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Surrey hold on as Sangakkara prepares to sign off

Surrey 313 (Sangakkara 114, Sibley 54, Franklin 4-40) and 339 (Sangakkara 120, Foakes 67*, S Curran 51, Roland-Jones 4-76) drew with Middlesex 411 (Malan 115, Franklin 112, Meaker 4-92) and 92 for 2
Scorecard

Three days of engaging cricket from both sides ended, depressingly, with handshakes at 5.25pm. But whatever sorrow filled the air was engulfed by a deeper dismay when Kumar Sangakkara, with a century in each innings, announced that this would be his final season in the County Championship.

He has a couple of contracts to honour this year, including a stint in the Caribbean Premier League with Jamaica Tallawahs. "The mercenary in me is still alive," he joked, when pressed on whether he might be around for a T20 gig or two. "No one wants an old dog just playing for the sake of it. All in all, I'll have a few more months but that'll be it." So begins the farewell tour.

"You need to get out while you are ahead," was Sangakkara's response when he was implored to reconsider - by the press, no less. What world is this where a man can become the fourth Surrey batsman to score four centuries in four consecutive innings (Ian Ward was the last to do it in 2002), pass 20,000 first-class runs with two centuries in a match and sit pretty on 592 in just four Championship games this season and think he's done? Sport and indeed life, as it happens. "This really is it. Look - I'm 39. I'll be 40 in a few months. I think this is about the end of county cricket [for me] in the four-day and any sense, really.

"The biggest mistake you can make is to think you are better than you are and you try to fight the inevitable. When you start a season like this, there is a long way to go. You have to enjoy the good times. All good things come to an end. Cricketers and any other sportsperson have an expiry date. I've been very lucky to plays as much as I have and I'm not taking anything for granted, but and there's a lot of life to be lived away from the game."

He has a young family: two children who have reached ages when a settled home life will do them the world of good. They have seen dad play all around the world. Now is time for dad to take a load off his feet and watch them flourish.

That is not to say their stay in south London has been unenjoyable. Surrey, as a county and a base, has been good to Sangakkara, even if his original move - spawned over a beer with his then Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford, who was leaving for the county - was met with a degree of trepidation from himself and those who know he prefers warmer climes. They also worried that the longest form of the game might enhance the streaks of grey that have crept into his sideburns.

Turns out there was nothing to worry about. In fact, he took to the city so quickly that he was even looking into canal boats and mooring spots along the Thames during his first year at the club. "Seriously, he won't stop going on about it," groaned a team-mate at the time. Last year he signed a one-year extension.

"A lot of friends asked me: 'Why four day cricket? It's long, it's tough in England, it's cold. It's a long hard grind.' I thought the same when I came in to be honest. Had I made the right decision? But I really, thoroughly enjoyed my time at Surrey. They've been a wonderful club to play for. They take care of their players very well."

If this really is to be it, then it has been some way to bow out. As a man with very little memorabilia at home, he watched on as MCC unveiled his portrait in the days leading up to this fixture. "It's a great honour and I think Anthony, the artist, has actually made me look a bit better than I actually am!

"Look at all the other portraits of great cricketers and you feel a bit funny, thinking you don't belong in that environment but the fact the MCC wanted my portrait was very humbling."

He says he was unnerved and slightly embarrassed when he walked past it on his way to the middle, twice, before making centuries in both innings. To think, for the longest time, his lack of a red-ball century at Lord's weighed heavy on his mind.

"I sat here in my last Test at Lord's hoping to get a hundred," he said. It was only in the first innings of that match in 2014, after six previous innings that amounted to just 140 runs, that he got his name on the honours board. "But also, at that time, I was thinking 'wouldn't it be funny if I got a duck?' It was nice to go through the processes and bat again at Lord's. It's probably the last time I'll play a four-day game here."

For the second time in the match, though, Sangakkara was unable to go on the morning after the century before, meaning Middlesex had an end open. And while they were able to pick away at that end, eventually bowling out Surrey, it was Ben Foakes, batting for more than six hours for his 67 not out, who dragged Surrey away from danger.

Ollie Rayner accounted for the Currans either side of lunch, before Dawid Malan bowled Stuart Meaker and then had Mark Footitt caught at midwicket to leave Middlesex with a chase of 242 off 39 overs. What happened next did not reflect well on the defending champions.

Even with all the caveats - a red ball, no fielding restrictions, the fall in the pound - this was a chase to be undertaken: just over six an over needed, a small boundary away to the Grandstand that had been peppered regularly over the last three days. This is also a Middlesex batting line-up that went to Taunton last year and successfully chased 302 in 45.4 overs. The cornerstone of their title win was positivity and yet here, on a pitch that was still playing true, they opted for caution.

Nick Gubbins and Nick Compton opened the second innings and it became apparent after the third over, which Compton played out as a maiden, that the champions were not going to go out of their way to get the runs. Gubbins was caught behind swiping in an attempt to get things going and with him seemed to go the impetus.

Compton - who had 2 off 16 balls at one point - hit a couple of fours before being caught on the square-leg boundary off Footitt. Even Malan, who did not play with any particular urgency, finished with 37 off 44 balls when the game was put out of its misery. Middlesex's captain, James Franklin, while accepting that the chase entered their minds, felt that ultimately a docile fourth-day surface would have prevented them from really going hell for leather.

Middlesex 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st6NRD ComptonNRT Gubbins
2nd25NRD ComptonSS Eskinazi
3rd61DJ MalanSS Eskinazi