Solanki's masterclass comes too late
Surrey 400 for 5 (Solanki 162, Davies 103, Amla 77) v Warwickshire
Days like these have been rare for Surrey this season, which goes a long way, of course, to explaining why they are on the brink of relegation. Vikram Solanki's second hundred for Surrey is the first in the Championship by any of the county's batsmen since Ricky Ponting's 169 against Nottinghamshire at The Oval in July.
Unless Rory Burns or Steven Davies has an exceptionally good match at Derby next week, when Surrey's return to Division Two will almost certainly be confirmed, Solanki is likely to be the only batsman close to 1,000 first-class runs.
His brilliant 162, of which 106 runs came in boundaries, confirmed, even at 37, that the ability to play a high-class innings is still with him. Amid all the criticisms aimed in Surrey's direction in the analysis of their current state, his signing did not escape attention. It was was by some commentators to represent the wrong approach, a player close to the end of his career signed on a expensive contract, barring the way, it was supposed, of some home-grown talent with much more cricket ahead of him.
"People are entirely entitled to their opinion," he said. "I pride myself at trying to work as hard as I can at my game and trying to do my best for the team I'm involved with. I've thoroughly enjoyed being part of the group and I hope they have enjoyed having me around."
It was an answer typical of Solanki's natural modesty and diplomacy. Indeed, asked if his form was close to his best, he suggested he could have done better, drawing attention instead to occasions when he disappointed himself.
"I'm pleased with the way I played today," he said. "I've worked hard in the last two weeks in particular to make sure I'm moving well enough and I was pretty pleased with the way I moved today.
"I'd like to hope that the ability is still there to deliver runs at this level but I would have dearly liked to have made far more runs than I have, and it is not for the lack of trying.
"I recall a number of occasions when a partnership at a particular time would have been just what we needed and I missed an opportunity. So while I'm happy with how I've played today, and while there were another couple of knocks I was quite pleased with, I look back at some of those other games with disappointment."
He cannot be the only one reflecting with similar frustration. Surrey's collective batting malaise has been such that before this match they had not managed maximum batting points once. Indeed, in the last two dismal defeats against Middlesex and Somerset they did not take any at all.
"That says it all about our season," Solanki added. "There is no question that we are very disappointed with the way we have played in Championship cricket, although we can be proud of the fact that we played well in the Twenty20 and only fell at the last hurdle, in the final."
In a manner of speaking, Surrey's failure to turn the season around is vindication for Chris Adams, who was sacked in June. Under Adams, who was team director, Surrey were promoted in 2011, when they also won the CB40, but the tragedy of Tom Maynard blighted the 2012 season and Adams was sent on his way after completing five years at the helm, along with first-team coach Ian Salisbury. Fearful even then that they would go down, Surrey's chief executive Richard Gould - the son of a football manager - announced that the club "had decided it was time to make a change in order to progress further."
Alec Stewart has been in charge on a temporary basis ever since, with no sign yet of a permanent successor to Adams. If there was much wrong about what he was doing, his removal has clearly not proved to be the solution. How different might the season have been, one can speculate, had Graeme Smith not suffered his season-ending injury after only two matches as captain, denying Adams the experience and stature on the field he hoped would bring unity and purpose to an undeniably talented group of players.
Their performance so far in this match, against the side that won the title last year, only underlines the point. Hashim Amla's 77 might be seen as counting for little, in that he has appeared only as a desperate last throw of the dice, but Davies showed his quality too with his second hundred of the season. Thanks to his partnership with Solanki, which added 182 in 40.3 overs, the 400 was reached in the 98th over.
Solanki's 162, which began with Surrey 18 for 2 in the 11th over, ended in the 93rd, when he attempted to guide a ball from Chris Woakes towards the third-man boundary and instead deflected it into his stumps via a bottom edge. He had hit 25 fours and one six, over long-off, against the spinner, Jeetan Patel.
Davies, similarly displaying a touch of class not revealed often enough this year, completed his second hundred of the season before pulling a ball from Maurice Chambers to the midwicket boundary, where Ateeq Javid took the catch. Amla had become a third victim of the innings for Keith Barker when he drove loosely amid the general desire for quick runs and was caught at slip.