Rain pushes Surrey closer to drop
Surrey 59 for 2 v Warwickshire
Surrey's chance of staying Division One may have been slim anyway but they could do without the abrupt arrival of autumn keeping them confined to the dressing room for all but the first hour and a quarter of the first day of their match against Warwickshire.
Umpires Richard Kettleborough and David Millns gave proceedings e as long as possible to be considered worthy of resuscitation but with the city centre tower blocks shrouded in mist and the puddles on the outfield fighting a losing battle against persistent heavy drizzle they called it off a short while after the scheduled tea interval.
At least Surrey had the beginnings of a partnership to provide modest encouragement after Warwickshire had won the toss and put them in. They will resume with Hashim Amla and Vikram Solanki together, the third wicket pair having added 41 for the third wicket.
Keith Barker, the left-armer with one England Lions appearance whose lack of more substantial international recognition remains a mystery, bowled beautifully to take two early wickets, removing 18-year-old Dominic Sibley and opening partner Rory Burns, both leg-before to full, swinging deliveries.
Under a heavily overcast sky and with the floodlights on from the outset, conditions were far from easy and Barker continued to test the batsmen, controlling the swing skillfully. Even with Boyd Rankin rested, after his return from England duty, and with Chris Wright still injured, the availability of Chris Woakes and loan signing Maurice Chambers gave Surrey a fearsome attack to contend with on such a grim morning.
Yet Amla, who bagged a pair during Surrey's woeful and critical defeat against Somerset last week, brought his experience to bear this time, as did Solanki. Both batsmen left the ball judiciously and were beginning to look relatively settled when the weather closed in. With the floodlights casting obvious shadows, and therefore clearly taking over from natural light, it seemed only a matter of time before the umpires would have to call a halt. Yet both batsmen unleashed handsome boundaries, Amla driving Barker to long-off, Solanki despatching Chambers through extra cover, so they were clearly seeing the ball well enough. Rain, though, was only just behind.
Some 29 points adrift of safety going into the penultimate round, Surrey are pretty much doomed. Warwickshire, defending their title unsuccessfully, look nothing of the sort, with a 27-point cushion between themselves and next-to-bottom Derbyshire, who have only one match remaining, although they could in theory still be caught by Surrey.
That possibility will be removed in short order if they take maximum bowling bonus points and dismiss Surrey for fewer than 350 runs.
Warwickshire again had Jamie Atkinson, the former Durham UCCE wicketkeeper, behind the stumps, with both Tim Ambrose and his stand-in, Peter Mckay, both injured. The 23-year-old Atkinson, now based in Hong Kong but who has been playing for Dorridge in the Birmingham League, is on a two-match contract.
He is the 24th player Warwickshire have used in their Championship programme, which is four more than were needed last season, and the eighth to have appeared in only one or two fixtures, which is an illustration of the inability to pick a settled side that has dogged director of cricket, Dougie Brown, in his first season in charge.
Brown believes no county has had to contend with as many injuries as Warwickshire and feels those able to make it on to the field deserve recognition for keeping the side clear of the bottom three. "We have not put our best team in the field once and in the circumstances we have done really well to be as competitive as we have been," he said.