Afzaal lights up dour draw
Surrey XI 318 for 7 and 313 for 3 drew with Bangladeshis 372 for 6
The opening game of the Bangladeshi tour of England petered out into a chilly and predictable draw in SE11 where helicopter traffic over No10 Downing Street captured the attention as much as the cricket.
While rolling news channels fought for airspace in the hope of catching Gordon Brown sneaking out the back door of the prime minister's residence with suitcase in hand, so Surrey's young side exchanged playful blows with an equally young touring team - indeed both sides boasted an average age of 23.
On a docile pitch that offered little encouragement for spinners or seamers alike, it came as no surprise that the most experienced player on display, 32-year-old Usman Afzaal, showed the Surrey's Lions cubs how it should be done.
The former England left-hander marched in with his side on 61 for 2 - a slender overall lead in the match of seven runs - following the overnight declaration of the tourists and the early loss of Arun Harinath (20) and Tom Lancefield (11) to shots they would rather care to forget.
For the record, Harinath went down one knee to chase and edge a wide one to the keeper while Lancefield blotted his copybook by pulling a long hop into the hands of the substitute fielder at mid-wicket. That brought together rookie Laurie Evans and Afzaal for a third- wicket stand worth 225 in 44 overs that made Surrey hearts swell with pride.
Afzaal made his intentions clear. Spanking his first ball for four over backward point, while the second was pulled over the fielder at mid-wicket for another boundary. Evans, with only one first-class hundred to his name, had an equally obvious game plan - to score another century and but for sheer bad luck the nugget right-hander would have achieved his aim.
In bitterly cold temperatures the Bangladesh attack looked all at sea, indeed their frustrated coach, Jamie Siddons said: "I thought our bowlers bowled a bit too short. We talked about pitching it up, but they still want to bang it in and try and get a wicket that way rather than be patient and wait for them to make a mistake."
Accordingly, Afzaal and Evans cashed in. The senior pro moved to his century with panache clubbing a back-foot force through backward point for four against the part-time spin of Mohammad Ashraful. The next three also deliveries disappeared to the boundary as Usman celebrated his first ton of the summer.
Evans was more watchful, content to play second fiddle. After four-and- a-half hours at the crease he had mustered nine fours and was within a couple of his hundred when, in backing up at the non-striker's end, he was run out when Mahmudullah Riyad finger-tipped an Afzaal drive onto the stumps.
The game limped toward a slow death thereafter and even the famous urban fox that inhabits the Oval appeared bored. At one point he trotted onto the playing area, sniffed the Bangladesh drinks' carrier that had been left on the outfield by the 12th man, and duly cocked a leg to mark his territory.
The game ended soon after with Afzaal making a more acceptable mark on the game, unbeaten on 159 it was the ninth score in excess of 150 in his career. By then, Surrey were 259 ahead and event the fox had gone home.
Mark Pennell is the managing director of freelance reporting and public relations agency Kent & Sussex Sport