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Ryan Bailey at The Oval
June 23, 2014
Leicestershire 271 (Robson 75) and 141 for 2 (Robson 81) trail Surrey 522 for 9 dec. by 110 runs
Leicestershire's torment has been so acute that the gloom over Grace Road shows no sign of lifting but in Angus Robson there is a flicker of light amidst the despondency.
It wouldn't be difficult to stand out from a dressing room that has endured a barren run stretching back to September 2012 but Robson's enterprise warrants more than a pitiable mention. It's improbable that his latest exploits will go some way to salvaging something from this game as his dismissal, for 81, four overs before the close, tipped the impetus back in Surrey's favour; the visitors remain 110 runs in arrears with eight second innings wickets in hand.
Yet, if some of his team-mates could lift themselves from their own batting stupor and adopt a similar means of rear-guard action than Robson's efforts may just, for the first time this term, be rewarded. For this remains a surface that rewards application and genuine strokeplay, demonstrated by Robson in a second half-century of the match and his seventh of what is proving to be a productive season.
That Leicestershire managed to withstand Surrey's victory charge and take this game into a fourth day is a feat itself; small gains and all that. The day began and ended with night watchman Nathan Buck holding fort admirably and showing the perseverance that those above him, Robson and Niall O'Brien apart, failed to exhibit during the intervening period.
The hosts are still in the primacy and hold all the cards but there will be an element of disquiet for Gary Wilson overnight. If anything, conditions for heavy and quick run -scoring has improved over the course of the first three days and with Jade Dernbach unlikely to take to the field on Wednesday - he's set to go for a scan on his right hamstring after pulling up mid-over after lunch - Surrey's options are superficially threadbare.
Both Matthew Dunn and Chris Tremlett looked wary by the close after Surrey had enforced the follow-on shortly before tea. Robson and Matthew Boyce looked unperturbed in an opening stand of 67 before the latter fell attempting to pad away Zafar Ansari. "When you don't offer a shot you relinquish the benefit of the doubt," Boyce admitted afterwards.
"But, we've done well today. If anything, their bowlers look a bit tired and if we can bat until tea tomorrow, we can reassess then but our main aim is to save the game."
That they can even contemplate coming away with a share of the spoils is down to Robson. Not unlike his brother Sam in appearance or batting style, he was quick on his feet and astute enough to take advantage as fatigue crept into Surrey's efforts. Most of his runs come square of the wicket, either punching anything full through the covers or piercing the infield on the leg side with a disdainful crunch but his temperament is striking.
Once again, he disregarded the scoreboard in counter-thrusting his way to fifty and foiling Surrey's advances. At one point, he had 53 of Leicestershire's 82 runs to his name. After falling an over before the close on Monday, similar circumstances led to his downfall 24 hours later. Batty, springing in from the Pavilion End, induced an unconvincing stroke, so atypical of what had gone before, and Rory Burns had the wherewithal to snaffle a difficult chance at short-leg.
Indeed, Ansari and Batty will shoulder much of the workload again on Wednesday. They have bowled 66 overs between them thus far, operating in tandem with plenty of reward. After Dan Redfern lasted just three deliveries of the morning, falling across a straight one from Dunn, the spinners proceeded to make inroads into the fragile Leicestershire order.
Batty extracted turn and bounce to find the edge of Josh Cobb and the end of Ben Raine's plucky resistance bookended the run-out of Rob Taylor; it epitomised Leicestershire's woes. O'Brien nurdled one, like he so often does, into the leg side and set off immediately but his partner was daydreaming and by the time he picked up a head of speed, Dunn raced around from midwicket to throw down middle stump.
Charlie Shreck is a veteran of the county circuit and while he may be considered as a genuine No. 11 he used all his nous to forge as many runs as possible before the Foxes went under. Raine's 73-minute vigil ended with a thin edge off Ansari and O'Brien couldn't prevent himself from becoming Batty's second victim of the innings.
But Shreck, despite suppositions, is no mug with the bat. After attuning himself and taking the sting out of Surrey's bite, he shifted from nothing-will-get-past mode to a destructive approach. He took a particular liking to the seamers and in clubbing six boundaries and putting on 39 with Jigar Naik, he lifted Leicestershire past 250 and equally significantly, quashed any thoughts that this pitch was turning into a spinner's haven.
Robson proceeded to affirm that and in doing so has manufactured a position in which Leicestershire can boldly harbour hopes of thwarting a Surrey victory that had looked a foregone conclusion from the early stages of this game. He's left it up to his team mates now but after all, it's about time they pulled their weight.
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