Batty holds nerve in eight-run win
Surrey 144 (Murtagh 5-37) and 341 (Burns 121, Harinath 109, Roland-Jones 5-39) beat Middlesex 232 (Kartik 5-69) and 245 (Crook 67, Batty 6-83) by eight runs
Gareth Batty led Surrey to their first Championship victory since he was appointed captain by taking 6 for 83 to secure a dramatic eight-run victory over Middlesex which improved their chances of avoiding relegation in a deeply traumatic season.
When Batty trapped Toby Roland-Jones lbw, it concluded the second nerve-shredding derby between the two teams in the Championship this season, following Middlesex's three-run win at Lord's in April. Batty said: "For everything that's gone on this season, it was a must win. I dread to thank what would have happened if we hadn't won."
Batty admitted the pressure had been on him and Murali Kartik to respond to the spinning pitch that had been prepared and by combining for 16 wickets in the match they certainty did that. He singled out Kartik for a "magnificent" display after he bowled 44 overs unchanged on the final day while conceding under two an over for his three wickets. Given the success of their two spinners in home conditions, Surrey will regret only having one more Championship game at The Oval this season.
After Middlesex were nine wickets down with 57 runs required, Surrey might have anticipated their victory would arrive with minimal drama. But Tim Murtagh and Roland-Jones displayed sufficient confidence in their batting abilities to avoid the temptation to slog, and sensibly accumulated singles. In total, they added 48 runs from 29.1 overs to follow on from their last-wicket stand of 44 in the first innings.
Surrey's appeals were understandably becoming increasingly desperate, as even taking the second new ball initially failed to break their stand, before Batty's match-ending intervention.
The morning provided few signs of the later drama. In the first hour and a half, the spin twins claimed six wickets, and there could have been several more given the number of vociferous leg-before appeals, and the amount of time the ball whistled past the edge. From the moment Kartik claimed Sam Robson caught at slip to the sixth ball of the day, a delivery that turned and bounced sharply, the morning's tone was set.
With the ball fizzing off the surface, sharp turn and few loose deliveries, Middlesex, save for Dawid Malan, were rendered virtually strokeless, allowing the spinners to establish a rhythm.
Batty was rewarded for posting a leg slip to his own bowling, with both nightwatchman Tom Smith and Neil Dexter sharply caught there by Kartik attempting to work the ball to leg. Even more unusually, Andrew Balbirnie was out to Kartik in what could only be described as a case of 'chest before wicket', as he fell over missing an attempted sweep.
After's Malan's neatly-compiled innings of 31 was ended by a brilliant one-handed catch off Kartik's bowling, Middlesex were 101 for 7 and still required another 153 for victory. Given that Surrey had taken seven wickets for 58 going back to the dismissal of Chris Rogers just before the close of play on Friday, few gave them much hope.
However, Steven Crook does not appear to be a man weighed down by prosaic reality. Sensing that cautious batting had allowed Surrey to crowd batsmen with close fielders Crook counter-attacked, though remaining positive rather than reckless. An early slog-sweep for six off Kartik indicated that he would eschew meek submission, with Crook's intent also visible in his running between the wickets.
Although there was still significant turn as the ball got older the bounce, crucial in several of the morning wickets, became less pronounced. In Adam Rossington, who was much less positive, Crook had a partner of real solidity. Amongst an enterprising innings that contained nine fours to go with his six, Crook's sweeping and cutting were particularly impressive.
If Surrey thought their first Championship win since the opening game of the season would arrive before members resorted to nail-biting, they were mistaken. As the threat offered by the spinners diminished, Batty turned to Jade Dernbach's reverse swing, albeit a few overs later than many would have.
In the second over of his spell, Dernbach deceived Crook on 67 with a slower-ball yorker, showing his one-day skills can be effective in first-class cricket too. It ended a partnership of 96, which was eroding the target at an increasingly uncomfortable rate. But as is often the case, the other man involved in a large stand lost concentration almost immediately after: Rossington edged Kartik to slip just two balls later, leaving Middlesex's final pair requiring 57 runs for victory.
After withstanding the remainder of Dernbach's dangerous spell of reverse swing, Middlesex came closer than anyone imagined, but ultimately Surrey's spin twins prevailed.