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George Dobell at Guildford
July 11, 2012
Lancashire 245 for 3 (Horton 110) v Surrey
Paul Horton, with a composed, efficient century, ensured that Lancashire enjoyed the best of the first day of a game that might have more relevance to the relegation struggle than either side would like.
Horton, taking advantage of a rusty attack, a decent if slow pitch and a small, quick outfield, complied his second Championship century of the season to earn Lancashire a strong platform. Leaving the ball well, but deflecting when the bowlers erred in line and cutting when they erred in length, Horton provided his side with an opportunity to pass 350 on the second day for just the fourth time his season.
The day might not have gone as Surrey hoped when they inserted Lancashire on a pitch that had been under cover for much of the last few weeks but, in the circumstances, they should not be so displeased.
For this was a day of new starts for Surrey. Most pertinently, this was their first Championship game since the death of Tom Maynard. Cricket, understandably, has not been at the forefront of the players' minds in the last few weeks and, even if the first steps back into the rigours of the first-class game were somewhat faltering, they have, at least, been taken.
It does not mean they have forgotten; just that they have accepted the cruel inevitability that life goes on and that the time has come to continue with their lives. Maybe a little wiser, certainly a little sadder, but this was another step that needed to be taken in the grieving process.
They will gain strength in the weeks and months ahead. Not only simply because they possess extravagant individual talent - their attack in this game consists of five specialist bowlers who have all, at one time or another, been deemed good enough for international cricket - but because they are united in spirit.
As Chris Adams, Surrey's team director, told the Press Association: "We have a very natural cause now and a permanent 12th man in Tom Maynard.
"When something like this happens, there aren't really any books to help you. Every situation, every team, every player is unique in their own right. But the one constant that exists in our lives at the moment is cricket. In quite a brutal way, things don't stop. Life goes on.
"The way everybody at this club has handled that has left me nothing short of proud. There is a deep wound in this side, we know that, and it will take time to mend. But these players will come through it stronger. The memories will stay but they will be tougher for this experience.
"Tom died on the Monday and by Thursday I had to get my head around the idea of the team playing cricket again the next day. You can't plan for that. You can't plan for the day you win the toss, choose to bat and have both opening batsmen breaking down in tears after a minute's silence.
"That is when you draw on your courage. To a man, every one of us was in tears and we were about to start a Twenty20 game. The essence of that moment told me how brave and courageous this team was. It makes them tighter as a unit and helps us all to realise how precious life is.
"Tom was a huge member of this team, both as a cricketer and as a person, but perhaps more as a person. He was loved by everyone. You cannot begin to quantify the loss of his personality in the dressing room. When he opened his mouth, a negative word never came out. It sometimes it isn't clear how much impact someone like that has until they're not there. But there are people here who want to do twice as much to recover that.
"We can take that positivity and grasp it for our team. I wouldn't say we're through anything yet, people are still hurting, but it is time to do our day job and make Tom proud of us for that because it's what he would have done."
The game also featured a return for Chris Tremlett after back surgery. The fast bowler, out of contract with Surrey and England at the end of this year, was playing his first first-class game since the first Test against Pakistan in the UAE in January and, on another day, could have picked up three or four wickets.
As it was, he suffered from at least two dropped chances. While not absolutely at his best - he delivered five no-balls and did not quite have the control, the rhythm or the pace of his peak - this was an impressive return. Generating that familiar, steep bounce, he benefitted from bowling a fuller length after lunch and provided an encouraging reminder of his substantial abilities.
Had Surrey accepted the chances that came their way, they might have taken control of the game. First Karl Brown, on 30, fencing at a rising delivery from Tremlett, was badly missed by Gareth Batty at first slip, before Steven Croft was reprieved on 0 and 3, off Tremlett and Stuart Meaker respectively. The first opportunity came when Steven Davies was unable to cling on down the leg side, the second when Murali Kartik, at second slip, was unable to hold on to a tough chance. Horton, too, survived an edge off a beauty from Tremlett that may have bounced just in front of Kartik at slip.
As it was, Meaker accounted for Stephen Moore, trapped on the crease and beaten for pace, and Karl Brown, caught behind after prodding at a good one on off stump. Horton, too, was eventually caught in the slips after edging one he had to play that bounced and took the edge. Had Surrey bowled a fuller length throughout, batting would have proved far harder.
"I think we all thought there would be more moisture in the pitch," Horton said after a day truncated by 15 overs due to showers. "There was a little swing, but I think they thought it would do more. We were edging towards bowling first, too, if we won the toss. We're very happy with that score."
There was a heartening scene before play, too. Peter Moores and Kevin Pietersen, the coach and captain sacked by England at the end of 2008, could be seen shaking hands and chatting amiably. It was the first time the pair had spoken since the episode. While they may never be the closest of friends, it was encouraging to see them put any lingering resentment in the past. Life is too short for that.
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