Surrey slate Lord's pitch after narrow derby defeat
Middlesex 256 and 106 (Lewis 5-41) beat Surrey 222 and 137 (Roland-Jones 4-25) by three runs
Surrey once again departed Lord's glum-faced after another defeat. Their record is miserable over the Thames - one win in their last 18 visits. They turned on the wicket as the primary cause of this loss: a soft pitch, perhaps underprepared after poor weather in the days before the match, which created havoc for the 76 overs the final two innings lasted.
Chris Adams, Surrey's team director, described it as the worst pitch he had ever seen at Lord's. Surrey, in pursuit of 141, lost 6 for 36 to fail by three runs - Surrey's narrowest margin of defeat to their neighbours.
Victory here was envisaged as part of their early-season run to confirm them as many people's outside tip for the title. Sussex, Middlesex and Worcestershire - with two of those games at The Oval - are the three opponents many would pick out for early-season points. But they were left stunned by their final morning collapse.
"It was one of the worst wickets I've played on," Surrey's captain Rory Hamilton-Brown said. "It went up and down, the seam movement was so exaggerated, people were getting hit and two first-class sides scored not many more than a hundred. It made for a battle out there."
Hamilton-Brown is grateful for a quick return to The Oval next week where Surrey should bounce back against Worcestershire. But his victorious Middlesex counterpart did not see the surface as a hindrance to playing good cricket.
"It was one of those wickets you knew there was something in it all game," Neil Dexter said. "The pitch lasted almost the four days so to be playing on that wicket early season I don't think was too bad. The way they got out this morning had nothing to do with the wicket, it was the shots and some good bowling."
The victory song in the home dressing room wasn't quite Jackie Wilson Said by Dexy's Midnight Runners but Middlesex's "Dexy" - of no pop music fame - was certainly declaring: "I'm in heaven, I'm in heaven" after a miraculous victory.
The celebrations probably sent the MCC secretary straight to his inkwell. Tim Murtagh has a history of wild abandon after sealing big wins - once whipping off his shirt to acclaim his success in a T20 quarter-final bowlout for Surrey against Warwickshire at The Oval. Here his fourth wicket sparked a 50-yard sprint towards the Tavern, creating a heap of elated Middlesex bodies on the Lord's turf.
"I think I've been watching too much football recently, but that's one of the best feelings I've ever had on a cricket field," said Murtagh, a Liverpool supporter, of what he described as his best win for Middlesex. "It would have been a great shame to lose two games having played decent cricket in both. We have had two collapses in both games but we've showed unbelievable fighting spirit."
Middlesex would have begun to move a little uneasily with consecutive defeats and a powerful Durham side arriving next week. This victory is an early fillip for their survival hopes. And they have Andrew Strauss and Steven Finn against Durham, causing a selection headache. Dexter said he will feel bad leaving out players who have done little wrong.
None of the bowlers deserved to be dropped. On the final morning, Gareth Berg took two wickets; Tim Murtagh bowled Chris Jordan and took the final wicket; Toby Roland-Jones removed Tim Linley caught at slip and had Hamilton-Brown caught behind.
Hamilton-Brown sought to blast his way through the dangers of a seaming ball and varying bounce. His 49-ball half-century was the most aggressive innings of the match. But he watched Tom Maynard, for the addition of three, and Gareth Batty, for a duck, depart as the task of 46 more runs lurched from the formality it was proving the previous evening to a stern examination of technique and guts. Had bad light not intervened on Saturday evening, Surrey may well have claimed the extra half hour that would have allowed Hamilton-Brown and Maynard, both free scoring, to knock off the runs.
The small chase was created by Jon Lewis' five wickets the previous afternoon - the spell of the match. His 17-ball 21 looked to be the late-order innings Surrey needed but he could only look to the heavens as Hamilton-Brown edged Roland-Jones, who was excellent from the Pavilion End, to the wicketkeeper John Simpson. Lewis was then too trusting of Nos. 10 and 11; leaving Linley the entire 38th over to face from Roland-Jones. He nicked the fifth ball to slip. Lewis then offered Jade Dernbach the chance of five balls from Tim Murtagh. A straight-drive gone wrong skied the winning catch to Sam Robson at cover.
Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo