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September 9, 2009
Surrey 305 for 5 (Batty 110*, Afzaal 62) v Northamptonshire
Jon Batty must have had mixed emotions as he helped Surrey form a solid platform against Northamptonshire, who are chasing promotion, with his first century of the season. A county stalwart at The Oval for 13 years, Batty knows that next year Steven Davies, the Worcestershire keeper, will be on board and such a big signing won't be kept out of the first team. Batty has a fight on his hands.
That is, of course, if he stays here and he is considering continuing his future elsewhere. However, at the age of 35 it won't be easy to find a county willing to invest, although Batty wouldn't let anyone down as he hasn't throughout his Surrey career. He could easily have played for England, but suffered being Alec Stewart's No. 2 for a long period and when he became top dog young candidates were always ahead of him.
This hasn't been his most productive season, but he has been ever-present as Surrey embark on a long rebuilding process. This innings was his 19th hundred for Surrey and a typically pragmatic, grafting, workmanlike affair. He was in no rush whatsoever with the fifty taking a marathon 175 deliveries and the hundred coming off 271 balls, which he celebrated with a leap and fist-pump. Apart from driving Nicky Boje for a straight six there was very little flashy about the innings, but his cover driving was in excellent working order.
Batty's century made it tough work for Northamptonshire, who are one of five sides chasing the second promotion slot with Kent almost assured of going up. When play began there were just 13 points separating the teams in second and sixth place, so each point gained is vital and five wickets in a day is a fair effort on such a bland surface.
The main aggression came from Usman Afzaal as his half century arrived from a positively sprightly 73 balls, and included an effortless flick off his hips against Andrew Hall which sailed into the stand at square leg. Afzaal can make batting look so easy and a hundred was there for the taking on a flat Oval surface (nothing like the Ashes pitch, of course), but flicked Johan van der Wath lazily to square leg in the first over of the second new ball.
It was symptomatic of Surrey's dismissals during the day against an honest, but far from threatening Northamptonshire attack. Michael Brown drove loosely to slip after an opening stand of 50 and Arun Harinath was guilty of a similar offence when he edged to the keeper.
However, this Surrey team is a long-term project for cricket manager Chris Adams. He clearly has much work to do, but part of the planning is the captaincy of Stewart Walters, who is one of the gains from another poor season for the club. Walters' form faded in the second half of the summer, but he looked to be finding his timing as he reached 40 with seven boundaries until he got a thick outside edge, driving at Boje, which looped to point.
Boje comfortably out-bowled Monty Panesar, who went wicketless during 20 overs and was picked off for regular boundaries. van der Wath ran in hard and David Lucas, who struggled with his line and sent down eight wides, also struck with the new ball when Matthew Spriegel missed a flat-footed drive. On a friendly surface, Northamptonshire did just enough to keep themselves in contention, but will have to bat big when their turn comes and hope the surface starts to deteriorate.
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