Somerset toil in face of Sangakkara masterclass

Surrey 394 for 5 (Sangakkara 171, Roy 85 Burns 80) v Somerset

Kumar Sangakkara passed 1000 runs for Surrey during his innings of 171 (file photo) © Getty Images

The first day of the season at The Oval was given a grandstand beginning as one of game’s leading stars gave Surrey the perfect home start. Kumar Sangakkara, still glistening as bright as ever, produced a mesmeric sixth Championship hundred – his 56th in all first class cricket – to leave Somerset smarting having conceded 394 in a day’s play.

As it happens, both teams read the pitch well. What green there was only spanned the middle of the track, from good length to good length and those within the Surrey camp hoped Somerset might be lured into bowling first. Chris Rogers did not bite and asked for the coin, but failed to call correctly. That was the starter pistol for a run-fest on a chilly day in south London.

The breath of each exposed spectator and player was visible as scenes resembled something out of The Revenant. The only difference might have been that after a few hours, Somerset’s fielders would have welcomed a bear’s forced embrace. Instead, they were mauled by Sangakkara

The familiar jaunt to three figures took just 94 balls and saw him pass 1000 first class runs for Surrey in this, his 22nd innings. To say he had it his own way would be an understatement.

Craig Overton, in his first start of the season, was particularly charitable to the 38-year-old, feeding the cuts and drives. Even the pull shot was given a decent run out as Overton tried to find something in the pitch that wasn’t there. His generosity, and that of the rest of the attack, towards Sangakkara might only have been bettered had they offered to pick up his dry cleaning and wash his car.

It is worth noting that Overton did find Sangakkara’s edge, only for the ball to die on its way through to Peter Trego at first slip, who had to dive to gather. Trego himself also missed out on Sangakkara’s wicket when, on 34, he was pulled to Roelof van der Merwe at midwicket. A difficult low chance was not taken.

Otherwise, Sangakkara was unfazed. He strolled down the wicket to hit Trego for six over midwicket and lashed Tim Groenewald through cover and cover-point in the opening 50 runs of his first hundred of the season. On 99, he was greeted with a packed ring field and van der Merwe bowling darts. After a couple of plinks into the leg side, he skipped down the track and sent the left-arm spinner into the covers for six.

When he holed out to deep midwicket for 171 – his highest first class score in county cricket – Surrey had 313 on the board in the 69th over. For that, they also owed thanks to Rory Burns.

While Sangakkara worked with flourishes, Burns dealt in straight lines. Perhaps the most flamboyant aspect of Burns’ game is his set-up: knees bent, backside sitting directly above his heels, wrists cocked sending his bat out towards gully. It is a set-up that has now accrued him more than 4000 first class runs.

There was a degree of annoyance at The Oval when Burns was not selected for the winter’s Lions tour, though that can be argued away as it was very much a limited-overs party. Here, he showcased why long-form is his strongest suit.

He had 13 from 48 balls before a four from his bat off Lewis Gregory brought up Surrey’s 50. Gregory was perhaps the pick of the seamers on show, but no number of deliveries passing the outside edge could make up for his 18 overs of toil.

Burns showed him respect but, eventually, in bringing up his half-century off 88 balls, made hay on the front foot, even hitting van der Merwe over his head for six. Perhaps the biggest compliment that could be paid to Burns’ change of pace in the latter half of his innings was that this shot was met by one unsuspecting punter sat a matter of feet away from where the six landed saying, “Was that Kumar again?” Their partnership of 187 was ended when Burns gave van der Merwe an easy return catch of a leading edge.

And so the stage was set for Jason Roy to hammer a weary attack into the ground, getting off the mark with a gorgeous on drive that said he meant business. In the end, 85 at just below a run a ball was his lot – Gregory’s endeavour rewarded by a delivery that might have been a bit high but was adjudged to have trapped him lbw. By then Roy had taken a few casualties, stinging the fingers of fielders with fierce drives, with one of his 11 boundaries going literally through cover.

While his wicket buoyed Somerset late in the evening, they also saw Zafar Ansari dropped at gully, off the bowling of Gregory, on 28. Ansari, in his first game back after badly injuring his hand last September on the day of his England call-up, had looked characteristically obdurate during his 57 balls.

He and Ben Foakes will have 500 in their sights going into day two. They may need that and then some as the pitch suggested Somerset may still be able to bat their way out of trouble. On this showing with the ball, that may well be their only hope.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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