Having watched two sides for two days bat on the road at the Fortress with no end in sight, a return to the Oval was enticing.
The match had progressed since I was last there to a position at the end of day three of Warwickshire leading by just over 200 runs with only four wickets down. Warwickshire cannot afford to lose this match if they are to retain hopes of Division One next year – teams around them have a game in hand – so the plan had to be to bat for at least a session, take the lead to over 300 and secure a draw.
Hain and Rhodes are well set in the 70s each so what could go wrong? Especially with Surrey a player down – Overton – a key bowler, slip fielder and a pretty good bat to boot!
But Surrey’s bowlers had other ideas. The adage of one brings two just kept rolling over with excellence from Roach and Clark. Somehow, and you needed to keep checking that it wasn’t a dream, Warwickshire managed to lose the six remaining wickets in under an hour and set Surrey 248 in a max of 82 overs for victory.
A sound but sensible start was needed and the Patel/Burns combination steers them to lunch at 49/0.
More of the same in the early afternoon until Patel tries to force the pace, bringing Amla to the crease. Steadily increasing the rate puts more pressure on the opposition until Burns falls for a fine 61.
Pope therefore arrives and continues the slow inexorable increase in run rate until tea which is taken at 146/2. Another 100 in the last session of 37 overs is all that’s needed to keep Surrey top of the tree especially as their nearest rivals, Hampshire, had beaten Yorkshire and were now level on points!
I’m not quite sure what Surrey had for tea but Pope moved up through the gears, encouraging Amla on the way so that victory was secured within the hour. Warwickshire could see the writing on the wall but that does not detract from some of the classical and non-classical strokes both bats displayed and here’s a few to show their class!
Pope succumbed for 52, Amla reached 80no but it was Jacks with three audacious sixes saw them home. He started the match as a newly capped player and ended it in style!.
The above reads like a ‘standard’ type tale of the day and I suppose it’s all about the cricket but let’s not overlook the one legged pigeon feeding on the outfield nor the grounds man walking round the outfield daubing white spots of paint at various places – I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to work out what he was doing and why!
Faith restored in that cricket can be competitive when played in the right conditions. How Essex have not been fined for yet another ‘poor cricket wicket’ – as the phrase goes when each side scored 500+ and you could still be batting this time next week – I do not know but their dry pitches to suit their spinner cannot be good for the game.
At least my faith has been restored.