Surrey produced a merciless bowling performance to beat Gloucestershire with ease as they attempt to cement a second place spot and improve their Division One promotion chances. While a resilient Glamorgan breathe down their neck – sitting third in the table and possessing two games in hand – the win extended the gap between the two sides to 33 points.
Built on a strong nucleus of promising, ever-improving youngsters, it was the turn of Zafar Ansari to prove Surrey’s inspiration on day three of their innings and 180-run victory. Mixing up his pace and gaining sufficient turn off the Kia Oval surface, Ansari claimed his second first-class five-for of the season, finishing on career-best figures of 6-30. It followed Tom Curran’s continued first innings demolition job, removing two of the final three wickets in the morning session, to end with his own best of 7-20.
“Bowling is a funny thing,” Ansari said wryly at the end of play. “Sometimes you can bowl well and take no wickets, and then you bowl worse and take six. I felt I bowled quite well and mixed it up but the figures probably flatter me. I’m obviously happy to take them though.
“Tom has been bowling brilliantly for a few weeks, months now. But he’d be the first to say it’s come good for him with the wickets. I thought [Matt] Dunn bowled a brilliant spell this afternoon but went wicketless. I think the important thing is to emphasise when people bowl really well and don’t get the rewards as much as when they do. They’re just as important to the victory.”
How important those three have become for Surrey cannot be underestimated. Few would have expected Gareth Batty’s bowling attack to consist of Dunn, Curran, Ansari and James Burke in pre-season, however, such is the continued injury list at the club that they have all risen to prominence earlier than expected. That they do not look out of their depth against senior opposition is to their credit. More impressive is their ability to each generate commanding performances when required, which they have all achieved in recent games.
Surrey’s back-to-back three-day Championship victories are made all the more remarkable when the batting absences of Jason Roy, Kevin Pietersen and Kumar Sangakkara at varying points are taken into account too.
Here, their first innings total of 448 was never in danger of being surpassed. Starting the day on 102 for 7, Gloucestershire’s tail was mopped up by Curran and Dunn in 10.3 overs for the addition of just 11 runs, Batty swiftly enforcing the follow-on. Facing a deficit of 355, Geraint Jones’ men got off to a terrible start, Dunn trapping Chris Dent in front just 18 balls into their second innings.
Will Tavare offered some form of resistance in his half-century knock, driving purposely down the ground while team-mate Michael Klinger went after the bowlers in the manner that has proved so profitable for him in this year’s T20 Blast. And the pair looked to have steadied the ship until Ben Foakes took a stunning catch at short leg to remove Klinger off Ansari in the run-up to lunch.
From there wickets fell at regular intervals. Hamish Marshall departed two balls after lunch, having creamed a four off the first delivery, before a short Tavare-Ian Cockbain partnership temporarily held up proceedings. Once Ansari had Cockbain lbw, however, any defiance slipped away.
Tavare’s diligent blunting of the bowling was cut short when pushing forward to an Ansari ball that carried to Roy at first slip. It was an unfortunate end for a batsman who had taken 31 balls to go from 42 to 50 and remained resolute.
Ansari then accounted for Benny Howell before seamers Burke and Curran chipped in, before Ansari picked up two in four balls to complete an outstanding victory.