Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

Surrey v Essex, Friends Life t20, The Oval

A case of mistaken identity

Lime-green clothing can confuse one, can't it? And who's more fun - fans of Surrey or Essex?

Stuart Croll

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Jason Roy pulls on his way to 31, Surrey v Essex, Friends Life t20, The Oval, June 13, 2011
Jason Roy, a chanter's favourite © Getty Images
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Choice of game
This game was to define Surrey's Twenty20 season, as another defeat may have prevented them from progressing in this competition. It was an opportunity to see how Surrey shaped up against an undeniably powerful Essex team consisting of Ravi Bopara, Owais Shah and Twenty20 specialists Scott Styris, Graham Napier and Tim Southee.

Also, it offered a chance to see darts legend Phil "The Power" Taylor, who was the half-time entertainment.

Key performer
Surrey's Twenty20 debutant, Zafar Ansari. His late cameo, a not-out innings of 30 runs from 18 deliveries, gave them a defendable total, and his four overs for 24 runs helped defend said total.

One thing I'd change
As it was a Twenty20 game, asking for more runs might be a quibble. But with such classy strokeplayers and big-hitters involved, it is a disappointment that the top-scorer - the impressive Tom Maynard - made just 45. However, one has to feel sorry for Essex bowler Tim Phillips, who bagged two wickets in two balls but was denied a hat-trick delivery because his four-over spell had ended.

Interplay I enjoyed
Batsmen weren't around long enough for there to be any meaningful interplay. However, in the stands there was a wonderful argument when Surrey were fielding. Surrey's limited-over shirts are lime-green, and this clashes with the umpire's lime-green jacket. One animated Surrey member shouted at a home fielder for not stopping a James Foster sweep shot, before realising it was the square-leg umpire he was berating. As he was ridiculed by Essex fans for his mistake, he said the umpire and players shouldn't wear similar clothing. That didn't help his case as he had to accept that the traditional white jackets worn by umpires clashed with traditional whites worn by the players. For the rest of the game this fan was very quiet.

Filling the gaps
As always with Twenty20, not too many gaps, except for the interval, and this evening we watched - dare I say endured - a darts match between Phil Taylor, teamed up with a Surrey fan, against Adrian "Jackpot" Lewis and an Essex fan. (For those who care, the contest was won by the Essex fan.) The only conclusion to make from this so-called half-time "entertainment" is that if this was a forerunner for Lord's hosting the archery during the London Olympics, those who have not got tickets in the ballot should count their blessings.

Wow moment
The three run-outs by Surrey fielders, especially the one of the dangerous Styris. The momentum of the match turned after that.

Ah moment
The caring side of Foster. When a Zander de Bruyn shot clobbered a pigeon on its way to Bopara on the boundary, the Essex wicketkeeper stopped play, collected the injured bird in his gloves, and after an initial juggle handed it to a member of the groundstaff to be taken off the field.

Shot of the day
The two sixes during the Surrey innings, from Jason Roy and Ansari, were well received, but the biggest cheer of the day was for a sweetly struck four from Bopara that ricocheted off the boundary rope onto the head of an unsuspecting steward. Why is that always funny?

Player watch
Yes, he was born in South Africa, and yes, it will cause arguments that the England team contains too many South African-born players, but Roy's quickfire 31 showed - yet again - his potential for England.

Crowd meter
As always, the Essex fans were great fun, even allowing for the shout of "We can still win this" with nine wickets down. I guess if they shout it a thousand times when their side is in a hopeless position, there is always a chance they will be proven right.

The Surrey fans have also found a new favourite in Roy. His name was spelt out in chant form as he fielded on the boundary. The fact that his surname is three letters long makes singing it easier for fans who are drunk, have short attention spans, or both.

Marks out of 10
8. When the bowling dominates a Twenty20 game the initial thought is that it's less entertaining than when the batting does. Having said that, the excellent bowling of both sides, and the brilliant fielding from Surrey, elevated this match above the norm.

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Stuart Croll is a Scottish-born Surrey CC member. He was an opening batsman in the same school team as future Scotland captain George Salmond. Stuart regarded himself as a Geoffrey Boycott-style player - not that he was a technically proficient batsman, but because the rest of the team didn't like him. Nowadays, having grudgingly accepted that a professional cricket career has passed him by, he scrapes a living writing about sport.

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