Surrey skipper Graeme Smith proved himself a class above the rest as he became the first player in the match to record a half-century in the Division Two County Championship contest against Essex at the Oval.
In trying conditions for batting after a lot of rain had fallen, the former South Africa captain was affluent in scoring 65 to give his side a slight advantage in the early season fixture.
Chasing a first innings opposition total of 306, the home side set about reducing the deficit on day three. In a game where the weather has taken its toll, bonus points are a useful sundry to add to the expected tally awarded for a drawn match.
After the bowlers had held up their end of the bargain with the ball, it was time for Surrey to pad up and get some runs on the scoreboard. Opening the batting, Smith successfully led by example.
His Test match experience will be a great asset for the side this season, especially if he continues to bat in the manner he showed here. After failing in his opening performance of the season against Glamorgan, the left-hander was resurgent in making his 65 off just 88 deliveries.
Teammate, Rory Burns, was the first victim of the Browncaps’ innings. A splendid example of some top quality fielding was to provide the breakthrough for the visitors, when Ravi Bopara ran out Burns.
Bopara completed the dismissal from his own bowling to catch the batsman – who was backing up at the non-striker’s end – out with a flick of his hand altering the direction of the ball onto the stumps.
Smith remained resolute at the other end though, and helped chip away at Essex’s total. The 33-year-old was sent back to the pavilion when he edged David Masters to third slip, with his team sat on 123-2.
The retired international cricketer came harrowingly close to posting his top score for the county. In March, the South African sprung news of his impending retirement midway through a Test against Australia.
Now that he has ended his involvement with the Proteas, he can concentrate on county cricket with Surrey, which is great news for fans of the side.
The culmination of this year’s IPL will also add to Smith’s dazzling career when he gets the chance to captain another player who recently came to the end of his international career – Kevin Pietersen.
With those two on the scorecard, Surrey are amongst the favourites to secure promotion in the four-day game. With a consistent flurry of half-centuries, Graeme Smith will at least know that he has done his part in helping achieve that.
The hosts will return to the crease today on 217-6, still 89 runs behind.
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