Sangakkara soars on Oval farewell to leave Somerset scrapping

Sangakkara soars on Oval farewell to leave Somerset scrapping

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Stumps, Day Three: Somerset 113-4 and 269 trail Surrey 433 (Sangakkara 157, Clarke 50; Trego 5-67) by 51 runs

Thanks to Kumar Sangakkara, Somerset have a real mountain to climb in order to salvage a positive result from this game, a matter not helped by matters across the Thames.

Mere minutes after Adam Voges took the catch that gave fellow relegation strugglers Middlesex their third win – and a crucial 20 points from this round of matches – Somerset opener Eddie Byrom missed one that turned from Gareth Batty, his off bail removed.

Just before that Lord’s moment, Tom Abell found himself lucky not to be caught for just two, upper cutting an edge above and between Surrey’s two slips, Sangakkara and Rikki Clarke, neither of whom could take hold.

Byrom’s dismissal meant his side were 98 for four, still 66 short of making up the first innings deficit. Some ordinary batting on this third afternoon against a testing bowling performance could well be the difference between Division One and Division Two cricket in 2018.

It had been Stuart Meaker, second change at the Vauxhall End, who had looked most dangerous. Bowling with his usual pace and aggression – this is always easy to spot, for he has a tendency to fall over in his follow-through at his most ferocious – he took George Bartlett and James Hildreth lbw.

Sam Curran had exposed Bartlett, who improved his previous first-class best of 27* by a run, having got one to shape away and lift a touch on Marcus Trescothick, who could only prod to a diving Rory Burns at third slip.

That, just Curran’s second ball, brought lunch as Surrey were all out in the morning session in time for eight minutes at the Somerset openers.

It had been Sangakkara, resuming 119 unbeaten overnight, capitalised on a blunt seam attack whose tactics appeared little more than waiting for the 39-year-old to get himself out. This was perhaps not the worst plan, given that he now has 1,407 Specsavers County Championship runs this season.

But on a wicket as far from batsman-friendly as many have been at The Oval this season, to concede 105 having begun day three with no recognised batsmen waiting in the wings will have disappointed Somerset.

It is concerning, too, that Jack Leach – with his 107 Championship wickets since the start of last season – bowled just nine overs from 129 having been brought on after Abell, with Somerset having felt that the pitch would not take much spin.

That decision alone from the skipper could well be very costly and perhaps had little basis, given that Gareth Batty found the surface very workable, beating the bat on several occasions.

Abell was eventually vindicated in giving himself 17 overs, accounting for Sangakkara and later Batty. But that was after Sangakkara had turned 119 into 157, his third score of 150+ in succession; his last four centuries have all seen him past that milestone.

Once again he was deft in cutting late, crisp in his drives, powerful in his aggression. It seems likely that, in any event, this was his last first-class innings on this ground and he made it count.

Just as Somerset hoped, he got himself out trying to push on a lead that was at that stage 147, advancing at Abell and edging high to point where Leach took an excellent catch. Sangakkara is used to standing ovations on this ground, where he has nine centuries in all formats, but this one felt special: three years’ worth of gratitude culminating in this triumphant goodbye.

With him throughout the morning had been Clarke, bludgeoning his way to his first half-century for Surrey since returning to the club last month.

Once he went, run out by Bartlett at mid on with a terrific direct hit, there was very little left in the batting department. Batty became Abell’s third first-class victim and although Jade Dernbach uncharacteristically struck him for a straight six, Meaker lost middle stump to Peter Trego, who finished with season-best figures of 5-67.

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