Surrey out of bottom two as Batty inspires last-ditch win

Surrey 637 for 7 (Foakes 141*, Burns 122, Batty 110*, Sibley 99, Finch 86, Berg 3-85) beat Hampshire 423 (McManus 132*) and 201 (McLaren 59, Batty 6-51, Meaker 4-40) by an innings and 13 runs

It is hard to remember a Championship win that asked more of a bowling side. The pitch, for much of this game, looked like it would take the points and a few bowlers with it. Most of the Ageas Bowl pitches have. But with great focus and effort, and the sort of performance from Gareth Batty that will be remembered well beyond his career, Surrey sent Hampshire down for an innings and 13 runs.

Batty was not so much leading from the front as picking up those around him, yapping under the helmet and then getting the job done himself. A century in the first innings began his work before two for 78 in the Hampshire reply was bested by a sensational six for 51 in the follow-on. Throw in Stuart Meaker's reverse swing addled 18 overs of four for 40, and you wonder where the doubt in obtaining a result came from.

But with 10 overs left in the day, hope had all-but gone. At the end of Batty's 24th over (56th of the match) he walked duck-footed to mid off, shoulders slunk, cap in hand, dreading what might be. Of all long-form cricket's gut punches, the handshakes after a drawn fixture take the most out of a skipper who has spent the last few hours on top. And Batty's side had been ahead for the last three days.

Summoning one last push, Batty returned to take two in his next over. Lewis McManus, having started the day with bat in hand, looked like he would finish it, too. But, after six hours and 21 minutes of crease time across both innings, he was finally dismissed to a fast arm ball. Three balls later, Andrew's outside edge was found with a perfect off spinner. It was left to Meaker to finish things off. Late movement into the right hander did for Gareth Berg, before Mason Crane was the recipient of a bouncer that would haunt the most weathered opening batsmen, let alone a 19-year-old number 10.

Surrey currently sit outside the relegation zone, 10 points away from Nottinghamshire, who have replaced them in the bottom two. Even if Hampshire were to win their game in hand with full bonus points, they would only go one ahead of Surrey. It bears reiterating: rarely will you see a side work so hard to achieve a four day win of this magnitude.

On the evening of day two, Surrey's players went to bed preparing themselves for what they knew would be six of the toughest sessions of cricket many of them will have experienced in their lives. So, too, did Hampshire. But Surrey, staying at the Ageas' Bowl own hotel, will have drawn their curtains looking out onto the very field that would ask for as much energy and sweat as they could give and not necessarily provide anything in return.

They needed 18 wickets to win the match: at least 18 chances to be created, certainly 18 to be taken to ensure that they are in control of their own destiny with five matches left to play. And while their own first innings of 637 for 7 taunted Hampshire throughout this match, it sent Surrey to sleep that night with a stark reminder of the unforgiving nature of this road. The skip was taken out of Crane's step after 51 overs of toil.

Even Surrey's captain Gareth Batty was concerned, believing he was "thrown under the car" by Will Smith and Hampshire's senior bowlers - Gareth Berg had the next greatest workload with 30 overs. "That wouldn't be happening under my watch."

That part of Batty's mantra as captain is to look at what is best for the individuals has, at times, seen him make calls that, from afar, confuse a touch. But given the task at hand, across two of the hottest days of the year, it was this sensitivity that ultimately saw Surrey triumph in extraordinary fashion.

With 11 wickets to get on day four, the first ball to do something off the straight was the run out of Brad Wheal. Lewis McManus, who finished the first innings unbeaten on 133, was desperate to retain the strike when Aaron Finch, prowling the off side outfield, hurled down the stumps at the nonstriker's end from all of 50 yards. Theirs was the longest partnership of the innings, clocking in at 37.1 overs. Surrey now needed 10 more wickets in the next 84 overs, having just taken the same amount from 133 overs.

The first two to fall took 19 overs with them: Jimmy Adams tempted into one that left him late from Meaker, Tom Alsop edging Batty to first slip. For a while, that was their lot. The bowlers were cycled through, each getting a burst: an over or two at first to state their case. As "overs remaining" ticked to 44, Mark Footitt was removed from the Pavilion End after a spell of four that seemed to settle Smith and Ryan McLaren. The all rounder looked totally at ease while Smith, 18 from 112 balls at this point, was putting the finishing touches on a fort he had no intention of relinquishing.

Batty brought himself on to bowl and, with various changes of pace, found a sliver of light shining through a gap in the closed drawbridge. Somehow a fizzed delivery snuck off Smith's bat and between his legs to bump into his leg stump. Surrey were in. Adam Wheater, tea interval on the mind, left a reverse swinging delivery from Meaker that almost sent his off stump back to the pavilion with him.

After tea, Batty came into his own. It was not so much the spin, but the changes in pace: the appreciation that keeping the interest of those around the bat - there were up to six for Batty - required enough fluctuations in delivery to put a batsman's timing out of sync. Sean Ervine was hurried into guiding a ball to Aaron Finch at leg slip. Ryan McLaren pressing forward early and popping a catch up to Dominic Sibley at bat-pad.

But so the overs ticked on, with four wickets still to get. But so Batty ticked on and these four wickets were claimed.

He was naturally punchy in victory, using the opportunity to not only champion his young team, having grumbled away the opportunity to talk about his own century and eight wickets in the game, but to stick up for his coach, Michael Di Venuto, who has spent the aftermath of many a four day game fighting fires on Twitter.

To Di Venuto's credit, he looks to interact and appease each tweet sent his way, countering calls for change with the insistence that the hard work behind the scenes will soon be evident on the field. Most of the comments to Di Venuto comes from an honest place: fans worried about the plight of their club and wondering, out loud, what could be done differently. A handful have question Di Venuto's merits as a coach. One or two have made their attacks personal.

"I think it's disrespectful. Unjust. The two run outs [Burns to remove Ervine and Finch to remove Wheal] - that's from him working on us hitting the stumps. He takes all credit there. Nobody else. We've been very close in a couple of games and not got over the line. I think it's very unjust for the man's record, both as a player and a coach."

In victory, Surrey are bullish and you get a sense, from the way they have acquitted themselves throughout this match, that whatever they have left to give will be left on field before the season is up.

"There have been a lot of people lobbing knives at us but we have pulled a few out of our back," said Batty. "I say to them,- I hope you are enjoying the win tonight."

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Hampshire 3rd innings Partnerships

1st26JHK AdamsWR Smith
2nd5WR SmithTP Alsop
3rd69WR SmithR McLaren
4th7R McLarenAJA Wheater
5th5SM ErvineR McLaren
6th9R McLarenLD McManus
7th77GK BergLD McManus
8th0GM AndrewGK Berg
9th0GK BergMS Crane
10th3MS CraneBTJ Wheal