David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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Surrey 246 for 5 (David 102, Smith 69*) beat Gloucestershire 242 for 7 (Scott 66*, Smith 51*) by five wickets
It would be tempting to call Tim David's match-winning hundred against Gloucestershire contemptuous, such was its mastery, but that would only cast more aspersions on standards in a 50-over tournament which is racing stout-heartedly towards its climax like a diminished Speed Dating event with the nation's sexiest stars commandeered for the inaugural season of the Hundred.
Surrey's five-wicket win in this play-off against Gloucestershire gives them a semi-final against Durham at Chester-le-Street on Tuesday, 24 hours after Glamorgan face Essex. The final, at Trent Bridge, is a floodlit affair on Thursday and tickets for what was once the pinnacle of the season are only a tenner. Some Hundred players might theoretically be available, but whether they should play in place of the young thrusters (some, not all, of them quite exciting prospects) who have kept the tournament alive is a different matter.
David's 102 encompassed 72 balls, with 11 fours and five sixes. He keeps things extremely simple: he sees things and deals with them. Vigorously. Maybe he should be in charge of the fixture list. He also figured in two run-outs, one of them his own, which fleetingly brought back memories of Surrey's capitulation against Gloucestershire in the 2015 RL final, but in between he smote the ball to all parts to enable Surrey to surpass Gloucestershire's modest 242 for 7 with five wickets and 44 balls to spare.
He might also be the overseas player who the Hundred missed, a bear of a man shrewdly snapped up by Surrey for the Royal London Cup and the latter stages of the Blast. The Hundred deal never came for this Australian by way of Singapore, despite a big season for Hobart Hurricanes. He took a while to come to life, as if coming out of hibernation, but back-to-back hundreds at Kia Oval have left him with an average of 84.25 (outdone only by Durham's Graham Clark among recognised batsmen) and a strike rate of 152.48 which is second to Dane Vilas among top run-getters. Anyway, it is as good as it gets although doubtless there may be a Batting Impact algorithm somewhere that suggests otherwise.
David's follow-up hundred was not quite as destructive as his remarkable 140 from 70 balls, with 11 sixes, against Warwickshire on Tuesday, but arguably it was no worse for that. His first wild shot probably came on 101 when he tried to put Matt Taylor onto the surface of Mars, but otherwise he just flayed balls that needed hitting. Gloucestershire's bowlers have carried a weak top order all season, and that should be respected, but they asked him few questions.
Jamie Smith was captaining Surrey at 21 in the continued injury absence of Hashim Amla, who fulfilled 12th man duties. Smith also made a controlled unbeaten 69 in a match-winning stand of 102 in 19 overs for the fourth wicket. The stand began after the run out of Ryan Patel, who pushed the ball straight to Chris Dent at short midwicket and was run out at the bowler's end. It ended when Dent collected David's push to short extra cover and attempted a lumbering return to his ground. Neither throw hit direct, but neither needed to.
Smith swept particularly strongly against the spinners while Scott produced the stroke of the innings, a pick up six off Matt Dunn that sailed far over the mid wicket boundary, before also top-edging a high full toss from the same bowler over the fine leg ropes. With umpire Ian Blackwell rightly signalling for the no ball, that shot earned Gloucestershire eight runs.
A slowly turning pitch disguised Surrey's mediocre seam resources which could cost them dear in the climax to the competition. Dan Moriarty's left-arm slows curbed the rate and Cameron Steel's leg spin, although expensive, deserved better than his 1 for 55: he turned his googly substantially and his 33 county wickets in 61 matches smacks of under-utilised potential, even allowing for the standard of the competition.
It was hard to find a wicket in Gloucestershire's first seven that did not fall to batsman error. James Bracey, whose season began with England recognition, chipped back one of two wickets for David's offspin off a horrible leading edge; Graeme van Buuren, playing as an overseas player while he waits to see if he can stay in England post-Brexit, was the only other batsman to threaten until his checked drive against Moriarty saw him fall at short extra on 37.
Surrey's reply also involved a brief and somewhat sad appearance from Ollie Pope who recovered from a thigh injury while in the England fold but who was released from the Test squad to play for Surrey in a competition that it can safely be assumed did not exactly smack, in its current guise, of career development. One does not have to look hard this summer to find a young England batsman looking glum in anything other than T20 (or its inferior substitutes) and here was another example.
Pope made a single from three balls, the third seeing him leg before to a straight one from Taylor, a left-arm quick coming around the wicket. There was a time when it would just be recorded that Pope played across a straight one, but now off stump guard is all the rage so to avoid being drawn into another tiresome generational clash it is safest to observe that he missed it and whatever his mildly disapproving look at the umpire, Ian Blackwell, replays suggested that it would probably have shaved leg stump. Disapproval should best be aimed elsewhere.
Royal London One-Day Cup