Surrey back on track despite Trego's blow
Surrey 98 for 4 (Burns 43*) trail Somerset 384 (Petersen 167, Dernbach 5-57) by 286 runs
The same phrase reoccurs often in Chris Adams' conversation: "A year is a long time in cricket."
It is said, at first, with a sigh. Like everyone at Surrey, Adams, the club's director of cricket, endured a grim 2012. A year that started with so much promise, ended in tragedy.
But it is also said with hope. A line has been written under a grim episode in the club's history and Adams has now recovered the energy and enthusiasm to start again. The job he started in 2009 - he declined overtures from Hampshire, among other clubs - remains incomplete, but it would be wrong to say no progress has been made.
"The biggest compliment I'll pay myself is this," Adams said. "When I took this job, I was the only person interviewed. Andy Moles and Mickey Arthur had been on the short-list, but they both took other jobs right before the interview so I was the only person in the frame. Everyone knew some difficult decisions had to be made at this club and, at the time, not many fancied taking the role.
"But if my job became available now… well, I think you'd find there would be a much larger field of candidates.
"We're not back to square one. Nowhere near it. I think this is the best squad I've had since I came here. I've been under pressure my entire career - as a player and a coach - and now is no different."
It was particularly pleasing for Adams to see how well Jade Dernbach has bowled in the first game of the season against Somerset. Dernbach, who has been working on his wrist position and has added a genuine inswinger to his armoury, claimed the 10th five-wicket haul of his first-class career when play resumed on day two, ending Alfonso Thomas' useful innings with a slower ball that was sliced to point. Dernbach, uncomfortably involved in the events of 2012, has been informed pretty clearly that the time has come to grow up and fulfil his obvious promise. The evidence so far this season, albeit on a very small sample size, is that the penny has dropped.
"I've never seen him bowl better with a red ball than he has in this match," Adams said. "He has always had the ability to bowl with great skill and variation, but now he is starting to show consistency as well."
Adams' decision - and it was his decision - to omit Chris Tremlett from the XI for this game raised eyebrows. Andy Flower, England's team director, was among those surprised by it and phoned Adams to ascertain the reasons. "More than anything, he was just checking that he hadn't suffered any new injury," Adams explained. He has not: Adams simply reasoned that, on a flat, slow wicket, the extra pace through the air of Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker would be more valuable and he wanted to experiment with playing two spinners. Flower understood. Tremlett will almost certainly play in Surrey's next match.
It is a revealing encounter, though. Tremlett may only have played one first-class game in the last year, but he clearly remains in the thoughts of the England selectors. If he is fully fit - and like everything about Tremlett, that is a big 'if' - he has an excellent chance of featuring in the Ashes.
Adams, understandably, is reluctant to dredge up some of the events of 2012. Despite many ill-informed rumours (the players had not, for example, been at Adams' house for a BBQ the night they ran into trouble in Brighton), he has come to peace with himself. "I don't blame myself," he said. "I've thought about it a lot and I don't blame myself." Suffice to say, while it went so horribly wrong a year ago, his assertion that everything was going "horribly right" at the end of 2011 is hard to refute. Surrey had just won the CB40 trophy and promotion to Division One. They had a raft of players in England squads across the age ranges and the future looked bright.
In many ways, it still does. Surrey still have some of the most exciting young players in the country with George Edwards and Matt Dunn - a pair of fast bowlers that would walk into several county sides - among them. The name of Thomas Curran, the son of Kevin, is also worth remembering. Just 18 and likened by Adams to Dale Steyn but with more ability with the bat, he is expected to play first-class cricket this summer. He just might be the allrounder this team requires to balance it.
Off the pitch, the Surrey chairman, Richard Thompson, is one of the two candidates vying for one place on the ECB Board in an election on May 8. His rival for the position is Warwickshire chairman Norman Gascoigne. There is a perception that Thompson is Giles Clarke's choice which, in the current environment, may not help him. But maybe it is a candidate from Surrey who is best-placed to hold the executive of the ECB to account. Their income is vast and they have a staging agreement guaranteeing them regular international cricket. It is Warwickshire who are more in need of ECB patronage.
Meanwhile, Surrey are looking to increase their income by exploring the possibility - it is no more than that at the moment - of hosting pop concerts at The Kia Oval. In the early 1970s the likes of The Who, Frank Zappa and Mott the Hoople all played at The Oval and a picture exists of Keith Moon playing the drums with a cricket bat handle.
But that was before the days of 'health and safety'. Now The Oval has to compete with the likes of the O2 as a venue. And the O2 doesn't have to worry about pesky things like rain or protecting cricket pitches. Still, the club held a meeting with the local council on Thursday and will continue to explore their options.
Things did not go entirely Surrey's way on a rain-curtailed second day of their game against Somerset, though. Peter Trego, an ebullient and skilful cricketer, but blessed with little pace - his bowling would hardly bother a motorway speed camera - claimed the key wicket when he earned an edge from Graeme Smith that was comfortably taken in the slips. Set up by a couple that nipped in, Smith then pushed at one angled across him. It was a fine piece of bowling and an abrupt fall to earth for the man who scored a century for South Africa here last summer.
Arun Harinath was drawn into playing at one he could have left from the impressive Thomas, Vikram Solanki, who had already survived some lavish shots outside off stump, attempted to pull the first ball of Jamie Overton's spell and sent a bottom edge crashing into his stump, before Zander de Bruyn, with a bat as limp as old lettuce, played on as he prodded without conviction at the deserving Steve Kirby.
Only Rory Burns showed the requisite discipline to survive. Against an impressively tight Somerset attack - Surrey's run-rate was barely two an over - Burns was patient and compact and has resisted for 43 overs so far for his 43 runs. Surrey have rarely suffered for a lack of talent; if all their young players had Burns' temperament, they would be a fine side.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo