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Ryan Bailey at The Oval
June 23, 2014
Leicestershire 125 for 3 (Robson 75) trail Surrey 522 for 9 dec (Wilson 160*, Tremlett 90) by 397 runs
The issue of captaincy and the inimical effect it can have on a player's form has never been so vehemently ventilated. The supplementary responsibilities the role brings can often deflect away from a foremost discipline but for Gary Wilson, the recently appointed Surrey skipper, his term in office may just be the making of him.
His designation as Graeme Smith's successor - despite little or no experience furnishing his CV - wasn't a judgement made by the Surrey management without reason and for all their riches and resources, such a move highlighted their long-term vision. For those still suspecting if he is the right man for the job, those doubts must surely be fading with every passing week.
What first began as a rebuilding mission late on Sunday, after Surrey has slipped to 243 for 7, shifted to a destructive assault that reaffirmed the hosts' position of supremacy against lowly Leicestershire. A career best unbeaten 160 exhibited all the traits that has seen his standing at The Oval rise steadily over the past few seasons.
Once deployed as a utility player to fill whatever gaps needed filling - largely down to Surrey's large resource pool rather than Wilson's inability - he no longer lives a nomadic existence: his position is now as firmly bolted down as anyway.
In the past few seasons, the Surrey captaincy has been a rather onerous task but Wilson's initiation has gone swimmingly. He's been helped by a side playing their best cricket of the season and their lead after two days here is a huge 397 runs.
That they managed to reach 522 for 9 before declaring 40 minutes before tea was down to Surrey's highest eight wicket stand of 192 against Leicestershire between Wilson and Chris Tremlett. The latter, who so desperately deserved a century of his own - what would have been his maiden ton - fell agonisingly close; he may not get a better chance to reach such a landmark.
But, having received his county cap alongside Vikram Solanki at the tea interval, he took out any vexation with the new ball. Wilson and Tremlett's alliance had broken the back of Leicestershire and they again combined to set the hosts on the long road to victory. Matthew Boyce had looked comfortable until he prodded forward at a delivery that just moved away off the surface. Wilson did the rest.
This pitch remains a haven for batting so to snaffle three wickets before the close was testament to the endeavours of the Surrey bowlers on a muggy, but overcast evening. The key dismissal of Angus Robson - brother of Sam - an over before stumps may just be the final nail in the visitors' coffin and end their plucky resistance. He had managed to score 75 of his side's 125 when Matthew Dunn, bustling in from the Vauxhall End, managed to sneak one under the bat and strike Robson's back pad.
His cameo was a rare glimpse of light among another day of gloom for Leicestershire. Having showed admirable resolve to make inroads on the first afternoon, they were unable to muster the energy or faculty to maintain their stranglehold. Wilson, solid in defence and pugnacious in attack, together with Tremlett, continued where they had left off the previous evening as they tormented the visitors with a destructive and thoroughly disheartening stand.
Both resuming on 44, the pair played corresponding innings, taking it in turns to inflict blow after blow, as they heaped more punishment on Leicestershire's prostrate attack.
Once Tremlett had passed fifty and his previous career-best tally of 64 in the process, he assumed the role of battering ram with an element of panache. That a fast-bowler was made look so immovable with the bat is a damning appraisal of Leicestershire's bowlers. Yet, attempting to swat his twelfth boundary, Tremlett could only pick out Nathan Buck at fine leg off Ben Raine, who managed get one to lift on Tremlett: no mean feat given his 6ft 7in frame.
The stage was set for Wilson though as he accelerated through the gears and despite a brief lull as he approached three figures, the respite for Leicestershire, whose fielders were run ragged, was all too brief. Wilson is particularly strong square of the wicket and carries a weighty punch demonstrated with a couple of meaty blows into the pavilion off the part-time spin of Dan Redfern.
The nature in which Wilson managed to time his onslaught around protecting No. 11 Jade Dernbach spoke volumes of his cricketing brain. But Dernbach was no passenger. He tucked into some tasty offerings himself and was unbeaten on 23 when Leicestershire were put out of their misery. All variables, however, would suggest they may be in for some more hardship before this game ends.
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