Safety-first Surrey edge towards survival
Nottinghamshire 227 and 0 for 0 need a further 347 runs to beat Surrey 269 and 304 (de Bruyn 78, Wilson 57, White 4-97)
It should have been a day of senseless cheering and happy dancing for Surrey fans. Finally their team were in a position where they shouldn't lose the match and, most importantly, they had given themselves a chance of victory and their best possible chance of staying in Division One. Instead a lack of declaration must have left many supporters bemused, as Surrey batted on until they were bowled out, with surely far more runs than they needed.
Even earlier in the day, as Surrey stuttered, fans were left to bemoan the fact that in only four Championship games, Kevin Pietersen was (briefly) the leading run-scorer for Surrey in the Championship this year. To compound the general feeling of negativity, Pietersen was out soon after to Graeme White (yes, SLA), when he tried to hit him beyond the gas towers. Pietersen made 22 in an innings in which he looked like a teacher patronising kindergarten children.
Jason Roy, in his 11th Championship appearance, soon overtook Pietersen as Surrey's leading run-scorer but then, as limply as is possible with a piece of wood, pushed the ball to a novelty fielder at short mid-on, next to the bowler, for 41. It seemed like an apt metaphor for Surrey's season. Earlier, Rory Burns had played well, and was also briefly the team's leading run-scorer this year, but also got out despite never looking that challenged by the bowling.
The highlights for Surrey were the same as day one. Gary Wilson (57) joined Zander de Bruyn (78) to put on their second important partnership of the match. It's a partnership that is hard not to like, being much like an American buddy cop film: de Bruyn the smooth and tidy by-the-book man, Wilson the rough-and-rugged partner who plays by his own rules. They took Surrey from a nervy position to being in charge of the match, and towards the end of their partnership started scoring quicker, looking for an anti-relegation declaration.
White was the pick of the Notts bowlers with 4 for 97. On a pitch that seemed to help him more each session, he got consistent spin, and generally hung in there to pick up four wickets. He was Notts' only hope of knocking Surrey over cheaply but he didn't quite have the killer instinct required.
White's wicket of Arun Harinath came from spinning the ball past the pads of Harinath as he crept outside off stump to clip leg stump. It was a sign that the pitch was really starting to turn. Sam Wood also chipped in with 3 for 64, and spun a couple of balls quite far. While his bowling was never overly threatening, he's had a very good game so far.
Surrey's lead of 346 is not Everest but it is approaching Kilimanjaro heights. It is not a good sign for Notts that on day three the ball was spinning quite far and seven of the first eight wickets went to spin. Tomorrow, two spinners of far greater skill are going to be attacking them. The Notts batsmen struggled to score off Murali Kartik in the first innings, so even if they put themselves in a winning position, Kartik could aim at the footmarks and hope to secure a draw.
Notts will do it all without Alex Hales, a batsmen who could have caused Surrey some second thoughts, as he has left to join up with England, as agreed with the ECB before the match.
Instead of bowling on the third night in tandom, however, Kartik and Gareth Batty were batting together. Kartik must have been looking at the pitch like a cartoon monster looks at a victim - hopefully the groundstaff mop up his drool before tomorrow. Batty, often in strict consultation with Surrey coach, Chris Adams, has been conservative with his declarations of late, but even his fingers must have been twitchy looking at the part-time spin of Wood jag the ball back at him. Yet as the lead trotted past 300, Batty, and/or Adams, remained unmoved.
If Surrey don't win this match, and Lancashire end with a likely draw at Lord's, Surrey will travel to Liverpool needing to avoid defeat to stay in Division One. They could have used their already large advantage, declared 300 in front, had ten or so overs at Notts, backed their spinners and put all their effort into making sure of safety in this game. It seemed like a no-lose situation for Surrey, and yet they batted on, desperate for every run of their substantial lead.
When Notts did bat, they sent out a nightwatchman, Harry Gurney, to open alongside Hales' replacement, Neil Edwards. It was an odd and frustrating end.
If you look at this day in isolation, Surrey had a good day. If you look at it in the context of the whole season, they should have done better.