Hameed's grit defies impressive Surrey
Surrey 480 (Ansari 99, Roy 66, Wilson 51, Burns 50, Batty 50*, Kerrigan 4-128, Anderson 3-84) and 283 for 7 declared (Sangakkara 118, Croft 4-35) drew with Lancashire 272 (S Curran 5-67, T Curran 3-54) and 195 for 7 (Hameed 91, T Curran 3-46)
This was an excellent match for Surrey. It illustrated their strengths and suggested they are ready for the tough school that is Division One of the County Championship. Even though Lancashire's resilient batting on the final day prevented Gareth Batty's team from winning the game and with it the Division Two title, there was no doubt which team had bossed the contest.
But this was also a very useful match for Lancashire, providing they learn the lessons it proffered and recruit the players they need in the close season. Quite regardless of where the title ends up, and Surrey go into the final round of matches with an eight-point lead over their rivals, these four days at Old Trafford surely showed Ashley Giles the gaps he needs to fill if 2016 is not to be a chastening experience.
All this matters because Surrey and Lancashire are in the middle of a project which they hope will see them rise to the top of the English domestic game. They have enjoyed promotions only to suffer three relegations apiece over the past 11 seasons. They have had enough of the switchback between joy and disappointment.
Although they might not admit it, both counties probably expected to be promoted this season. Now they aim to establish themselves at the top table of the English domestic game.
In John Sturges' classic 1960 filmThe Magnificent Seven hired guns Chris and Vin are defying the local racists to ensure that a native Indian is given a decent burial at the squalid local cemetery Boot Hill. As they make their way to the graveyard Vin voices his fears: "It's not getting up there that's bothers me. It's staying up there that I mind."
Vin's words need only a slight tweak to be applicable to both Surrey and Lancashire. Getting up to Division was barely the concern; it was expected. It's staying up there that bothers them now.
The final day of the season brought reasons for Lancashire supporters to be concerned and reasons for them to be cautiously optimistic. The chief concern was surely prompted just after midday when Ashwell Prince, who has been the mainstay of Lancashire's batting for the past four seasons walked away from the Old Trafford wicket for the final time. He had just been caught by Kumar Sangakkara off Matt Dunn for 11.
Although often accused of being at Lancashire under a flag of convenience, Prince is leaving the club wearing a badge of honour. This was shown when he received a standing ovation at a members' forum at Tuesday evening. Somebody is going to have to score Prince's runs if Lancashire are to survive, let alone flourish next season.
However, the rest of the day at Old Trafford was dominated in part by the batting of Haseeb Hameed, an 18-year-old opener whose excellent technique and calm temperament help to explain why Lancashire feel able to dispense with Paul Horton's services, although Hameed's undoubted talent may not entirely justify that decision.
Hameed's 91 in 325 minutes suggested that he has the concentration necessary to succeed at the top level of the county game. However, he faced 234 balls and did not score off 195 of them, suggesting that his ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over needs work. That, though, will come with time, experience and hard work.
On the final day of this game Lancashire supporters were simply grateful that Hameed stayed at the crease for over five hours and was only dismissed when caught at leg slip by Tom Curran off his brother Sam a few overs before bad light ended the game nine overs early when Lancashire were 195 for 7 and a tense finish was in prospect.
Hameed's success in resisting Surrey's talented seamers was not shared by too many of his colleagues. In the first hour or so of play Karl Brown was leg before to Tom Curran and Dunn had removed both Alviro Petersen and Prince to catches in the slip cordon. That left Lancashire on 71 for 3 and almost grateful that Surrey had left with so little time to bat on the third evening and the absurd target of 492 to chase.
Steven Croft kept Hameed company in a 91-run stand for the fourth wicket but his dismissal, caught at the wicket by Ben Foakes off Tom Curran just before tea, was followed just after the resumption by the dismissals of Phil Mustard, Jordan Clark and finally, Hameed.
It was, though, an excellent day for Surrey's seamers. Tom Curran bowled economically and well; his brother, Sam, maintained a constant threat; and Matt Dunn, often overlooked recently took 3 for 46. Gareth Batty's seamers look ready for Division One; whether some Division One batsmen are ready for them is an intriguing question.