Forgotten Batty takes career-best haul
Surrey 55 for 3 trail Essex 228 (Westley 95, Foakes 55, Batty 8-68) by 173 runs
Upon entering Chelmsford, spectators were told there were no scorecards available at the entrance kiosk. If, eventually, you did get your hands on one, there was an amendment to be made - Gareth Batty was in the Surrey XI for Stuart Meaker. If you are coming to Chelmsford on day two, expect to see Batty's name in printed ink in the bowling section under Essex's innings, alongside a career best 8 for 68.
It was a quite remarkable spell of bowling from Batty who, playing in his first Championship game of the season having just recovered from a broken hand, bowled his 27 overs unchanged. For an offspinner with such a bustling, straight run-up, he managed to get good drift and impart more than enough spin - and occasionally bounce - to do for Essex on day one.
By way of comparison, Batty's figures are only the best for Surrey since Meaker's 8 for 52 against Somerset in May 2012. But he is their first spinner to take eight wickets in an innings since Anil Kumble against Northamptonshire in 2006.
It was fitting that Batty would perform so well in the match after Graeme Smith returned home with a knee injury. Batty stepped in as captain last year when Smith's ankle couldn't last the distance. Relegation was deserved, but Batty fought valiantly, sometimes too much, throughout. In Surrey's only Championship win of 2013, he took five wickets to set up a chase that Smith's replacement, Hashim Amla, finished.
Then, he swatted away praise as if it were a nuisance. Here he did much the same - championing the soon-to-be good work of his younger teammates who will need to do their bit to convert his great work into victory. When his team-mates urged him to lead them off at tea, on 7 for 61, he declined and deliberately slowed his walk to such an extent that he was actually the last to leave the field. When the end of Essex came, he walked that bit taller, taking in the applause.
Gary Wilson handed him the ball in the 21st over - the fifth of six bowling options used in the morning session. It had not done much off the straight and Tom Westley and Jaik Mickleburgh had reached 58 with little alarm. Batty's enthusiasm was apparent; shuffling the ball in his hands like a deck of cards and marching on the spot at the River End. Even after tea, having bowled 23 overs on the bounce, the restart was delayed slightly as he bowled a handful of practice deliveries to Matt Dunn at mid-on.
He began around the wicket, focussing mainly on pushing the ball across both right-handers, at a length that would have their weight neither front nor back. It worked, as Jaik Mickleburgh rushed into a cut shot to a ball that cramped him off the bounce and was nicked through to Jason Roy at slip. The first indication that there was turn out there came three balls later when Greg Smith fell lbw, with Batty sticking to around the wicket.
His standout ball came in the first over after tea. Bowling to the left-handed Jesse Ryder, he drifted the ball to a length that drew Ryder forward, before it span sharply past the outside edge and clipped off stump. Mark Pettini was number four, thanks to a sharp catch from Arun Harinath at short leg, before Westley was unable to get on top of some extra bounce. Foster turned his bat too early to send a leading edge looping to midwicket and Tanveer Sikandar popped a ball to Harinath. Sailsbury was his eighth before Zafar Ansari polished off the tail and ended Batty's quest for every scalp.
This game is far from over. Essex's score of 228 owes a lot to Westley, who batted superbly. He took to the seamers with great relish, using Matt Dunn's extra pace to hit him square and through the leg side. Chris Tremlett struggled with his length against Westley, who hit him for consecutive fours down the ground in the 38th over.
Ben Foakes batted admirably for his 55, before he fell trying to bump up the score, having shepherded the tail. The wicket of Rory Burns, giving debutant Tom Moore - signed earlier this week - his maiden first-class wicket, gave further reason for cheer, while a whoop erupted when Sikandar bowled Amla. Monty Panesar took the spin wickets count to 11 when he sent back nightwatchman Tremlett, leaving Surrey struggling on 45 for 3. Not bad considering they are without David Masters, Graham Napier, Reece Topley and Tymal Mills - bowlers that, individually, would be missed from any other attack in the country.
A pitch liaison officer was onsite and had a gander at the track during the tea interval. One hopes that any reprimand will not be forthcoming. The sideways movement was by no means outlandish and was as much a test of a batsman's technique as any green seamer would be. In Batty's own words, "only a few turned and those that did happened to take wickets."