Surrey 351 & 308, Sussex 526
There is a lot Americans will never “get” about cricket. But number one on that list is surely the draw. And of all of cricket’s formats, four-day cricket is the one most likely to produce draws. The fact that a format exists where, for the most part, teams simply do not have enough hours to finish a game, would befuddle most American sports fans. (There were 81 draws in the first division last season, out of 304 total matches.) The five day Test? They could get on board with that, but the four day game would come across as meaningless.
And that’s too bad, because four day County Championship matches are, for the most part, endlessly entertaining.
I would argue that the time restrictions involved make the format more interesting than its five day cousin (on occasion) despite their tendency to force no results. Long stands like we saw from Luke Wells at the Oval, for instance, while match saving, tend to wipe out any chance of a result. Meanwhile, long stands like the one we saw from Hashim Amla at the Oval last summer, tend to bury opponents.
Furthermore, at the other side, the economical bowlers favored in the one day game, or in the five day game to eat up overs, are cast aside in favor of those that can take wickets and take them quickly. Expensive or inexpensive, doesn’t matter: take wickets.
To win at four day cricket, teams need to score runs quickly and take wickets quickly, which always makes for exciting cricket.
Unfortunately, we saw very little of the above from Sussex last week. Surrey opened with 351 all out in a day and change, and then Sussex, and Luke Wells, batted on and on and on and on. Wells’ finally tally was quite impressive: 208 runs, 412 balls, 526 minutes. 68 overs and four balls. Eight and three-quarters hours. Let’s see Chris Gayle do that.
It was after tea on day three before Sussex were done after batting for 157 overs. Their lead was 175 and they had about 100 overs to bowl out their opponents to win. But they couldn’t do it; they just could not take wickets. Chris Jordan took five Surrey wickets in the first innings, but none in the second; with an economy rate of over four.
The former needs to change, if the latter is to continue.
Graeme Smith was allowed to bat for over two hours. Gary Wilson for three. Vikram Solanki two and a half. It was a great stand for Surrey but I must say it was, to put it bluntly, poor from the Sussex bowlers.
And despite the double centurion Wells’ best, taking the wickets of Solanki and Zander de Bruyn in the 49th and 78th over himself, there just wasn’t enough time. Smith declared with a sizable lead and Sussex never even saw a ball in their second innings.
I have heard rumors that the pitch was lifeless. And it very well might have been. But 100 overs? That should be enough time.
In the end, it was probably a fair result. 100 overs was enough time but for some reason the attack just could not take wickets. Again, it might be only April, but that needs to change and change soon.
The draw leaves Sussex in sole possession of third place in the table. Next up: Warwickshire at Hove, May 1-4.
Warwickshire (1-0-2) are currently in second with a match in hand.