Ollie Pope shows England class as Scott Borthwick lays solid foundation

Cricket


Surrey 246 for 2 (Borthwick 109*, Pope 78*) v Nottinghamshire

A century from Scott Borthwick and a strong batting performance from Ollie Pope on the day of his England Test recall defined proceedings before cloud, gloom and rain brought play to an early conclusion during the evening session. Borthwick played patiently for his hundred, reaching 109 from 243 balls, while Pope also displayed his class as he eased to 78 not out.

Surrey played for much of the day like reigning champions should – despite their position second from bottom of Division One. Nottinghamshire, the team below, were a stark contrast. Already relegated and with their heart-breaking weekend T20 Blast semi-final loss still fresh, they seemed mentally checked out for the season. They played without direction and with little strategy.

Nottinghamshire were not helped by a batsman-friendly pitch and the ease with which Surrey played for much of the day can attest to that. They may also feel aggrieved by the constant changing of balls. The umpires had decided to change the ball twice before the seventh over, and a fourth was selected in the 33rd over.

Jake Ball showed international pedigree early on, but Surrey’s opening batsmen saw him off with relatively few jitters. The pair put on 70 for the first wicket, before Paul Coughlin produced the only truly dangerous over of the day. The Nottinghamshire strategy of bowling down the leg side to Mark Stoneman paid off after he edged behind, before 19-year old Jamie Smith was also caught behind for a four-ball duck, pushing too hard at one which moved away slightly.

Pope then joined Borthwick at the crease. As his recall to the England Test squad to tour New Zealand was announced, 21-year old Pope displayed the traits that have seen him likened to James Vince and Ian Bell, where batting appears easy, elegant and effortless. Out for much of the season through injury, this match is only his fifth in the Championship. However, with this innings included he has accumulated 533 runs at an average of 88.83 in eight innings. To put that into context, Stoneman is Surrey’s top scorer this season, with 685 runs, but has required 13 matches and 23 innings to do so.

His innings here wasn’t without blemish though. Pope escaped a stumping chance and was lucky that Ben Slater dropped a low catch at midwicket too. England needn’t worry. One gets the sense when watching Pope that as the format of cricket increases in difficulty, so does his level of concentration.

Surrey’s batsmen have endured a disappointing summer. Following the home loss to Kent in July, Surrey’s director of cricket, Alec Stewart, said: “People say we have batsmen out of form. No, we have batsmen out of runs. They are hitting the ball well, but their shot selection is costing them dearly.” Unfortunately for Surrey, the runs never really came until Pope’s return.

Borthwick’s shot selection on this occasion was imperious, offering only a difficult catching chance to leg slip during his entire innings. His innings also marked a batting milestone of which he can be personally proud: as he swept Matt Carter to the backward square leg boundary, he became the first Surrey batsman to hit a second century in the County Championship this summer. Only Pope and captain Rory Burns did so last year, finishing the season with four each in total. The side have missed that weight of runs and are lucky only one team is being relegated from Division One this season.

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