Draw looms despite Batty precision
Hampshire 167 for 3 (Adams 79, Smith 61*) trail Surrey 474 for 8 dec (Wilson 82) by 307 runs
Graeme Smith was not impressed when these sides met at the Ageas Bowl in April. After Hampshire's intransigence, as he saw it, in not setting Surrey a final day target, Smith declared himself "disappointed in Hampshire. I used to hear Warney talk about their positive play but they didn't want to set up a game."
What would Warne do now? It would need all his ingenuity to muster a positive result from this match after the loss of almost a day's play to sporadic rain.
Gary Wilson, doing a sterling job filling in for Smith, will know that he has little to entice Hampshire with. The visitors to The Oval are top of Division Two and a draw - even one in which Surrey claim more bonus points - keeps them comfortably placed above the hosts, who must fear that they have located their best form only after giving Hampshire and Worcestershire too much of a head start.
Still, if this match is to end in an unsatisfactory denouement, no one bothered to tell Gareth Batty. His recent claims that he has a case for being England's Test spinner - "I look around; as an off-spinner and batting, I don't see anybody who can do it the way I can," he said last month - were easy to mock.
Yet, on a slow pitch that is offering only negligible assistance to spin, Batty demonstrated that he has never been more in control of his craft. Harrying the batsmen with meticulous line and length and scarcely affording them the opportunity to breathe between deliveries, he is manifestly a man at ease with his game.
For most of the day he was denied even a token reward, with Rory Burns shelling a hard chance at short leg off Will Smith. But a couple of lbws late on, as both Jimmy Adams and James Vince perished playing back, elicited roars of delight. The real testament to Batty's quality, though, lay in the fact that his 24 overs yielded only 35 runs. Such parsimony has been typical of him this season - his Championship economy rate is just 2.16 an over. Add that to 25 wickets at under 20, and his words seem like more than bluster.
Despite Batty's skills, Hampshire only lost three wickets in their 70 overs, though his team-mates were not lacking in effort or skill. Matt Dunn bowled formidably, and beat the bat numerous times after snaring Michael Carberry; Zafar Ansari also suffered a dropped catch - Smith, again, this time at slip. Ultimately, though, this is not a pitch conducive to quick wickets. Wilson often took deliveries from the sprightly Dunn at ankle height.
Adams and Smith, reprieved on 16 an 22, also played with admirable application. Adams, quick to dispose of anything short, was clinical in compiling 79. But, just as the promised sun did not materialise, neither did the promise of exhilarating batting from a Hampshire line-up well capable of it. Vince, the man most capable of providing it, was becalmed by Batty, escaping a close lbw appeal on 0 before falling for a 27-ball 7.
After a slightly rag-tag bowling display on the second day, Hampshire were imbued with purpose from the first ball of the morning, as Kyle Abbott snared Jason Roy lbw. It had the effect of stalling Surrey somewhat - they made only 63 in the first 21 overs of the day, though they did claim maximum batting points. Warne would surely not have been impressed with the apparent inertia, but he would have welcomed the intent with which Batty and Tim Linley harrumphed the ball as Surrey neared a declaration. A couple more are required at The Oval tomorrow to prevent early handshakes.