Most English batsmen dislike most Australian grounds, especially the old Waca in Perth. It is more unusual for English batsmen to dislike home grounds.
Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, failed to manage Old Trafford and averaged nine there in Test cricket. He wasn’t the only one who found English ground difficult to beat. A chap who turned 50 this week, Sachin Tendulkar, played five of his 200 Tests at Lord’s with an average of just 21.
It would be to England’s advantage this summer if Ollie Pope develops a greater affinity for Edgbaston than he has so far.
In his four Test innings, on what was usually a one-pitch batsman, he collected 52 runs – and another cheap dismissal at this ground when representing Surrey would not have put him in the mood more positive before the first Ashes Test on June 16th.
At his home ground at the Oval at the other extreme, Pope averages nearly 100 in first-class cricket; and just two weeks ago he struck out against Hampshire like a fiery Joe Root with even more nimble footwork.
He continued to run down the field to the handsome trio of Hampshire seamers and wrested the match from them with an unbeaten and brilliant 91-hundred. So this time the Warwickshire wicketkeeper stood up.
Their main early bowler was not Chris Woakes, who was tidy but not very penetrating, but Chris Rushworth, their portly Durham seamstress, who moved the new ball in still wet conditions, but at just over 80mph . Then Michael Burgess came in to pin Pope in his fold, and he did.
Having been confined to barracks, Pope was ready to charge when Rushworth finished his initial poll and Pakistani bowler Hasan Ali replaced him at Pavilion End. Ali may be the slimmer and shorter bowler in this contest but he is quick and slippery, so Burgess had to step back and Pope felt entitled to charge. It was a fatal mistake.
Charging bowlers from 80 mph is one thing; accusing Ali, who is over 85, and before Pope’s eye was in, was another. Pope, also, after skipping a couple of paces towards the bowler, aimed not across the midwicket but across the square leg, and looked outwards, though he was down the field, as the ball went no further the stumps.
In a match that could affect the outcome of the championship, these weren’t the premises for brilliant svelte, but to graft and square the ball. Only two batsmen have reached the age of 50 and both have English potential.
First up was Warwickshire southpaw Dan Mousley, who was out for his 55 overnight while his county could only add seven more runs. Second was Jamie Smith, Surrey’s right-hand man.
Mousley is compact, well-rounded, poised and hasn’t been afraid to pop onto the field on occasion to disturb the control of the Surrey stitchers.
Smith is tall – not tall for a batsman but for a wicketkeeper he occasionally is – and already adept at compartmentalizing: he may be a white ball batsman, having scored the fastest 50-over century for the England Lions off just 71 balls, yet he can also keep the ball down, as he has done in this mature 57 off 114 balls which has given Surrey a lead of 61 so far.
The first round was spotted in the final hour of the second day when Rob Yates bowled some breaks down a tight defensive line to keep Surrey quiet until the second new ball. And there was no real alternative to beating with the seam on both sides if the championship is to be staged in April.
Not “Bazball”, more boreballs and blockballs. Even with four England players in the top five, and likely a future one in Smith, Surrey failed to score more than 2.6 runs per over – and Pope paid for the penalty to be more ambitious.