs under his belt have doubled his value. Poynton has 37 and 29 not out on a wicket that has been an issue for batsmen, so has totally vindicated his selection, even if having two wicket-keepers seems a tad on the generous side.

Would I have liked an in-form Palladino in the side? Yes, but I don't think he is near his best. Groenewald is, but I've covered my thoughts on his paternity absence and his entitlement to it elsewhere. These things happen and doubtless Karl Krikken's task this year would have been easier if Palladino and Clare had been fit for longer periods.

As always, he will be judged on results, like any coach in any sport. If we win this one, any criticism of his selection will be less valid; if we lose, then an array of contributors will deem him wrong and - perhaps unfairly - say that he cost us the game, when it's not always quite so clear-cut.

We will know in around eight hours - or less.

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