Essex 215 for 3 (Lawrence 78*, Bopara 33*) trail Surrey 369 (Sangakkara 200, S Curran 90, Porter 4-89) by 154 runs
Kumar Sangakkara’s double-century completed Surrey’s first-innings fightback © Getty Images
Sometimes, the feeling in county cricket is that the moments to savour come from the same old faces. That’s not necessarily a complaint: when Kumar Sangakkara, five centuries on the bounce, turned his 319th ball to square leg to bring up his maiden double hundred for Surrey and 14th of his first class career, no one booed.
But once Stuart Meaker fell one short of a first fifty in three seasons, Sangakkara had to do it all on his own. And while he was able to farm the strike successfully and pick off the remaining runs for 200, he fell trying and failing to clear the ropes down the ground, towards the media box. That’s when Dan Lawrence stepped up with a high-class knock that occupied most of what remained of the day.
They think he’ll play for England in these parts. The reasons are plentiful: the runs, the wrists, the way he assesses and subsequently plays to various match situations. All this with a home-spun technique that is a nod to the game’s diversity within Essex.
It’s important not to focus too much on the flourishes, such as the way he hits through point like he’s lassoing cattle or how he could probably take a wall for a walk through midwicket if he fancied. There is a maturity that now underpins his game that was evident during his unbeaten 141 that saved Essex against Lancashire in the opening game of the season.
Today, he arrived with the score 87 for 2: Tom Westley had just departed playing a loose drive to Sam Curran. Hardly precarious, but a measured head was welcome. Seventeen overs later, Nick Browne, having just brought up his first fifty of the season from 150 deliveries, somehow stuck a short ball from Meaker into the hands of Tom Curran at midwicket, when it should have cleared the pavilion at square leg.
That, though, was the last bit of joy Surrey had, as Ravi Bopara and Lawrence batted for the remaining 33 overs of day two, putting on 89 to cut the deficit to 154. Lawrence resumes tomorrow 22 away from a second century of the season.
Essex got their innings off to a good start partly because Rory Burns, captaining in the absence of Gareth Batty from this match, was happy to leave cover and mid-off open to entice drives. The thinking was laudable but Nick Browne and Alastair Cook were more than happy to tuck in before lunch, going into the interval on 58 for no loss after 13 overs.
That gameplay was tweaked to good effect at the start of the second session when Tom Curran, Ravi Rampaul and Sam Curran combined in a tighter 12 overs which saw only 19 runs scored. Tom Curran’s persistence, hammering away at a length from both sides of the wicket, saw him pick up Cook for 36, as the former England captain tried to manufacture runs into the leg side by moving across his stumps.
With 25 overs gone in the Essex innings, Burns turned to Virdi for an unbroken spell of 19 overs, which crossed into the evening session. While he didn’t fill the wicket column, he did return an economy rate of 2.21, three maidens and a handful of deliveries that spun sharply past the outside edge. He is certainly not afraid of giving it a rip.
Virdi first represented Surrey at Under-12 level but also spent time in Middlesex’s age-group sides as he searched for his best route into the professional game. That eventually came last August when a scholarship contract was followed up with a full three-year deal which is due to last until the end of the 2019 season. Impressing showings for England U19s – he took 5 for 77 on Test debut against Sri Lanka last summer – and Surrey’s 2nd XI have furthered his progress.
He cites Pakistan and Surrey’s Saqlain Mushtaq as a hero of his and looks to have adopted Saqlain’s front arm. Looking to a man who took 424 first-class wickets for Surrey at an average of 21.86 should steer him right.
There were of course moments when things didn’t go his way: his second delivery in first-class cricket was a full toss that Browne bunted down the ground for four and another allowed Bopara to get off the mark with an easy four through cover. While there are of course things to work on, there seems to be a lot more to work with.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo