Youth rewarded as Edwards shines
Surrey 8 for 0 trail Derbyshire 219 (Linley 4-59, Edwards 3-29) by 211 runs
One of the main gripes from Surrey fans this season - we can take the results as read - has been the lack of exposure for their academy graduates. Players such as George Edwards, Dominic Sibley, Tom Curran and Matt Dunn are the talk of the terraces; spectators giving their accounts of the exploits of this new generation from their outings in 2nd XI cricket, or the exceptionally competitive Surrey club competition. But what start out as rave reviews often descend into soap-box rants about what some fans perceive as a selection policy discriminating against youth.
Before this match, Surrey had used 19 players in the County Championship, of which only two were under 23 years of age and five aged 37 or over. While no one can doubt the ability of most of that five - Ricky Ponting, Vikram Solanki, Zander de Bruyn, Gary Keedy and Jon Lewis - and the success they have enjoyed throughout their careers, experience counts for very little if your team has not won a game.
And so, in this must-win encounter against fellow relegation scrappers Derbyshire, who pulled themselves out of the bottom two with consecutive victories against Sussex and Middlesex, 21-year-old Edwards became Surrey's youngest Championship player this season. Finally, youth was given a chance.
He couldn't have asked for a better pitch; one that looked scuffed and worn but played like a traditional Oval pitch, with pace, bounce and good carry - all of which was plain to see in Chris Tremlett's first over. It took him four balls to use it to full effect, when a good length delivery rose and took the edge of Ben Slater's bat through to Batty at second slip.
Edwards replaced Tremlett in the 11th over and immediately impressed. He was brisk and, more importantly, controlled as he used his height to cause some discomfort off a good length, forcing Paul Borrington and Wayne Madsen to play within themselves into the second hour.
But having faced 70 balls, with only 11 to his name, Madsen, the Division's leading run-scorer, lost his nerve and drove at a ball that was there for leaving, giving Rory Burns a routine catch at point and Edwards his first wicket of the season.
It was in Edwards' afternoon session that he really started to express himself and give us a peek into what might lie ahead, with an excellent seven-over spell that saw him return two wickets for just 15 runs. Continuing from the Pavilion End after lunch, he set about unsettling Borrington and the usually unflappable Shiv Chanderpaul. The Derbyshire opener was the first to lose his nerve, eyes lighting up when Edwards gave him the chance to free his arms, only to be beaten for pace and edge to first slip.
Chanderpaul, who had made his way into the forties after toying with Batty's offspinners like they had been sent down for his own amusement, proved a tougher nut to crack. Here was a man who has never been bested in a game of patience - time just doesn't stretch far enough. Instead, Edwards went for the short stuff, which Chanderpaul managed to evade successfully, until one grazed his grill.
A readjustment of his helmet delayed the follow-up ball. When it arrived - a full delivery from wider on the crease, with a hint of swing into the left-hander - Chanderpaul could not prevent it from hitting his pads. It looked to have pitched outside leg stump but the umpire was happy enough to send the West Indian on his way.
For all the championing of youth, Tim Linley eclipsed Edwards with four wickets, finishing off the Derbyshire innings late in the day. Rarely has a bowler worn the tag of workhouse as proudly, ever willing to steam in, tumble and appeal exuberantly for the cause. He curtailed a late fightback, led by Tom Poynton's 37, to cap off an efficient day in the field for Surrey.
The pitch did seem to dull throughout the day, and looks like it could deteriorate by the third day. With that in mind, Surrey will aim to score quickly on Friday and fashion a lead before putting their spinners to the task of bowling Derbyshire out again. Zafar Ansari and Batty combined for two wickets in 27 first-day overs - Batty taking his first Championship wicket since the second innings of the Durham fixture at this ground back in May.