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Alex Winter at Lord's
April 14, 2012
Surrey 222 and 95 for 4 require another 46 runs to beat Middlesex 256 and 106 (Lewis 5-41)
When Jon Lewis' departure to Surrey was hastily announced during last season's Cheltenham festival, there was a collective lowering of shoulders from the Gloucestershire members. Their constant for 17 years, the last reminder of their glory years, was to leave. They were also losing their 17th highest wicket-taker of all time.
But Gloucestershire could no longer afford Lewis. And Lewis deserves every penny he can get. His first five-for in Surrey colours was another demonstration of his wonderful execution of a simple modus operandi. It moved Surrey close to their first win over the Thames for 17 years.
That they can see the winning line is down to a bold half-century from Rory Hamilton-Brown. He sought not to wait for the ball that had claimed so many others during the day but played in swashbuckling fashion. He poked and missed at three balls outside off from Corey Collymore. Enough of that. Down the pitch to lift him over mid on; another swing brought four over the slip cordon; as did a thumping drive to the grandstand fence. Six boundaries he struck in his 49-ball fifty.
It was the second counterattacking knock of the day for Hamilton-Brown. In the morning he added 27 to his overnight total as Surrey worked their way towards parity. But finally Tim Murtagh took a wicket - in his 26th over - and Middlesex took a 34 run lead.
But little could they add to that lead and Hamilton-Brown's intent could prove the difference. Tom Maynard came out with the same gameplan in the second innings - also his natural method. Three fours in his 12 steered Surrey to strong favouritism with 46 to knock off on day four.
But positivity nearly undermined the chase before it began. Steven Davies and Zander de Bruyn cut firmly straight to off side fielders as Middlesex sensed a way back under the skin of their neighbours. That after Jacques Rudolph was lbw to Toby Roland-Jones as Surrey slipped to 22 for 3.
"The game isn't dead yet because there's plenty left in the wicket," said Lewis, whose haul has put Surrey on the brink of consecutive victories. He found the dents in the surface that offered seam movement and a touch of low bounce.
Lewis took five for 41 during a wild afternoon where Middlesex lost nine for 77. The soft early-season Lord's pitch was described as "not good enough for the home of cricket" in a tweet by Surrey bowling coach Martin Bicknell.
Something wasn't right as 19 wickets fell during day three. The first two days of this match claimed 15.
The ball continued to swing around but the three-day old surface offered deliveries just fuller of a good length a little zip. Lewis became impossible to play from the Nursery End. Slipping two deliveries onto the pads of Neil Dexter and Corey Collymore but finding a touch of bounce and seam as Gareth Berg - who received the best delivery of the innings - Ollie Rayner and Toby Roland-Jones - taken superbly by a diving Jacques Rudolph - all fell to catches behind the wicket.
Lewis' spell saw Middlesex, who had been 65 for two, bowled out for 106. Sam Robson again battled away at the top of the order - against Lewis and Zander de Bruyn first up, the latter introduced to take pace off the ball; the quicker bowlers being easier to play with a new ball in hand.
De Bruyn was no experiment either. He enticed Joe Denly into a horrific swish before lunch that gave a catch to slip and had Chris Rogers repeating the trick with the third ball after the break. Lewis then reeled off six single figure scores - including his run out of John Simpson backing up.
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