Surrey v Somerset, The Oval, 3rd day April 19, 2013

I'm still standing, says centurion Davies

Somerset 384 (Petersen 167, Dernbach 5-57) and 6 for 0 lead Surrey 366 (Davies 147, Burns 115) by 24 runs

It had been, as Elton John might have said, a long, long time. But, after a grim year and a spell spent reflecting on his career options, Steven Davies provided a welcome reminder of his class with a first Championship century in almost a year.

There would have been something rather pleasing in a 147 from a Steve Davies at any time - the snooker parallels are obvious - but in the context of this game, this was a return to form that will be celebrated far beyond Surrey.

Like many of his team-mates, Davies was hit hard by the death of Tom Maynard. So horribly did he lose form after the incident that he was omitted from the side by the end of the season. After June 18, the day of the incident, he averaged just 15.40 in the Championship and he had not passed 50 since making a century, also against Somerset and also at The Oval, in May of last year. A player who had once appeared joyous and natural, often appeared careworn and crushed.

He responded by taking some time away from the game during the off-season. Unlikely though it sounds, he accompanied Elton John on tour in Asia - they became friends when the singer sent champagne to The Oval following news that Davies had 'come out' as gay in early 2011 - and, slowly, recovered his love of the game.

Here Davies provided a persuasive reminder of his extravagant gifts with a chanceless century. On a pitch that remains slow and against an attack that, on the whole, maintained its discipline, he timed the ball sweetly, but also showed abilities for which he is less well known: patience, shot selection and resilience. Playing noticeably straighter than he has previously, he helped wear down an honest Somerset attack before producing some of those familiar, dreamy caresses through the off side.

"Elton is a good friend," Davies told ESPNcricinfo "and going on tour with him was the break I needed. It took me away from the game, cleared my head and allowed me to return refreshed.

"It felt good today. I've worked hard to be where I want to be with my game and we just concentrated on spending time at the crease on a flat wicket.

"Yes," he continued with a smile, "I suppose you could say that I'm still standing."

Less than a year ago, Davies was the man the England selectors called when Matt Prior was an injury doubt ahead of the third Test against West Indies at Edgbaston. Whether he remains England's reserve Test wicketkeeper is debatable - Jonny Bairstow and Craig Kieswetter are among those who may have usurped him - but this was an innings that will have provided some assurance that he is back in the frame of mind to be considered.

But while Davies will gain the headlines, the chanceless century by Rory Burns was just as important. Indeed, it was Burns who saw off the attack at its freshest and the new ball at its hardest and Burns who laid the platform for much of what followed.

Burns is not a particularly eye-catching cricketer. He does not have Davies' innate timing - not many do - or his range of stroke. But his judgement at which balls to play at and which to leave outside off stump is exceptional, while his ability to concentrate for long periods is most unusual in a 22-year-old in the modern game.

His first 50 occupied 151 deliveries - 128 of them scoreless - but his second took only 77 more as Somerset's attack began to flag just a little. Scoring primarily between mid on and square leg, he also cut well when appropriate and looked to have a sound defence. He will face tougher attacks on tougher pitches, but he looks to have the temperament and technique to go a long way in the game.

Together the pair steered Surrey from the perilous position of 87 for 4 late on day two with a stand of 159 before Burns' innings was ended by a catch down the leg side.

It is testament to Somerset's bowling, however, that Surrey had to be content with only two batting bonus points. They had scored just 290 when the 110th over of the innings was bowled with Steve Kirby, who delivered 33 overs and remains as enthusiastic as ever at the age of 35, and Alfonso Thomas, who gained more movement off the pitch than any of his Somerset colleagues and conceded under two an over, the pick of the bowlers. Only George Dockrell, who struggled with his length, was a disappointment though in mitigation, this pitch offered him little and aged just 20, such days are bound to occur.

In general though, Somerset remained patient and tight on a desperately slow wicket. They won belated reward when Gary Wilson was drawn into nibbling at one he could have left, Gareth Batty's enterprising innings ended when he missed an attempted flick across the line and Stuart Meaker prodded outside off stump. When Davies, slogging in search of quick runs, finally fell Surrey declared to leave Somerset a potentially awkward couple of overs.

There are few demons in this pitch, though, and it will take some remarkable cricket to conjure victory for either side on the final day.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 20, 2013, 8:32 GMT

    I agree with trevorleesafro, this game should have started on Thursday (they all should) to give people more opportunity to actually go to the game. Always a massive bugbear of mine that matches seem to be organised with no thought that someone may actually want to go and watch it live!

  • Dummy4 on April 19, 2013, 23:57 GMT

    We should have declared much earlier giving Somerset 10 overs to bat. Very likely the fourth day will be a dead game with no one taking any chances.

  • Mark on April 19, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    @JG2704 What I mean by the first hour is that unless 4 wickets fall, or Somerset get of to a roaring start, the most likely result is stalemate. In fact, the most likely scenario by far is probably Somerset batting through the whole day. If wickets fall, or runs come very quickly, yes, something might be on but, realistically, either Somerset have to be all out not long after lunch, or they have to score 250 in about 45 overs. I don't see any other way of avoiding a draw.

  • ian on April 19, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    Polished match report with interesting back-story about Davies. Thanks, George. However, as a match this one's going nowhere.

  • Mark on April 19, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    @JG2704 Everything will depend on the first hour, but the signs are not good. Only 20 wickets have fallen in 3 days, so the declaration is unlikely to be generous and with the first innings scores so finely matched the side batting last will get maybe 40 overs to chase on a slow pitch. It would probably require Tresco or Kieswetter to go crazy with the bat just to have a chance to set someting up. There is though another factor: Somerset can't afford to lose and start the season with two defeats. I just cannot see them risking too much even if, the points penalty is only 3 between a draw and a defeat: the psychological damage though would be immense.

    Skippers who are too gung-ho in Round 1 or Round 2, are often desperate to escape relegation in Rounds 15 and 16.

  • Michael on April 19, 2013, 20:38 GMT

    I thought Burns' returns at the backend of last season were impressive, so it is good that he has posted our first CC century for the year. Having Davies back in the runs is also good news for all. I suspect that a draw will be outcome but it is good just to get out on the park again.

  • Michael on April 19, 2013, 20:12 GMT

    Enjoyable day today, Burns with a mature 100 and Davo back on form at last.

    But it's still laughable that after losing so much time on Thursday afternoon that the players leave the field in perfect light before 6 o'clock. At least 45 minutes, probably an hour, could have been regained and greatly enhance the chance of a result. Rubbish regulations don't promote the four day game.

    No chance of a sporting declaration, Dockrell was below par (terrible!) and can't be relied on the hold up his end to allow all out attack at the other. The pitch is also far too flat for a first of the season,with no influential deterioration.

    A massive shame this game didn't start on Thursday with two weekend days. There are some super players on show that kids really should have more opportunity to admire.

  • Hassan on April 19, 2013, 19:52 GMT

    well played steven davies, goodluck for the rest of the season. i wish you continue your good form and come back stronger than ever

  • John on April 19, 2013, 19:26 GMT

    Full credit to Surrey for the fightback.

    Yesterday I thought weather would deny Somerset but it is Surrey who have come out on level terms.

    I wonder if there will be a sporting declaration to try and manufacture a result. I know it's early in the season but with Middlesex winning 2/2 Somerset maybe need to risk something in order to pick up points. Drawing games and you pick up roughly the same number of points as you will if you lose. I guess there's little time left to do this though

  • No featured comments at the moment.