Thursday, 2 January 2020

Xmas leftovers Part II: Ben Foakes at Guildford

These few paras were taken out of a forthcoming piece as they didn't really fit. I thought Foakes, along with Smith and Labuschagne, was the best player I saw live last Summer. The gods of cricket have decreed that Dom Bess is with England in South Africa, and good luck to him.

 In July I went to Guildford, to Woodbridge Road to watch Surrey play Yorkshire. It was supposed to rain all day, but when we arrived just after lunch Surrey had a hundred on the board for a couple down and under low skies, Scott Borthwick, a number three bat these days, darted around and Ben Coad pinned Ryan Patel in front.
Sat square of the wicket, feet on the same earth as the players, felt like a privileged position. There was an intimacy to it, the grunts of the bowlers, the urging of the fielders, the sharp calls for quick singles. It was a place of work, of effort. Ben Foakes came in at number five. His summer hadn’t been great, overlooked by England, injured, short of runs, but even when they’re struggling some players make the game look like second nature. Foakes had his collar open and the sleeves of his shirt pushed up, as if he’d just shucked off a jacket and tie at a wedding and got up to jam with the band. He was at ease here, a young man in an old competition. His batting had true beauty and that preternatural bit of anticipation where he appeared to be forward or back to the ball in the instant it was delivered. Dom Bess, on loan from Somerset, lacked the electric snap in his bowling that Foakes had in his batting, and as soon as Foakes felt it he whipped a couple through midwicket, blade vertical and face angled in the classical way. At tea the spectators went out and looked at the wicket and after the resumption the veteran Steve Patterson got one through Foakes, which surprised everyone, even him. The crowd sighed, Patterson gathered himself again and bowled Will Jacks first ball. Drama. A hat-trick chance. Across the far side, behind the high wire fence and the tall trees, traffic flowed down the London Road oblivious.


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