Surrey spinners secure status
Surrey 269 (de Bruyn 71, Wilson 68, Gurney 4-47) and 304 (de Bruyn 78, Wilson 57, White 4-97) beat Nottinghamshire 227 (Read*, Linley 5-62) and 151 (Batty 4-30) by 195 runs
On day three, Surrey played like a team unsure how to win, and dreadfully scared they would lose. On day four, Surrey played like a team that wanted to end their last match at home on a high. They did so with a chilled 195-run victory.
Surrey used seemingly every spin bowler in their armoury to win the match and, with Lancashire's defeat at Lord's, guarantee a spot for themselves in Division One next season.
Like a Simpsons episode starting with a misdirecting and random plot, the day actually started with Nottinghamshire handling the Surrey bowlers with ease. Harry Gurney was a misdirection within a misdirection, and even Notts seemed surprised when he played a bizarre shot off the last ball of the first over to be caught at mid-off.
Then Notts stabilised, Neil Edwards and Riki Wessels scoring runs off Stuart Meaker and Tim Linley. They were 39 for 1 when Murali Kartik bowled his first over of the day. From that moment on it was clear that Surrey didn't need to set 350 as a target, or even 300, or even 250. Mind you, Gareth Batty wanted more. "I wanted another 20 or 30 runs," he said.
It took Notts 30.2 overs to score their next 39 runs, which also cost them four wickets.
During the first session Kartik was seemingly unplayable, often missing the outside edge by a few inches and getting the odd ball to steeple in bounce. At the other end Batty was just as dangerous, if not as eye catching. Batty started the spinners' wicket-taking, trapping Wessels lbw and starting the rot. It was then Kevin Pietersen who looked most likely, his big-spinning, huge-bouncing ball will give Adam Voges nightmares, and the catch by Zander de Bruyn was magnificent.
Pietersen bowled unchanged for an hour after lunch, using good control, smart spin and often staggering bounce. Eventually he was rewarded with another wicket, a smart catch behind by Gary Wilson removing Edwards. It was only when Batty went all out attack and had six players in attacking positions for Pietersen - yes Pietersen - and no one saving a single on the off side that Notts started to score again. At one stage, Pietersen had to chase the ball out towards the cover boundary off his own bowling.
Batty had nothing but praise for Pietersen the bowler: "He's a bit taller than the rest of us, and he got some bounce." Batty was also pleased with Pietersen's behaviour in general, "I can honestly say that he's been nothing but absolutely magnificent for us, with myself being new to captaincy, he's been absolutely phenomenal. The fact is he bowled for an hour today, and he didn't need to do that, we had other spinners."
Notts certainly never played for the draw, their slow scoring-rate seemed to have more to do with playing and missing against the spinners than a defensive attitude. Chris Read even thought they had a sniff. "It's very rarely we don't play cricket to win," he said. "There was still a chance to bat 96 overs today and win the game."
Batty, Pietersen and Kartik always looked like taking wickets. The Surrey fielders will have sore throats tonight over the many close calls and turned-down decisions as The Oval resembled the last day of a subcontinental Test. When Read was dismissed, by possibly Kartik's worst ball of the match, it was party time, and even Meaker was invited to come back on and take a wicket.
Surrey have had a miserable season in almost every sense, but beating a better team to confirm their place in the top division left Batty beaming, but mostly relieved. "We can go to Liverpool with a smile on our face, and won't be looking over our shoulder or feeling hard done by," he said. "There's been all sorts of things that go on in life that have affected this brilliant club this year. Hopefully we've kept a stiff upper lip to keep us in the division."
Surrey deserved an easy day like today in front of their home fans. Last year they partied mercilessly after winning their final home game to get promoted. This year it was more like a communal sigh of relief amid the smiling faces of players who haven't smiled that much in recent times.
Much like a Simpsons episode, the very last public display at The Oval was another random joke as the groundstaff had an organized sprint. Yet again, Surrey were the winners.