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Alan Gardner in Canterbury
May 4, 2014
Surrey 276-8 (Roy 60, Riley 4-77) v Kent
This was a day for youth and young manhood, as a clutch of players in their early twenties made positive impressions on a match between two teams whose glory has faded of late. Surrey's position was built on useful contributions from a callow middle order, while 22-year-old offspinner Adam Riley caught the eye for Kent. His fourth wicket, as the sun began to set behind the Frank Woolley Stand, edged an even contest the home side's way.
Riley bowled with courage and intelligence during a 21-over spell during the afternoon and evening sessions before returning to remove Aneesh Kapil, making his debut for Surrey, in the final half hour. Kapil, a former Worcestershire allrounder who was only registered earlier in the week, could have fallen to Riley second ball, when a sharp chance to short leg did not quite stick, but until he danced past his 61st delivery he had played with impressive poise and intent.
Kapil's innings followed similarly doughty knocks from Jason Roy - whose 60 was his highest score since July 2012 - and Zafar Ansari in pushing Surrey towards 300 after they had been 32 for 3. Kapil, Roy and Ansari are all aged between 20 and 23, indicative of Surrey's policy of rejuvenation under Graham Ford.
All three fell to Riley as Surrey, having won the toss, were kept in check by what some consider to be an endangered species in England. Riley is tall for a spinner, with a high, straight arm and rhythmic action, allowing the ball some air before it dips toward the crease. He extracted bounce and just a modicum of turn - this was a first-day pitch, after all - in collecting 4 for 77, a display that suggested Kent's decision to favour him above his England colleague, James Tredwell, in first-class cricket was a sound one.
Tredwell, who would not have been available for this match in any event due to his involvement in Friday's ODI in Scotland, is one of a number of spinners bouncing around inside the England machine in the post-Graeme Swann era. Nick Cook, the ECB umpire and former Northants 2nd XI coach who oversaw the development of Swann and Monty Panesar more than a decade ago, recently described "the boy Riley at Kent" as his one to watch and it was impossible not to as he wheeled away elegantly in the sunshine.
"It's always a bonus to pick up wickets on the first day," he said. "I thought I'd play more of a containing role today but it did spin a bit. Any overs I can get this time of the season are a bonus, I know I'll do a lot of the donkey work but if I can keep the economy down and build some pressure, that's when you start picking up your two-fors and three-fors. Hopefully tomorrow I can get another one and get myself five.
"I'm at the stage of my career when I'm still learning the trade. I'm not going to get too caught up in who's going to be the next England spinner. You keep taking wickets, obviously you throw your name in the hat, but I'm just worrying about bowling some overs for Kent and trying to take some wickets really. I've only just got into the first team so to start thinking about anything else would be foolish, because Mother Cricket might come and bite me on the bum and I'll be in the twos again."
Ansari, who scored Surrey's first boundary in the 20th over, struck the ball cleanly on the drive and did the hard work during the first half of the day, although he was badly missed at slip off Darren Stevens when he made just 6. He and Steven Davies added 71 together either side of lunch but Kent's attack stuck to their task on what appeared to be a reliable surface. Davies was done in the flight to become Riley's first victim; an excellent return catch accounted for Ansari before Roy was bowled past his legs trying to sweep.
Canterbury is hardly one of the game's modern bear pits - even its official sponsored name, the Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, is evocative of the middle of the last century - but Surrey were given a lively reception during an otherwise quiet morning session.
Kent have plans to build a retirement home on the Old Dover Road side of the ground but there is also a sizeable student population in the city and it was presumably the younger demographic who chose to heckle Rory Burns with cries of "Are you sure you're not right-handed?" after a stodgy and increasingly frustrated 12 off 57 balls for Surrey's southpaw opener.
The cheer that greeted the first wicket of the day, that of Graeme Smith lbw, was more genteel. Doug Bollinger won his international duel with Surrey's captain after a cautious start, which saw Smith and Burns play out five maidens before scoring a run. Bollinger looks like a good signing for Kent, all hustle and commitment with a touch of the pantomime villain thrown in, and he should have had a second when Riley couldn't hold on to a low chance off Dominic Sibley in the slips. For Surrey, it was a rare life off Riley.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderickFeeds: Alan Gardner
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