Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Surrey v Derbyshire day 3 - Billy leads way in county canter
I like that word and from me it represents the ultimate in praise. It is someone doing the job that they are trained and qualified to do to the best of their ability, whether it is an electrician, plumber, car mechanic - or cricketer.
So when I say that Derbyshire won today's game with consummate professionalism, it is intended as the highest of praise. Because the result never looked in doubt at any point. Ben Slater and Billy Godleman led off with an opening stand that settled the nerves and confirmed their potential as pairing for the future. Getting through the new ball was of paramount importance; getting through to lunch with ten wickets intact was a huge bonus.
Slater went soon afterwards and the closest that there was to concern was when Wayne Madsen edged to slip after scoring only two. There was a time when such blows might have seen a swift descent and four, maybe five back in the hutch pretty quickly.
For Godleman it was confirmation of a renaissance in his fortunes that has been heartening to see. A good few people - and I admit to being one of them - struggled to see a future for him in the first half of the summer, as a combination of injury and poor form kept him out of the side. His contract up at the end of the summer, it was hard to see where he had to go.
He deserves the utmost praise for working hard to turn things around, as do the batting coaches. He admits to a 'tweak' in his technique, having worked with Ant Botha and it has paid dividends. When I have seen him this season he has looked secure in defence, strong in attack and with a good range of shots. While one innings doesn't make a season, his recent sequence of scores suggests that he could yet become the batsman that appeared likely when he burst onto the scene as a seventeen-year old at Middlesex. Yes, he needs to kick on further and turn a thirty average to nearer forty next year, but he can be proud of his effort today and in recent weeks.
As can Cheteshwar Pujara. I had no doubt that he would show his undoubted ability in this short stay and he proved himself today. Both Graeme Welch and Chris Grant have spoken about the need for 'match-winners' and Pujara confirmed himself worthy of that title today.
It wasn't just the runs that he made as the way he made them. His unbeaten innings of 90 was not far from a run-a-ball and would have been, but for a noticeable and sporting easing back on the throttle as the runs required for the win and for a Godleman century became a close call. He played a couple of maidens at that point, to ensure his partner reached a century of considerable importance and such sportsmanship was gratifying to see.
The thing that separates very good from outstanding batsmen is the margin of error. The outstanding batsman will punish even the slightest error in line and length and Pujara showed that today. There were fours around the wicket without really taking risks and I really look forward to seeing him next week against Leicestershire.
Could there have been a more gratifying game? Harvey Hosein's catches and records, good seam bowling from Ben Cotton, more evidence of Footitt's raw power, Godleman's ton, Pujara coming good, the skipper passing his thousand for the season - the list goes on.
Graeme Welch has had a tough baptism and the opening months of the summer were unexpectedly traumatic, on and off the field. Yet there is a growing realisation and appreciation that his squad ends the summer looking better than the one that started it and that there is genuine cause for optimism ahead of 2015.
The short-term signings of both Wayne White and Cheteshwar Pujara have proved beneficial and if both can be engaged on a long-term basis, this is going to be a winter of optimism and anticipation.
Well done lads. A really impressive effort in this game.
One more to go...