James Cameron scripts Worcestershire fightback
Surrey 12 for 0 v Worcestershire 308
Had anyone suggested, this time last year, that Chris Tremlett would consistently lead the Surrey attack and push for an England recall, they would have been dismissed as insane. After all, Tremlett only managed ten wickets last season. He has taken just one five-wicket haul in the last four seasons and is said to be injury prone and lack heart.
Yet Tremlett continues to provide a compelling case for a recall. Belying a typically slow and low New Road surface, he picked up another four wickets and earned his side the upper-hand in a game they simply must win if they are to sustain any hopes of promotion. He now has 34 championship scalps at just 20 apiece this campaign and is forcing the doubters to think again. There are no five-wicket hauls as yet - indeed there have only been seven in his career - but Tremlett is attracting the attention of the selectors once again. If England are looking for a back-up to Steve Finn and Stuart Broad, Tremlett may well be their man.
He's not quite the finished article. He perhaps doesn't force the batsmen to play quite as much as he should, while a few too many deliveries pass harmlessly down the legside. And it is, of course, one thing to bowl in the genteel surroundings of New Road and quite another to do it in an Ashes Test at the MCG.
But, when he gets it right, Tremlett really is a horrid proposition. In terms of generating life on flat wickets, he is pretty much unmatched. The delivery that dismissed the in-form Daryl Mitchell (who had scored 448 runs and been out just twice in the last two games) was a case in point: pitching just back of a good length, it reared horribly and took the shoulder of the bat on its way to second slip. Unplayable is an over-used word but, in this instance, it seems unavoidable.
Tremlett's hostility, combined with Gareth Batty's guile, earned Surrey a strong position. At lunch, with Worcestershire on 106 for 5, it seemed the hosts' brittle batting might be blown away. That they were not is due to two factors. The first was Surrey's close catching, which requires attention, and the second was a century partnership between two young and inexperienced Worcestershire batsmen.
James Cameron and Dave Wheeldon fought hard. Wheeldon, playing his tenth first-class match, took 65 to score his 65 overs, while Cameron, in just his seventh first-class game, showed both the application and technique to suggest he could have a decent future at this level. Together they added 105 in 36 overs.
Wheeldon is not the sort of batsman to empty bars. Patient in the extreme, his game is built upon watchful defence and sensible accumulation. While he plays in the V, it's generally the V between third-man and fine-leg. He did produce the rare flourish, however. Twice he launched into crunching square drives, while there was one memorable cut off Batty.
For the main, however, he was happy to pick up his runs through nudges and deflections. Suffice it to say, his batting would be completely suitable for the pregnant or those with weak hearts.
Cameron was more aggressive. Skipping down the pitch, he lofted Batty for boundaries over long-off, while he also cut the seamers well. A former Zimbabwe U19 player, he impressed while playing Grade cricket in Western Australia and was recommended to Worcestershire by David Houghton. As Cameron puts it, he had to leave Zimbabwe as there "was no future for us there," but he admits he would have to think hard if the national selectors came calling.
"The thought of playing international cricket would be great," he said, "but it means I would have to go back to Zimbabwe and renounce my intentions of playing for England. It's a bit early to think about that. In January I wouldn't even have believed I'd be playing county cricket."
Well though the pair batted, Surrey may feel they squandered a great opportunity. Both men were reprieved early in their innings. Cameron, on 6, was missed by Stewart Walters off Tremlett at second slip, while Wheeldon was dropped by Matthew Spriegel at third slip when he'd scored just four. Had either chance been taken, Worcestershire would surely have struggled to make 200. A better short-leg fielder than Tom Lancefield might have swallowed one of numerous sharp chances offered off Batty, too.
As it was, Worcestershire were grateful for the pair's fortitude. Several of their top-order colleagues played more than a bit-part in their own downfall, with Moeen Ali leaving a straight one and Vikram Solanki's loose drive beaten by a lovely, flighted off-break in Batty's first over. It was a tame end to an innings that promised much.
Having just resigned the captaincy, Solanki batted like a man freed from shackles, taking four boundaries from one Stuart Meaker over and looking in glorious form. Alexei Kervezee was bowled by a beauty that nipped back sharply, while Shakib Al Hasan over-balanced and played across a full one.
Wheeldon's defiance was eventually ended by a magnificent ball. Jade Dernbach, who might just have the best slower ball in the game, completely deceived Wheeldon with a beauty from the back of the hand that struck the bamboozled batsmen on the foot.
Tremlett returned to lure Cameron, five short of a maiden century, into an edged drive that was taken by a juggling Walters at slip, while Ben Cox missed a sweep, Gareth Andrew missed a swipe and an intimidated Mason popped up a catch to short-leg.
It is interesting to note, meanwhile, that both teams are fielding seven players aged under 25 in this game. Worcestershire have been obliged to select young players in order to maximise their income from the ECB (clubs receive incentives for fielding young players), while many of their more experienced performers have defected.
As a result, they have sought to secure their brightest young players on long-term deals. Richard Jones, Alexei Kervezee and Adam Shantry have all signed recently and the club hope they will provide the nucleus of a decent side for years to come. While they remain on the search for seam bowlers, they are unlikely to sign any batsmen this winter
Surrey, meanwhile, are in a rebuilding phase of their own. Not only have they decided to do without an overseas player for the rest of the season, but the omission of Usman Afzaal suggests he may be looking for a new county shortly. Their second XI, meanwhile, contains ten men aged under 21, though the club is expected to recruit once again this winter.