Elemental Fletcher leads Surrey fight
Surrey 239 and 77 for 2 lead Derbyshire 207 (Rutherford 59, Fletcher 4-58) by 109 runs
If Surrey's cricketers win promotion to Division One in September, they may not look back on this blustery, rain-haunted Monday in Derby as being pivotal to their success. During the first half of the second day of this match, a determined effort by Gareth Batty's seam bowlers secured a 32-run first-innings lead for their side. The application shown by top-order batsmen either side of tea and between three breaks for showers and bad light then extended that lead to 109 for the loss of both openers by close of play.
Thus, although they are not yet dominant, Surrey have quietly created a position from which they are slight but clear favourites to win this game.
And while almost all of Batty's players did something to help the cause, the player who could take most of the credit for the visitors' modest prosperity was the Nottingham-born Luke Fletcher, a fact not lost on Derbyshire loyalists in this corner of the East Midlands. Bowling from the Racecourse End and playing the last match of his current red-ball loan spell, Fletcher took three prime wickets in a ten-over spell as the home side slipped to 110 for 4 inside the first 70 minutes of the morning.
Fashioned almost as humanity's response to the elements, the mountainous Fletcher had both Ben Slater and Wayne Madsen caught by Gary Wilson before trapping Chesney Hughes on the crease for an eight-ball nought. Slater, whose previous five innings had occupied a mere 19 minutes and seen him score just three runs, may have been almost content with 28 made in two-and-a-quarter hours. All the same, the task of anchoring the home side's innings fell to Hamish Rutherford, a New Zealand batsman modelled more on Bevan Congdon or Bruce Edgar than the modern style exemplified by Brendon McCullum or Grant Elliott.
Rutherford's careful 59 had nonetheless included ten boundaries before his 161-minute innings ended when he edged Tom Curran to Dean Elgar two overs before lunch. His departure left his side still 101 runs short of Surrey's first-innings score and with their hopes of building a substantial lead all but gone. This impression was strengthened a couple of overs after the resumption when Wayne White pulled Curran limply to James Burke at square leg.
Wes Durston then added 22 for the seventh wicket with Tom Poynton before both batsmen were dismissed on 166, Poynton edging Burke to Dominic Sibley in the slips and Durston playing very crookedly at Tim Linley to give Wilson another victim. Last week Linley was a library-book cricketer: Sussex had taken him out on a week's loan. Now he has been recalled to a Surrey squad in which a host of seamers - Chris Tremlett, Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker are just three of them - are lacking either form or full fitness. This is just one of the reasons why a Surrey victory this week can be viewed as a major achievement by Graham Ford and Alec Stewart.
Derbyshire, though, are nothing like out of things. Durston's 33 and Tony Palladino's unbeaten 35, most of his runs made in a last-wicket stand of 30 with Mark Footitt, helped the home side to scrap their way to a bonus point in conditions almost all cricketers and most spectators surely loathe. Batsmen are never truly in on this wicket nor, on Monday, did they know when the weather would send them scurrying back to the dressing-room and the temporary solace of the teapot.
That, though, merely points up the merit of the very modest 19 Zafar Ansari accumulated in 79 minutes before he followed his opening partner, Arun Harinath, in losing his off stump to Footitt. Harinath was driving while Ansari was defending but it made no difference to Footitt, who was working up a fair head of steam.
Elgar joined Sibley and conditions worsened. The pair buckled down. The dark clouds over Chadderston and Breadsall eventually deposited showers on the County Ground and the players came back on, only for bad light to persuade the umpires, probably rightly, that it was too dark for cricket. When play was called off for the day, 24 overs had been lost but no one was complaining, not least Surrey's batsmen. On an evening you could have placed in early October, they had done their state some service.