Essex draw despite stumble
Essex 548 and 324 drew with Surrey 506 and 65 for 1
Surrey's County Championship clash with second division rivals Essex petered out into a draw in Croydon, but not before Essex had flirted with the cricketing equivalent of hara-kiri. Having posted a mammoth season's-best first innings total of 548 to secure a slender lead of 42 at the mid-point of the game, Essex were in danger of throwing away all their good work away in Saturday's opening session as they slumped from 118 for 2 to 201 for 7.
Staunch Hammers fan and former England captain Graham Gooch, the Essex batting coach, moaned: "This is like watching West Ham play," as he witnessed his county's batsmen tossing away their wickets in the first two hours of the day.
The visitors lost England opener Alastair Cook to the ninth ball of the day after adding only two to his overnight score. Prodding forward at Gareth Batty the right-hander nicked one to keeper James Foster to go for 64. Matt Walker then pushed well forward to a turning delivery from the former Yorkshire spinner and appeared to be outside the line, only to be given leg before for 35 to make it 151 for 4.
James Foster (7) called for a suicidal single to mid-on to be run out by Yasir Arafat's direct hit then Adam Wheater's slog sweep against Batty sailed into the hands of Kevin Pietersen at deep midwicket to go for 34. First innings top-scorer and world record six-hitter Graham Napier reached 15 before being bowled by a shooter from Zander de Bruyn then alarm bells started to ring in the Essex dressing room when David Masters became their second run out victim.
Committing the cardinal sin of failing to ground his bat when running a single, he was undone and red-faced when substitute fielder Jason Roy threw down the stumps from backward point.
With the Essex score on 222 for 8 for an overall advantage of 266, Surrey began to scent an amazing turn around but hopes of a remarkable last day win were slammed firmly in their faces by a ninth wicket stand of 71 between Tim Phillips and Chris Wright. Phillips notched a worthy 114-ball 50 while Wright matched his first innings score of 34 as Surrey ran out of luck and ideas.
The stand eventually came to an end after 21 overs when Phillips, in attempting to glance, edged a leg-side ball from Rory Hamilton-Brown into the keeper's gloves to give the Surrey captain his first championship wicket for the club. Wright soon followed, chasing a wide one from Tim Linley to toe-end another catch to Steven Davies, but with 324 on the board the visitors could consider the game safe.
Surrey were left with a minimum of 27 overs to chase an impossible target of 367 for victory and though Tom Maynard entertained with his stroke play, the sides shook hands on the draw at 5pm shortly after Maynard's demise for a cameo 26. Hamilton-Brown was left unbeaten on 34, his side banking 10 points while Essex travelled home with nine after an entertaining four days at Whitgift School.