Match Report – SURR vs SOM 9th Match, April 12 – 15, 2024

Surrey 42 for 0 trail Somerset 285 (Lammonby 100, Renshaw 87, Gregory 50, Steel 4-50, Atkinson 3-57) by 243 runs

The only trouble with exponential growth is the knowledge that it cannot last forever. After his rapid rise in 2023, Gus Atkinson spent the first three months of this year doing very little of note: flying around India with England’s Test squad, bowling in the nets, kicking footballs and occasionally acting as an overqualified drinks waiter.

Towards the end of that tour, he was pulled out of the IPL, where he stood to earn roughly £100,000 but was likely to spend two months on the Kolkata Knight Riders bench. That meant it took until April 12 for Atkinson to play his first match of 2024, after he was – surprisingly – told to rest by the ECB in Surrey’s season opener against Lancashire.

He beat Matt Renshaw’s outside edge with the third ball he bowled but looked a little short of rhythm in his first two spells, as Renshaw and Tom Lammonby settled in either side of lunch. But he finished the day with 3 for 57 from his 19 overs, playing a major role in Surrey’s fightback and profiting from Somerset’s profligacy.

According to the speeds on Surrey’s stream, Atkinson was a little down on pace in his first spell – understandably so, after so long without a competitive game. His most recent appearance came in England’s December T20I series in the Caribbean, to which he contributed two wicketless overs for 33 runs. His first four months as an international cricketer appeared to have taken their toll.

He had 0 for 39 after his first nine overs at The Oval, but made a decisive intervention between lunch and tea. The second ball of his third spell accounted for Tom Banton, well caught off his inside edge by a diving Ben Foakes, by which stage Somerset had turned 196 for 1 into 199 for 4.

It owed in no small part to Lammonby’s anxiety at reaching his seventh first-class hundred. On 99, he drove Jamie Overton to mid-on and stood mid-pitch as Jordan Clark fumbled. He rushed through to the non-striker’s end but Renshaw was helpless, diving at full stretch to make his ground moments after Clark’s deadeye aim had knocked the stumps back.

Lammonby is a fine player who attracted England’s interest when, at 20, he hit centuries in three consecutive matches in the Bob Willis Trophy. He has struggled since, failing to average even 30 in the last three Championship seasons and losing his place during Somerset’s T20 Blast triumph last summer, but started the season with 90 at Kent in a new role at No. 3.

He brought up his hundred off just 132 balls in south London, working Overton into the leg side, and his 16 boundaries included several crisp strikes down the ground and through the off side. He will rarely come up against such potent seam attacks across the rest of the season and even in mid-April, this has the sense of a breakthrough summer.

But after he fell to Clark, pinned on the back pad, Somerset fell to pieces. Without Tom Abell (hamstring) and Tom Kohler-Cadmore (IPL) their middle-order engine room looked light on oil, and so it proved. Lewis Goldsworthy looked out of place at No. 4, edging Cameron Steel’s legspin to slip after just about surviving a short-ball barrage, and Atkinson’s tail was up.

He angled three balls in a row across James Rew, whose five hundreds last season were unparalleled in Division One. The first two narrowly beat his outside edge but the third, hung wider outside his off stump, induced an edge. His next delivery, a sharp short ball, beat Kasey Aldridge for pace and ballooned up to slip off the shoulder of his bat.

“It was very quick,” Clark said. “That was when I thought ‘he’s found his feet’, because it was about five miles an hour quicker than the previous few balls. Gus found his rhythm a lot more in his third spell… his run-up clicked a lot better than it did at the start. He just wants to be on the park, so he’s obviously very happy to come back to his home club.”

Atkinson was name-checked by Rob Key in a recent newspaper interview as one of the young seamers who could “take us forward” – “us” being England’s Test team, after an overreliance on experienced seamers. His name will be discussed for the T20 World Cup, but he may be kept in cotton wool until the Test summer starts in July.

When Craig Overton was deceived by Steel’s drift, Somerset had lost six wickets for 15 runs and it took Lewis Gregory’s 50 to drag them up to 285. Shoaib Bashir, who contributed 10 not out to a last-wicket stand worth 49, was at least playing, having missed out last week. April is the cruellest month for spinners – but Steel’s nine wickets this season have cost just 75 runs.

Surrey’s openers shaved 42 off the deficit before the close, Dom Sibley breaking character to crash six powerful boundaries in the evening session. He had started the day by taking an astonishing catch at slip: Sean Dickson edged to Overton, but Sibley watched the rebound land on his right boot before swooping low to pluck it inches from the turf.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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