Shantry finds another gear to dismantle Surrey
Surrey 206 (Burns 79, Ansari 77*, Shantry 6-53) and 111 for 3 (Ansari 50*) trail Worcestershire 476 by 159 runs
England would love a left-arm quick like Mitchell Johnson. Jack Shantry is not one, but his own, rather unique, style of left-arm seam was enough to rough up Surrey and put Worcestershire into a position of overwhelming dominance at The Oval.
As he freely admits, Shantry has an action that could generously be described as unorthodox, flailing his arms in an ungainly way as he prepares to bowl. But that should not detract from what comes next.
Bowling around the wicket to cramp batsmen for room, Shantry obtained considerably more venom from the wicket than any other bowler. Worcestershire's enlightened decision to grant him both a short leg and a leg gully was fully vindicated.
Shantry has already taken four wickets with short deliveries, a rare feat on all English wickets but especially commendable on a pitch as benign as this. Rory Burns will not pleasantly recall the tangle he got into in Surrey's second innings: shaping to pull, he changed his mind and the ball looped tamely back to Shantry.
But Shantry had already made a match-shaping impact. Four wickets in 11 balls provided the thrust that the game needed to make up for the morning session being lost to rain. Steve Davies and Jason Roy both fell caught behind, able to do no more against brutal lifters. With hanging back the default way to play Shantry, he recognised the damage he could inflict bowling a fuller length: Gary Wilson and Gareth Batty fell in consecutive balls to rash drives.
It was certainly not a one-off performance, either. From the hurry-up he gave batsmen, it is evident that Shantry has acquired extra pace. His record this season - 26 wickets at 18 apiece, and an economy rate of only 2.6 an over - speaks of increasing incisiveness.
For all the attention on Saeed Ajmal, Worcestershire are showing the folly of neglecting the threat posed by the rest of their attack. Surrey, particularly Zafar Ansari, actually played Ajmal relatively well, thrusting their front legs out to negate his turn.
They will reflect with less pleasure on their fate against the rest of Worcesthire's bowlers. Charles Morris, bustling in and swinging the ball both ways, accounted for Chris Tremlett and Matt Dunn in consecutive balls. Given that he was bowling to Jade Dernbach, Morris had a good chance of bettering Shantry and claiming a hat trick. Dernbach shielded his stumps with an immaculate back-foot defensive but he nicked behind soon after to give Shantry his sixth wicket. It completed a particularly gruesome collapse: 8 for 44.
Like many such horror shows, it all began with a run-out. Vikram Solanki, in his first game of a season disrupted by personal problems, had provided some early reminders of his wristy elegance. After Ansari had dropped the ball into the leg side, Solanki hared down the pitch before being sent back. Too late. A direct hit from Tom Fell completed the act of Surrey self-sabotage.
Within a few hours Solanki was at the crease again. After another run-out - Ross Whiteley's throw accounted for Arun Harinath unwisely attempting a second run - Solanki entered with Surrey 49 for 2, still the small matter of 221 runs behind. However, an inswinger from Joe Leach limited his stay to 13 balls.
Only Ansari provided much cause for Surrey cheer. He displayed a resolute defensive technique to withstand 231 balls in Surrey's first innings, even if his lack of impetus - and willingness to expose Dernbach to four balls an over - at the end was perplexing.
Just 26 deliveries into the Surrey second innings, Ansari returned at No. 3. His intent seemed more positive, with the force of his cut shot particularly impressive. When he reached 50 with a scampered single in the day's final over, he was entitled to the warm applause he received from the home crowd. Ansari has been there for all but seven of the 134.5 overs that Surrey have batted in the match - and he is yet to be dismissed.
It was a matter of Worcestershire regret that he was shelled by Fell in the gully on 11, denying Shantry his eighth wicket of the match. But only extraordinary resolve - or depressingly ordinary weather - can deprive Worcestershire of their fourth championship victory of the season.