Smith wrests advantage as Hannon-Dalby threatens to trip up Surrey

Smith wrests advantage as Hannon-Dalby threatens to trip up Surrey
Smith wrests advantage as Hannon-Dalby threatens to trip up Surrey

Surrey 211 for 8 (Smith 57*, Hannon-Dalby 3-29) lead Warwickshire 150 (Mousley 55, Worrall 4-38) by 61 runs

Patience and persistence are still necessary attributes when it comes to winning the LV= County Championship and both Surrey and Warwickshire had those qualities in abundance at Edgbaston. It was a day of toil, a serious-minded affair between arguably the most tough-minded sides around and, at the close of the second day, it was Surrey who had stolen a slight advantage.

Surrey, the defending champions, led by 61 runs with two wickets remaining as they sought to assert themselves against the county that took the pennant the season before. There would be some tired minds and bodies at the end of a day that illustrated that county players do not always throw the bat fatalistically when conditions are in the seam bowlers’ favour.

Superficially spindly, yet physically threatening when there is sap in the pitch, Ollie Hannon-Dalby spearheaded Warwickshire’s seam attack on an engrossing day when everybody was on their mettle. Hannon-Dalby, closely cropped now, jogs in with his right arm outstretched as if he is carrying a little wicker bread basket, but opposing batters have long learned to sense danger and a wicket in the final over – the only one with the second new ball – left him with 3 for 29 in 14.3 overs.

It was Jamie Smith, the most ambitious of Surrey’s batters, who finally shifted the match in his side’s favour. He remained unbeaten on 57 by the close and upped the tempo in a sunnier final session in discerning fashion.

“I thought we bowled pretty well all day,” Hannon-Dalby said. “We know that here at Edgbaston, day two, if the sun is out generally it is a nice time to bat. They bowled brilliantly yesterday, albeit in helpful conditions, so we just had to try to emulate them.”

Surrey’s captain, Rory Burns has won only three of his last 17 tosses, so he will not apologise for the slight advantage that winning this one has given his side. Seam-bowling conditions were ideal on the opening day, but even when blue skies broke out in the final session, there was still assistance to be had and the favour in bowling first was not excessive. Smith played well.

The path had been laid by many who went before, firstly Burns, who was quite perky in making 32 from 81 balls, looking as if he is perching on the edge of a toilet seat as the bowler approaches and then springing up as the bowler delivers, as if rudely interrupted, which he eventually was by an inswinger from Chris Rushworth which had him palpably lbw.

Ben Foakes continued the good work, the sober side of dapper as he reached 39 from 100 balls before he fell tamely against Hannon-Dalby with a leading edge to short midwicket as he tried to clip him through the leg side. “The longer I batted, the worse I got,” Foakes said. This has not been a pitch that becomes gentler on a batter the longer they stay, which makes Smith’s easeful innings all the more impressive.

An hour’s delay for a wet outfield did not help Warwickshire. The clouds had begun to lighten by the time Surrey had taken the last two wickets and begun their reply.

“April brings the sweet Spring showers / On and on for hours and hours” sang Flanders and Swann, and they were no kinder about the rest of the months that make up the English climate either, but perhaps this miserable start to the season is finally beginning to ease up. Somebody may have even risked taking a coat off in the afternoon.

Warwickshire’s bowlers held their discipline. Rushworth brought Dom Sibley’s return to Edgbaston to an early end with the assistance of Rob Yates at slip and Hasan Ali’s second ball trapped Ollie Pope lbw. When Ryan Patel edged Hannon-Dalby to second slip it was 99 for 4 and the match was finely balanced, but Smith wrested the initiative until two wickets in the last two overs rewarded Warwickshire’s discipline.

Chris Woakes had reported “a good kind of hurt” after completing his first Championship match for a year against Kent and he beat the bat enough to have been frustrated to have endured a wicketless day.

It is typical of Woakes that he is seeking to win an Ashes place, at 34, with hard work. Jofra Archer has good reason not to fancy such a laborious route. He has been laid low with elbow trouble for more than two years now and might well have to take a view on the longer formats if his condition does not improve.

Archer feels so vulnerable that when his secret visit to a Belgian clinic for a minor elbow procedure was reported this week, he appeared to complain on Twitter that such information should not be revealed without his express approval. Client journalism might well be growing, especially in the field of elite sport, but even if he wins the Ashes with 10 wickets in every innings, he will not have exclusive rights to everything written about him.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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