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David Lloyd at The Oval
April 20, 2012
Surrey 123 for 7 (Richardson 5-42) v Surrey
In these days of central contracts and IPL deals it was a delight to hear Alan Richardson speaking earlier this month about the pride he felt in being named as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year.
The award may have no commercial value but it is confirmation from on high of a job performed with great distinction - and a job which, on the evidence of today's limited action, the 36-year-old has every intention of doing at least as well this season.
Richardson's 73 Championship wickets last summer went a long way towards helping Worcestershire defy the odds by retaining their Division One status. Surprisingly, given the size of the haul, he took five or more wickets in an innings on only three occasions but there are already two entries in that much cherished column this campaign.
Against Notts, in a match which Worcestershire eventually lost by 92 runs, it was 5 for 95. This time it is 5 for 42, from 16 overs, and with power to add.
Winning the toss yesterday was a good start for the visitors. Thanks to the weather, though, they had to wait 24 hours in order to get cracking with the ball - and then show still more patience while Jason Roy and Steven Davies were putting together a stand of 48.
Surrey are only three matches into this season but already on to their third opening pair. Davies missed the first game, through being with England in Sri Lanka, and now Jacques Rudolph is absent after returning home to South Africa for family reasons
Roy and Davies looked anything but a makeshift combination, however, as they survived for nearly an hour - and, in the case of Roy, prospered to the tune of 38 runs from 36 balls - despite seaming conditions which surely had Richardson licking his lips in anticipation.
The breakthrough came when Richardson nipped one back to pin Roy lbw, and Worcestershire were soon on a roll. In all, Surrey lost five wickets for 21 runs in 10 overs, either side of a break for rain, but, to the home side's credit, Worcestershire had to earn all but one of those successes. Davies nicked another good ball from Richardson, Mark Ramprakash and Rory Hamiliton-Brown both had to play at their deliveries from Richard Jones and only Zander De Bruyn could feel really cross with himself - poking tentatively outside off stump.
Batting was never remotely easy. But when the floodlights came on and the sky was nearly as black as night, Tom Maynard and Chris Jordan did extremely well to add the thick end of 50 runs through some ferocious counter-attacking.
At that stage, with Surrey 117 for 5, it was pretty much even-steven, given the conditions. But after a second lengthy hold up, the weather improved just long enough to allow another three and half overs, during which Richardson dismissed both Maynard and Jordan to complete his five-for and leave the hosts on 123 for 7.
With only two days remaining, the odds are heavily on a draw. Then again, Worcestershire in general and Richardson in particular are rather good at making a nonsense of predictions.