Surrey v Somerset, Guildford, 1st day July 19, 2006

Langer turns up the heat

Somerset 442 for 2 (Langer 234*, Edwards 77, Suppiah 71*) v Surrey

Justin Langer drives on his way to 234* © Martin Williamson
An elegant double hundred from Justin Langer, backed by solid seventies by two 22-year-olds - Neil Edwards and Arul Suppiah - helped Somerset cruise to 442 for 2 on the first day of their match against Surrey at Guildford.

The summer of 1976 has gone down in folklore as the hottest of the 20th century. Fittingly, on a day where a few miles to the east the highest July temperature recorded in the UK (36.3 degrees for those mad enough to be wearing anoraks in such conditions) the visitors to this festival were Somerset, who were also the guests 30 years ago.

On that occasion, no side made 200 on a match which barely lasted a day and a half. Today, with the outfield parched and as fast - and unforgiving to the fielders - as concrete, it was hard to see where a wicket would come from as the runs piled up Anything that beat the infield just trundled on at the same pace to the rope.

While Surrey stuck gamely to their task, it was the crowd that wilted, with the intense heat meaning that many disappeared at lunchtime never to return, while those that remained, slumbered in the little shade on offer. The biggest cheer of the day came when the PA announced that an SOS had produced a second ice-cream van to alleviate the suffering.

Edwards, making his first championship appearance for two years, and Langer put on 227 for the first wicket with almost no appeals, let alone alarms. Although Edwards started the breezier, Langer soon got into his stride, reaching his fifty with a straight six off Kumble.

A rare success for Surrey as Azhar Mahmood catches Neil Edwards to the delight of Jonathan Batty © Martin Williamson
Langer completed his hundred soon after lunch, but Edwards got bogged down before edging an attempted drive off Ian Salisbury to Azhar Mahmood at first slip.

Suppiah could have followed off the next ball, a leading edge falling between fielders, but he soon found his touch as Langer slowed down for half-an-hour in a very public siesta. With that out of the way, the pair progressed untroubled. Suppiah launched Salisbury for a massive six into the Woodbridge Road and then Langer completed his double hundred in only 227 balls.

Suppiah's end came in a similar way to Edwards's, nicking Anil Kumble to Mahmood, but although Langer tired in the final hour, there were no other alarms.

Surrey allowed their three spinners - Kumble, Salisbury and Rikki Clarke - to do the lion's share of the bowling. That was partially because of the weather, but also because their seamers squandered the new ball at either end of the day. The lack of any discernable life in the pitch may mean that Somerset opt to bat Surrey into the ground rather than contemplate any declaration.

Spare a thought for my colleague who travelled to Guildford to interview Langer. He waited patiently for the end of his innings, but like Surrey's weary fielders, he will have to come back tomorrow and resume his vigil. Langer showed no sign that he is about to give anything away and has the single mindedness to go on to a triple hundred.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo