Surrey v Hampshire, Specsavers Championship, Division One, Kia Oval September 9, 2016

Dawson luckless as Surrey find safe ground

Surrey 329 (Burns 101, Wheal 4-100) and 248 for 3 (Sangakkara 84*, Harinath 57)drew with Hampshire 582 for 9 dec (Ervine 158*, Alsop 117, McLaren 100, Footitt 6-161)

Kumar Sangakkara played Liam Dawson expertly, but the left-arm spinner troubled other batsmen © Getty Images

Liam Dawson's big chance seemed tailor made. His one over on the third evening, according to Sean Ervine, had both gripped and turned. The greenish pitch, as it has been at The Oval all year, was barer at each end. Ten Surrey wickets to take, to prove that he is not merely a part-timer (that most pointed of cricketing barbs) and his readiness to tour Asia with England, which he seems ever more likely to do, despite his modest returns. What's more, for a cricketer constantly sold as a great team man, here was a chance to spin Hampshire to a win that would propel them to fifth.

James Vince - who confirmed that he has not had talks with Essex, and that the first he had heard of this was when someone tweeted him - agreed. Dawson bowled the Vauxhall End's first 23 overs of the day, then, after a two-over trundle from Will Smith, returned to bowl 12 more, before rain brought a draw - that ensures Surrey's Division One status - a few minutes early. Hampshire have a week off, and need a favour from Surrey - who play Durham at Chester-le-Street - to ensure that their season remains alive when they host Durham on September 20.

For Dawson, it all started so well. His fifth over of the day saw one grip, turn and take Rory Burns' inside edge; Tom Alsop, a very fine short leg, dived forward to take a smart catch. He had his 15th wicket of the season, but all that followed was plenty of frustration.

Dawson did as Dawson does. He wheeled away, finding some - albeit slow - turn from the footmarks, which sat wide. There were chances, but the outside edge was seldom beaten, and funky bounce only appeared late in the day. Kumar Sangakkara, who batted as beautifully as ever, cover drove him to the fence every time he overpitched, but four of them in 83 balls hardly seems a disaster. Parsimony and consistency are Dawson's currency, and an economy of 2.63 - a tick under his season's figure - was testimony to that, but there is no mystery and little magic.

England know they are not selecting a man ever likely to rip through a side, even if Joe Root is said to have found him the toughest bowler to score off at nets, and his elevation will come as much thanks to his proficiency batting against spin, as his ability to bowl it. This was Kennington, not Kotla, and what turn there was seemed sluggish, but he troubled all the Surrey batsmen except Sangakkara. Arun Harinath saw a catch loop up into space close on the leg side, while Steven Davies could have been given lbw or caught at slip. With many men round the bat, Dom Sibley did not look comfortable.

"Daws was very unlucky," said Vince. "He bowled accurately with good pace, and looked like creating a lot of chances. He could have had four or five." Vince might have reflected that Mason Crane, Hampshire's main spinner, would have been handy, but he was left out due to the green surface on day one. One of Dawson's rivals for an England spot, Gareth Batty, who also found little joy in the surface, agreed with Vince's assessment.

"He bowled nicely," said Batty. "For the last two or three years he has improved tremendously as a spinner. I always thought of him as a batsman who bowls reluctantly, but he bowled 34 or 35 overs today and that is a man who wants to push his skill and his craft forward. That's brilliant to see. I love seeing people who want to bowl spin. He was a bit unlucky, and the pitch didn't really help him, despite a couple of wide foot holes. That means that the good players get outside the line and snuff out that one area on the pitch. Credit to him, he stuck at it well."

While Sibley and Harinath played fine hands before both being brilliantly caught down the legside by Lewis McManus, Sangakkara's was a masterful, controlled innings, full of cuts and flicks, drives and dabs. Late on, he was joined by Davies, another man Surrey are trying to tempt into signing on for next season, for a typically classy cameo that reminded fans of their value. Batty confirmed that talks were ongoing with both, but not resolved.

"I greatly hope we can get something sorted because they are both very much part of our group and very, very fine players," he said. "We are ridiculously lucky to have someone of Kumar's standing within the game - not just on skill but how he talks to our young boys… it's invaluable."

One such young player, Zafar Ansari, looks set to return from injury against Durham, as Surrey - who are the only team bar Nottinghamshire with nothing to play for in the final round - look to cap a remarkable recovery. As ever, there were pointed words for rivals from Batty.

"It's the manner in which we play our cricket that has pleased me," he said, "we haven't gone down the route of other sides in rigging surfaces to guarantee results. We've got big runs and applied pressure. If you are winning games on the surfaces we have played on, you are not a million miles away from having the skills to play international cricket."

Whether Dawson now has the skills to play international cricket remains to be seen. Before we find out, with a turning deck expected at the Ageas for the visit of a Wood-and-Stokes bolstered, seam-heavy Durham, he has a huge role to play for Hampshire.

Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on September 11, 2016, 14:11 GMT

    What has to be remembered is the type of wickets that will be produced in India (we'll have to wait and see about Bangladesh, but there's no doubt what India's wickets will be like). What type of bowler excels on them? A spinner who can bowl tight at a decent pace, as Jadejar has shown. Jadejar looked a very ordinary bowler in English conditions (9 wickets @46.66 in England in 2014), but in India he's a matchwinner. Accuracy is what is needed, because the ball will turn prodigiously. In fact the danger is turning it too much. Dawson might be just the man for the job. Personally I'd take Batty, too- he's the best spinner in England.

  • Johnston on September 11, 2016, 13:30 GMT

    The writing seems to be on the wall. Bayliss & Co think 1 wicket per game Liam Dawson is something special. Oh dear.

  • Dez on September 10, 2016, 11:29 GMT

    @nutcutlet. As you know I totally agree re: Batty, and at the very least I think they should take him along as a spin coach (which England don't have!!). The thinking behind taking Dawson for red ball cricket does seem strange when there have been an abundance of genuine spinners that have had a good year in CC this year.

    Also a word for Sangakarra - he must stay with Surrey for one more year of Division 1 cricket with this young team. His mentoring of the other batsmen is absolutely priceless and it's good to see that 3 batsmen got the benefit of another in-play coaching session from him on the last day of this match.

  • chris on September 10, 2016, 11:14 GMT

    come on surrey. all the talent in the world and we still finish fourth. still good that the currens have come through. and ben foakes. so, all the best for next year

  • Neal on September 9, 2016, 22:15 GMT

    This was a match played under sunny skies on all but the first day. On a decent Oval pitch the game was crying out for a genuine pace bowler of yesteryear like Sylvester Clarke or Waqar Younis to extract exta hostility from a placid surface or a Saqlain Mushtaq mystery spinner. From what I've seen of county cricket this summer there are few such bowlers in operation. Wagner has been hostile at Lancs and Ball of Notts is looking dangerous and unburdened by Test cricket, Roland Jones keeps running in all day for Middlesex. Yorkshire have an array of useful bowlers but nobody has spinners like there used to be. Surrey should try to get Yasir Shah on their books next summer and he could take 80 wickets and matches like this one wouldn't end in a tame draw.

    Oh for the mystery of spin or the deadly speed of the quickie, our county cricketing hearts yearn for these wonderful sights.

  • Michael on September 9, 2016, 19:54 GMT

    This was a worthy result for the BrownCaps and showed an ability to clear up their own mess,which is the sign of a good team;you cannot always win but if you can crawl out of a hole this well then something is going okay. I am staggered that dawson rates a mention as a third spinner for the autumn. What does one have to do to get a place. After Vince's farcical extended Test run this sounds like a complete surrender to nonsense thinking. It may not happen and someone who takes wickets might get selected instead. England should play the best available players in every game they play, and I know who the best spinner in England is,and it ain't Dawson!

  • ian on September 9, 2016, 19:53 GMT

    Crockit: don't bring reason to bear on the selection debate! You would take Leach or Rayner in preference to Liam Dawson. I would go with Gareth Batty - who would also be helpful to Moeen Ali in bringing him on as an offie. It matters not that we have different opinions, Bayliss - on very slight evidence - has had a look at Dawson - and likes what he sees. That is the way these things go... the Aussie neither knows nor cares about the sheer hard graft that goes on in the county game. He doesn't rate it and he knows bog all about the CC. Dawson's tour place has been well trailed these last few weeks - so the likes of you and me can swallow it more easily when the tour party is eventually announced. The whole thrust is focused on short-format cricket: Andrew Strauss - ex-Test captain - speaks of little else these days. Business comes before cricket and Test cricket comes after the truncated forms. He will make a good politico for the business party! I have no time for him now.

  • a on September 9, 2016, 18:53 GMT

    It would be utter farce to talk of Dawson as third spinner for subcontinent tests. This is a guy who has taken just over one wicket per first class match. We already have two guys in Moeen and Rashid who are making their way (and need their batting to compensate). What we desperately need to do is pick someone who might come in and do really well if their is a bunsen. In fact I would pick two - at the moment I would say Rayner and Leach are out front

  • Paulo on September 9, 2016, 17:33 GMT

    Shame for Hampshire though I guess you could question the decision to not play a front line spinner in an end of season game. Dawson for England? Well he has probably earnt more chances in limited overs cricket, but he's shown little with bat and in particular ball in the longer format to earn a place.

    Hampshire look likely to go down but I guess we can hope.

    Good to see the emergence of the likes of Alsop and Crane. Maybe division two would see us more prepared to give them a chance. Well done to Ervine as well. He's shown excellent fight recently and it's nice to see such a long serving club servant do well.

    In other news, Wheater has left. A fine batsman but as a keeper he's never been up to it. Bates and Rouse were miles better, and hopefully Mcmanus and Alsop will be.

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