Surrey's first win lifts survival hopes
Surrey 289 (Solanki 93, Footitt 4-50) and 218-6 (Amla 88) beat Derbyshire 219 (Linley 4-59, Edwards 3-29) and 286 (Madsen 59, Wainwright 54*, Batty 5-71) by four wickets
Finally, at the twelfth attempt, Surrey have their first win of the 2013 County Championship, and one that keeps their fate in their own hands.
That they are battling at the foot of the table is purely down to an inability to win games rather than a propensity to lose them. There are only so many crumbs of comfort you can take from draws (eight in total) until you are left with the remnants of a whole biscuit, with none of its consistency.
Nothing nourishes quite like a win, and this one that sees Surrey leapfrog Derbyshire, with a game in hand on those around them.
Gareth Batty was certainly as satisfied as he has been in a tough season for him, personally. Taking on the captaincy in place of Rory Hamilton-Brown after the Tom Maynard tragedy last year and then again this season after the injury to Graeme Smith, he has lead the side for the best part of two years, yet you won't see his name on the captain's honours board in the Pavilion.
Given the character he is, he probably could not care less, but he deserves recognition for his work behind the scenes and out in the middle, even if he is reluctant to take it.
He finished off the Derbyshire innings this morning, taking all three wickets to give him five in the innings and 500 first-class scalps in his career. Not that it mattered as much as victory.
"I think everyone in the changing room know that at some point they are going to have to put their hands up and win a game of cricket. Today was my day; it was just one of those things. The wickets are irrelevant - we got the twenty-odd points and that's the only thing that matters for me, certainly.
"We were the ones forcing the game all the time, so we knew if we batted time, they would have to take it on. We had a plan on how we were going to knock off the runs and it served us well.
"We've played some very good cricket but we just couldn't force the wins. We can take a lot of confidence from this win. You can see the look in the boys' eyes and can see the determination to get the win. We will come out against Middlesex next week and start on the front foot - I truly believe we have the skills to start forcing results."
The difference was Hashim Amla, Surrey's third overseas reinforcement and the number one ranked Test batsmen in the world. He has taken little time integrating himself into the club, even using a day off to come in and pass on words of wisdom to their young batsmen, who have been spoiled for choice for world-class mentors this season.
It certainly wasn't a classic Amla knock, and it could have been a different story had Alex Hughes not dropped a routine catch at cover that spared him when he had just 24.
That was the second of three reprieves. The first came ten minutes before lunch when he was hit on the pads by Footitt without a run to his name. It looked to have a lot going for it, but not according to the standing umpire.
He was then nearly run out at the non-strikers end later in the afternoon after some brilliant work from Wayne Madsen, who stopped a straight drive from Zander de Bruyn before managing to get in a throw while sprawled on the floor that just missed the stumps. It was rather sloppy from Amla, who had been dawdling back to his crease on a few occasions after walking in with the bowler. From then on, he was more cautious.
It wasn't so much of a masterclass, more of a taster session enticing you to sign on for more. Those here to witness the powerful shots through cover or the checked straight drives - all powered by those snappy wrists - may now subscribe to the idea that Surrey can avoid the drop. Derbyshire played their part in an engrossing encounter, but the hosts, as Batty said, were superior during vital periods.
Every run David Wainwright and Tim Poynton added this morning was valuable and risk free, as their fifty partnership was brought up early on, as they continued their careful accumulation. They ran decisively, picking up a couple of threes on their way to taking Derbyshire's lead passed 200.
Poynton, who was the more fluent of the two, fell one short of a deserved half century when a delivery from Batty ballooned up off his glove, with Zafar Ansari under the helmet at bat-pad diving toward leg slip to take a smart catch. Wainwright survived through to the end of the innings to bring up his third first class fifty for the county.
The chase was set - Surrey needed 217 off a minimum of 73 overs. It could not have got off to a worse start when just four runs in, Rory Burns fell in the third over thanks to a brilliant catch from Madsen at cover; Burns met it well, as he does, but the Derbyshire skipper managed to dive to his right and clutch on to the ball with his right hand, before landing safely on his side without losing it. Two balls later, Arun Harinath was also back in the dressing room when he nicked Higginbottom to Chanderpaul at second slip, for a seven-ball duck.
A long-form specialist, Harinath played just two games in the YB40 and did not feature at all in Surrey's FLt20 programme; instead, tiding himself over with 2nd XI cricket. The Championship break has done him no good, as his binary return of 1,0,1,0 in the last four innings indicates.
But with Amla bearing the brunt of the run-scoring, all that was required were contributions around him. Vikram Solanki was the first to share the burden with 44 of an 84-run partnership before he was adjudged lbw.
De Bruyn played well for 31 before needlessly swiping at a wide ball from Hughes, who was trying desperately to make amends for his costly drop. An 18 for Steven Davies took them to 200 leaving Ansari and Batty to pick off the remaining 17 runs - each greeted with cheers. When Ansari completed the run chase with a boundary off a Burgoyne full toss, cheers turned to song.
By Batty's calculations - he admits he is no mathematician - a win away to Somerset and one from games against Middlesex next week, Warwickshire or Yorkshire should be enough.
Derbyshire travel to Taunton first, before meeting Durham who have emerged later as a big threat to Yorkshire at the top of Division One. Having shown immense character to beat Sussex and Middlesex, this defeat is a big setback and leaves them at the mercy of others. The fight-back, as impressive as it was, was probably too late. Surrey might have timed theirs just right.