Glamorgan 375 for 4 (Lloyd 121, J Cooke 68) vs Surrey
is standing at slip with his hands on his hips. This is Clarke's 267th and final first-class game, after he announced his retirement earlier in the summer
, and he moves into a crouched position with his hands on his knees as Amar Virdi walks back to the top of his mark. Virdi twirls in, Clarke moves into his catching stance. Joe Cooke
defends watchfully, Clarke crosses his arms, and the process restarts.
If Clarke had hoped he might be served up a greentop to send him off into the sunset a few cheap wickets, he must have let out a sigh of frustration while Virdi was struggling for rhythm during the morning session on a sleepy, end-of-season day at The Oval. Despite a green tinge, this was among the flattest pitches served up in south London this season, with one short boundary offering batters generous returns for their shots.
was the main beneficiary of that windfall, making his first first-class hundred since 2018, his first as an opener, and racking up a career-best score of 120 in the process, but none of Glamorgan's batters looked troubled as the ball hardly moved off the straight. Surrey picked two frontline spinners, apparently in the hope that it will deteriorate, but it was hard to avoid the conclusion that this fixture, between the bottom two sides in the essentially meaningless Division Two of the new-look County Championship, represents cricket for cricket's sake.
Glamorgan flew out of the blocks after winning the toss and opting to bat, adding 31 in the first four overs, and their scoring rate hardly dropped below 3.5 an over throughout. "Rubbish" was the verdict pronounced loudly by one disgruntled member in the new Galadari Stand as Lloyd and Hamish Rutherford brought up a 50-run opening stand in the tenth over, scoring freely on both sides of the ground. Surrey's opening bowlers, Reece Topley and Jordan Clark, might concede he had a point.
Clarke's first ball of the day was sprayed outside leg stump and flicked away down to long leg for a single. What must he make of this farewell game? He turns 40 next week and will combine his new role as director of cricket at King Edward's School in Witley with running his own academy. There will be times over the next few years when he looks back on certain days and moments in his career with nostalgic fondness but this set of 97 overs in the dirt in a late-season knockabout is unlikely to be one of them.
He should have had a wicket when Lloyd, on 33, pulled a back-of-a-length ball straight down Virdi's throat at long leg, only for the fielder to inexplicably put down one of the simplest chances he will ever be offered. Lloyd made Surrey pay, scoring heavily through the covers and off the back foot in his busy hundred, and was involved in partnerships of 86, 125 and 76 with Rutherford, Cooke and Eddie Byrom
Ollie Pope, captaining Surrey for the first time with the centrally-contracted Rory Burns made unavailable by the ECB, struggled to stem the flow of runs and Ben Foakes, returning to keep wicket after a long injury lay-off, had scant opportunity to conjure a moment of magic, given how rarely the ball turned past the outside edge - though he did complete a straightforward stumping when Byrom ran past Dan Moriarty.
Glamorgan, like Surrey, have had nothing worthwhile to play for since the Royal London Cup final in mid-August but despite three Championship defeats in a row, they have the feeling of a club heading in the right direction. Byrom, who played uncharacteristically positively in his 45, represents a useful signing who could contribute in all formats and they are starting to build an impressive core, with Kiran Carlson
, who closed unbeaten on 45, the pick of their young players.
Clarke's first two spells were relatively tight in the context of a fast-scoring day, his first nine overs costing 26 runs, but the first ball of his third was a gentle half-volley that was driven through the covers for four by Lloyd, and his fourth spell lasted a solitary over as Carlson and Chris Cooke traded boundaries. By the close he was back at slip, hands on hips, drifting back into the routine of a lifetime.
The beauty of the game that Clarke has served for so long and with such distinction is that he will return tomorrow with ambitions and hopes for what lies ahead, even in these dying embers of his professional career. A genuine allrounder for most of his career, Clarke has struggled with the bat this season and has made a solitary Championship fifty; he could hardly have asked for circumstances more conducive to putting that right.