Surrey 323 (Davies 82. Harinath 73; Ball 4-85) & 244-5 (Harinath 83; Hutton 3-61) lead Nottinghamshire 182 (Lumb 48; Batty 4-23) by 385 runs
The OCS Stand, looming over the Vauxhall end of the ground as a domineering patriarch at the head of a dinner table, hosted auditions for The Voice UK on the third day of this game between Surrey and Nottinghamshire
Nervous hopefuls pace, their cigarette smoke taking to Oval air and billowing up towards the gasometer. They gathered in furtive, unfamiliar groups. Vocal warm-ups – albeit octave-leaping – pipe through the ceiling as wickets tumble outside, the host side led by Arun Harinath and Kumar Sangakkara,
In between, so close but as distant as to be other-worldly, the County Championship rumbles on. While it too finds itself racked by debates about its financial future, its sustainability in the oeuvre of a changing game near-mortality is not so unfamiliar to The Voice which was met by a swathe of cuts to the BBC; it must find a new home on ITV from this year on.
On a fine day of cricket dominated throughout its length by the Oval’s tenants, Surrey’s bowling attack were in total harmony during the morning session, showing definite signs that they are beginning to find their own voice in a division that has drowned them out so far this season.
Nottinghamshire will be deeply disheartened by their efforts with the bat in particular. They find themselves needing to bat out the last day of this game to avoid defeat, having lost eight wickets for exactly 100 runs in the morning session and permitted Surrey to establish a lead of 385 relatively untroubled.
Brendan Taylor was the first victim of the morning, rocking onto his back foot only for Ravi Rampaul’s off-cutter to rap his pads and trap him in front with 17 runs added to the overnight total.
Tom Curran lit up the first hour of play with an outstanding, eight-over spell of pugnacious seam bowling from the Pavilion End. He kept Riki Wessels tied down from the moment the South African took to the crease, drawing an edge that flew through the covers and going up for a worthy lbw shout. Curran also beat Michael Lumb for pace, appealing to the umpire so vehemently that he lost his bearings and was clipped by the shoulder of Lumb, running a sharp single.
Wessels has been in rare touch in white-ball cricket this season but his knock, making 5 in 45 minutes, lacked what most have noted about his game in recent weeks- fluency. Desperate to feel bat on ball, he nibbled at a wideish delivery from Curran and offered a simple catch to Ben Foakes on his very own England audition for the rest of the summer.
Samit Patel, at a different stage of his career to Foakes while still retaining hope of further international honours, began with reckless abandon, cutting consecutive Curran deliveries to the boundary behind and in front of square respectively. He played another uppish shot into the offside, before flatly ignoring Lumb’s offer of a single – like a toddler refusing to eat his vegetables – to be run out by about 20 yards.
This wicket precipitated Nottinghamshire losing five wickets for just 50 runs to be all out at lunch. Lumb, who had done a decent job of anchoring the innings, sought to cut Gareth Batty but not only was the delivery too straight for that shot, it went on with the arm to clip off stump.
Surrey skipper Batty bowled with great control and patience, a quality not displayed in abundance by the batsmen. His ability to build up scoreboard pressure and to exploit a pitch offering significant assistance to spin bowling sent a Notts batting line-up, with its apt propensity to fritter away this season, into paroxysms.
Surrey were not in need of the extra 15 minutes granted before lunch for the taking of the final wicket, as Harry Gurney holed out in the deep with the home side 141 runs ahead of the game.
With Surrey by then occupying a highly authoritative position in the game, Rory Burns and Harinath applied themselves with customary earnest towards strengthening their side’s stake.
Burns waited for the ball for an hour and a half for his 34, sweeping Patel effectively for three leg side boundaries and driving Jake Ball off the back foot for four through extra cover. Having bandied together for 59 with Harinath, Burns spotted width and climbed into a cut shot that picked out Patel at point.
What Harinath compiled was a nigh-on chanceless innings. He only scored three of his 83 runs in the ‘V’, instead playing adroitly off his hips and timing the ball well into the on-side. Two fifties in the match was a fine return for an opener who earnt each and every run.
Sangakkara joined him and the pair put on 92, but the artful Sri Lankan fell one short of his sixth half-century of the season when he was grabbed by Carter at short cover off the bowling of Brett Hutton.
As Surrey’s lead extended to 300, Gary Wilson’s poor run of form continued as he could only turn a full-length delivery from Hutton, whose spell caused Surrey some real bother, into the hands of Carter.
Harinath fought superbly for his 83 but ultimately sacrificed himself for the team’s aim of advancing their lead as quickly as possible with few overs left in the day. He slung at Hutton, cross-batted, to give Patel a comfortable catch with the lead at 335.
Steven Davies, who made a responsible 82 in the first innings, propelled the hosts forward in the closing overs of play. He smote Carter then Patel for sixes over long on and peppered the cover region on occasions for three or more.
He and Tom Curran welded together 50 at eight runs an over to end on a high note, before Curran farmed one out into the deep off Patel. That there were eight Notts fielders on the boundary edge for the final two overs of the innings was as profound a testament as one could need to how the momentum of this game swung in favour their opponents.
Surrey were pitch perfect on the day and will think favourably on their chances of wrapping up a first win of the season tomorrow.