Sluggish Surrey limp to victory
Worcestershire 295 and 341 (Ormond 6-62, Azhar 4-69) lost to Surrey 375 and 329 for 5 dec (Ramprakash 100*) by 68 runs at The Brit Oval
At 11.35 am at The Oval, Worcestershire were reduced to 44 for 6, and the pressmen began writing up a Surrey victory. More than five-and-a-quarter hours later, at 4.56 pm, Worcestershire's No 11, Nadeem Malik, was gladly pouched at slip: Worcestershire, chasing 410 to win, had fallen just 69 short. Both Surrey's players and a few pressmen had been sweating - and not just because of the late-afternoon sunshine. It was a case of "They think it's all over; it is ... well, not quite yet actually."
It was an agonising wait for Surrey and a mixed one for spectators. They were treated to a wonderful, feline innings of 86 from Solanki, and a crunching 133, far and away his best in first-class cricket, from Gareth Batty. But they had to endure another miserable day for the other Batty, Surrey's captain Jon.
Surrey were awful at times and you could feel only sympathy for their captain. It was not so much the time it took them to bowl Worcestershire out. The pitch was flat, the sun hot, and the Surrey attack depleted by injury. Equally the scoreboard last night - 27 for 4 - flattered Surrey. More worrying for them was the way they spent those long hours. At times spirits seemed so low they were subterranean.
Poor Batty, a decent man, has perhaps had too much criticism: here he was quiet but let down by his senior players. Too many did not so much obey his instructions as tolerate them; as he attempted to move fielders, some just nodded their head from side to side contemplatively and had a think about it. And no-one, when Surrey were losing the game at 318 for 7, got them round and gave them a kick up the backside. Batty, the wicketkeeper, looked virtually alone long before the runs started flowing and the slips began to disappear.
"Virtually" because Jimmy Ormond provided stoic support. He took six wickets in the innings without the help of any team-mates - all bowled or lbw. He bowled with good pace and a massive heart and took crucial wickets in each spell, including Solanki and Batty. Those who have complained of his "laziness" should have been here. After the game, Jon Batty called him "the lionheart".
Yet it had all began so well. From an overnight 27 for 4, Worcestershire were soon 44 for 6. But then, as Surrey went quieter and quieter, the crack of Worcestershire bats got louder. Solanki and Batty added 168 together before Solanki tried to repeat a glorious but risky on-side whip, missing and being pinned lbw. He played in a fashion somewhere between cricket and ballroom dancing, his footwork sharp and decisive. But despite a series of inside edges all but kissing the stumps as he played for non-existent out-swing, Batty hung on, and on, and...
At tea Worcestershire were 303 for 7, and, with short boundaries, scoring 107 for victory looked a serious possibility. But Ormond continued his Do-It-Yourself approach. In the post-tea huddle he issued a few words, grabbed hold of the ball and then the game. In his third over after the break he burst a yorker through Batty's prod. That ended a partnership of 106 with Steve Rhodes, who was as canny as you'd expect from a man with more than 20 years' county experience.
Both Batty and Solanki seemd to thrive on the confidence stemming from England call-ups earlier in the day. Surrey could have done with a transfusion. But still, they won, for only the second time in the season. With only the end of the tail to come, everyone said Batty's wicket was the beginning of the end. And this time it really was.
Paul Coupar is assistant editor of the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.