Recent Match Report – Surrey vs Warwickshire Division 1 2022

Warwickshire 16 for 2 (Yates 10*, Briggs 0*) trail Surrey 428 for 8 dec (Foakes 132*, Patel 75. Pope 58, Clark 50) by 412 runs

The three rivals for the England wicketkeeper’s position were in the news and, habitually these days, only one of them was playing in the LV= Championship. Compared to the blare of the IPL, Edgbaston felt like a place to Not Get Yourself Noticed, but Ben Foakes did his utmost to challenge that notion and he will have stirred the interest of those who matter (whoever they are) with a century at the first time of asking.

Foakes’ unbeaten 132, from 265 balls with 18 fours and a six, was a hard-working, spruce affair, neat of thought and deed. It enabled Surrey to declare 12 overs before the end of the second day on 428 for 8. Warwickshire, although two down, will still envisage a high-scoring draw as a stable enough start to their title defence, although watching Dom Sibley, a natural stonewaller, thick-edging a wide one from Reece Topley on to his stumps, first ball, will not exactly have filled them with joy.

It was Foakes’ final decisive contribution, though, as the skies darkened, that provided a reminder of why Surrey’s director of cricket, Alec Stewart, who is not someone given to hyperbole, regards him as the best wicketkeeper in the world. Will Rhodes’ dismissal against Kemar Roach could easily be routinely described as an unfortunate strangle but for Foakes, after batting for six hours on the second day, to show such anticipation and light-footedness as he moved down the leg side was a reminder that here is England’s true representative of the wicketkeeper’s art. For many keepers, including those against whom he contests an England place, it might well have gone down as a near miss.

Foakes is England’s man in possession, although there is little certainty in that fact considering that he had a disappointing tour of the West Indies and was part of an experimental squad, selected by an interim panel, that lost the series 1-0 and as a result caused general consternation over England’s Test failings. He deserves to play a first home Test against New Zealand at Lord’s at the start of June and has six matches to underline the fact.

The more celebrated contenders, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow are in the IPL, Buttler having already made the first hundred of the tournament, and Bairstow coming out of quarantine to play his first game on Friday, making 8 for Punjab Kings, a match in which he kept wicket and batted at No. 3.

As Foakes brought order upon the day, Buttler also figured in an ECB media release about England’s new T20 shirt. Indeed, he was described as “integral to the design” of a high-stretch, recycled poly-elastane little number that apparently will leave England “ready to perform at their best”. It was not revealed whether this highly attractive solution, which appears to obviate the need for coaches or tactics, will also work for the Test team. The ethos of the sportswear company (Castore), incidentally, is “Better Never Stops”, which must be what appealed to the ECB which doesn’t really believe in time off.

Foakes, who appears to be more of a 100% cotton sort, began the second day on 9 and needed two escapes in the slips, a tough chance to Rob Yates on 37, a more acceptable offering to Rhodes on 54. Those blemishes apart, he showed good judgment and placement, scoring primarily with flicks and clips. When he did drive down the ground, he relied more on timing than weight of stroke. “I was happy how I batted,” he said. “It was a bit of a hard slog at times.”

His entire game is based on understatement in an age of overstatement. Such decorum will delight many in Frinton, the genteel Essex seaside town and home of his first club. Frinton does not do excess. Its 19th century town charter banned pubs, ice creams and other vices. When the 21st century dawned, and a pub was finally allowed, a resident consoled himself that they don’t really see too much of “the tearaway element”. It’s tough to escape your childhood.

What England will be grateful to see is that Foakes’ appetite to bat for long periods remains high. This was an innings where the most important message lay in the “minutes” column. Connoisseurs of Test cricket, and wicketkeeping, will be delighted to see an early indication that he is approaching the season with vigour.

Warwickshire, those dropped chances apart, rarely extended Foakes on a surface where Surrey will struggle to force a victory. They did not resemble a Championship-winning attack. Oliver Hannon-Dalby, in his first competitive bowl since June, managed to cut the ball back at times to finish with 4 for 78, bowling Ollie Pope through the gate, as he had done Hashim Amla on the first day, and also finding purchase to have Will Jacks lbw, but the other seamers were finding their way again.

The partnership that carried the game away from Warwickshire was 86 in 28 for the seventh wicket as Jordan Clark struck a confident half-century before he swept at Yates and became his fifth first-class victim (he added Roach later) and James Taylor rubbed it in as he and Foakes added another 78 for the ninth wicket.

Surrey will be strong until England come calling, and if Topley stays fit, and need a flying start to the season. They have also had the independence of thought to omit Sam Curran, on form grounds, even though he had been made available by England, and if the Championship is to regain its reputation, then such self-determination is essential. It will be tough to achieve victory on this surface, but little is certain before the trees are in leaf.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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