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Ben Foakes stakes England claim as Surrey fall to Royal London One-Day Cup defeat to Middlesex

Isabelle Westbury
Ben Foakes impressed both with bat and gloves but still ended up on the losing side - Getty Images Europe

The London derby at the Oval was more reminiscent of the type of white-ball game played over a decade ago. Middlesex beat Surrey by 37 runs, classic two-slip fields were on display, Gareth Batty took four wickets and the target set was under 300.

The only issue was that the Surrey opener Will Jacks would have been less than ten years old. Jack Wills by contrast, the preppy clothing brand, was at the peak of its powers. Much like Ben Foakes in Surrey colours these days. With elegant pulls, deft cuts and classic drives part of a nicely worked but ultimately in vain 71, Foakes would not look out of place in a batting manual of yesteryear.

Nor might he in a contemporary one-day England shirt. Two neat stumpings and a snaffle behind while standing up to the wicket to dismiss Middlesex’s leading scorer Ross Taylor will have done his chances of appearing in one soon no harm. It was not Foakes’ glovework, nor healthy batting average of 57 in this year’s One-Day Cup, which would have increased his immediate international prospects however, but a freak occurrence in a field 150 miles away.

Sam Billings, named as England’s keeper for next week’s ODI against Ireland and T20I against Pakistan, suffered a nasty dislocation to his left shoulder playing against Glamorgan. The Kent captain will see a specialist on Friday. The newly capped, and newly discarded, England Test keeper might be making an unexpected return to international cricket but through an England white-ball debut instead.

New Zealand’s Taylor landed in England only earlier this week but he hasn’t taken long to acclimatise to local conditions, a foreboding prospect for opponents in the upcoming World Cup. Ranked third in the ICC’s ODI batting rankings, only a few days ago Taylor admitted to being unsure of how to pronounce new teammate Stevie Eskinazi’s name. Eskinazi, coming into today’s match, had been Middlesex’s leading run scorer in the One-Day Cup. 

Middlesex beat Surrey by 37 runs Credit: getty images

An assured 78-ball knock of 64 provided a glimpse of why not many will be forgetting Taylor’s name anytime soon however. The powerful batter showed that there is more to his game than just explosive stroke play, his innings steadying Middlesex’s batting as five wickets fell at the other end of the crease during Taylor’s knock.

A below-par total of 277 meant that Surrey had every chance at the innings break of continuing their white-ball stranglehold over local rivals Middlesex, a winning streak which dates back to 2014. This however discounted the proposition of seamer Tom Helm and leg-spinner Nathan Sowter, who once more outshone their more senior bowling colleagues to take four wickets each as they dismantled Surrey for 240. Both already have five-wicket hauls in this year’s tournament. 

Liam Plunkett meanwhile continued a welcome return to form bowling with rhythm and pace. Fast bowling attacks featuring 'three Ws' and a speedy 'P' have a rich history in international cricket. Instead of referring to the feared West Indies’ pace bowlers of a bygone era however, these days it is to the quartet of pace bowlers now fearing for their places in England’s lineup. 

Every match is now an audition, every one a reshuffling of the pecking order between Chris Woakes, David Willey, Mark Wood and Plunkett as to who will be sacrificed for the inevitable inclusion of Jofra Archer into England’s final World Cup squad. Four wickets on Tuesday and two today for just 53 runs from his ten overs, as he hurried up Middlesex’s middle order, showed why England prize Plunkett so highly. It is a notable turnaround for the Yorkshireman after a slow start to the One-Day Cup in which his bowling was hit at a rate nearing ten runs per over for just one wicket.

England’s World Cup squad will also be keeping a close eye on their injury list with Eoin Morgan, Tom Curran and Jason Roy all rested today as a precaution following minor niggles.