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David Lloyd at The Oval
May 19, 2012
Surrey 388 (Davies 104, Philander 4-88) and 239 for 7 (Hamilton-Brown 70*,Dockrell 4-79) drew with Somerset 512 (Hildreth 120, Suppiah 106) and 180 (Meaker 8-52)
It ended in stalemate with two weary - and, ultimately, wary - teams shaking hands on a draw after 11 sessions of cut and thrust cricket and one of cat and mouse.
A draw was not what either team anticipated for most of this terrific match and, for much of the final day, it seemed the least likely result. But with Surrey unable to maintain their early momentum in pursuit of an always daunting victory target of 305 and Somerset kept at bay for 34 overs by the skill and determination of seventh wicket pair Rory Hamilton-Brown and Gareth Batty, winning proved just out of the question.
It went almost all the way, mind. Batty's dismissal with 11.4 overs remaining rekindled Somerset's interest - especially as a second new ball was coming into view.
But there was to be no shifting Hamilton-Brown - or the loyal Jon Lewis, for that matter - and the visitors finally accepted the inevitable with two deliveries remaining. Surrey finished on 239 for 7, 66 runs away from what would have been a remarkable victory and with their young captain undefeated on 70, having faced 161 balls during an innings that spoke volumes about his growing maturity as a batsman.
Hamilton-Brown was the final individual winner of a match full of outstanding performances.
For Surrey, fast bowler Stuart Meaker was the star of the show, finishing Somerset's second innings with the stunning career-best figures of 8 for 52 from 21 high octane and high quality overs. "He's a phenomenal bowler who keeps doing it for us," said Hamilton-Brown. "I just hope the England selectors don't take notice!"
They will not be able to avoid Meaker if he keeps bowling as he did here - and, no-one will be more delighted, of course, than Surrey's captain if and when the call does come.
As for Somerset, their first innings batting was just what a team missing injury victim Marcus Trescothick would have wanted with Arul Suppiah and James Hildreth hitting splendid centuries. And, while there was no hundred in this game for Nick Compton, the country's leading run-scorer again showed his class.
Today, though, most eyes were on the visitors' 19-year-old left-arm spinner George Dockrell. The Dubliner bowled his team to victory on the final afternoon of the season's opening match, against Middlesex, and he went mighty close to repeating the trick here.
Coming onto to bowl immediately after lunch with Surrey going well and only one wicket down, Dockrell quickly settled into a wonderful rhythm. Even better, he soon struck three times in the space of 11 balls to remove Jason Roy, Jacques Rudolph and Zander de Bruyn through a combination of bounce, turn and flight.
Suddenly, Somerset were in command. And they stayed that way as Peter Trego won lbw decisions against Tom Maynard and Chris Jordan to leave Surrey tottering at 148 for 6.
On and on Dockrell bowled, twirling and toiling his way through 32 overs unchanged. But with Hamilton-Brown and Batty taking root, Somerset could not get the one more wicket they desperately wanted before tea.
Thereafter, the cat and mouse began. Dockrell went over the wicket, bowling into the rough outside leg stump, to see whether Surrey would chance their arm, try for victory and do something silly. It was not to be - but the ploy meant that the runs dried up almost completely until a point was reached when Somerset could once again attack with impunity.
It almost worked, too, with Dockrell getting rid of Batty with his arm ball. But neither the young spinner nor Vernon Philander could apply the killer blows.
Given that Somerset are seriously depleted by injuries, and considering they lost the services of another bowler this afternoon when seamer Craig Meschede hurt his shoulder in holding the catch that removed De Bruyn, the visitors had good reason to feel more than satisfied with their performance here.
Dockrell, though, was thinking about what might have been. "I'm a little bit disappointed, to be honest," he said. "It was a spinning wicket and not to be able to bowl them out is a little disappointing. But as game, it had everything and either side could have won going into the final day."
As for Hamilton-Brown, he felt Surrey "lost the right to win the game on the first day" when they bowled poorly and set Somerset on their way to a first innings total of 512. And the run-chase? "Batting was always going to be tough on the last day and I thought going into it that if we came out with a draw then we would have got out of jail."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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