As Somerset toiled at The Oval, eight wickets down with a slender 78 run lead and facing a potentially relegation-inducing defeat, one cider-country loyalist in the crowd turned to his acquaintance and muttered: “If there was an earthquake, the game would be abandoned.”
That, after the departure of Peter Trego, was their last hope. But there were to be no earthquakes, nor crossbow bolts, to halt proceedings and save five points for them – a scenario made worse by events some 200 miles away, where Yorkshire rescued a two-wicket victory against Warwickshire.
Despite the efforts of Trego, Steven Davies – who hit a half-century in both innings on his first-class return to his former club – and an impressive rear guard action from Dom Bess, Somerset’s first innings deficit was too steep to wrestle enough control for a positive result.
Set 143 to win from 41 overs, Kumar Sangakkara – who else? – in his final Oval appearance, along with Ben Foakes, guided Surrey to only their second Specsavers County Championship win of the season.
Having been greeted to the crease with a standing ovation, every run from Sangakkara’s bat was applauded by a grateful crowd. It was, once again, simplistic and all too easy for the competition’s leading scorer by 299 runs.
As he helped Surrey ease their way to the target, it was clear to see Foakes’ stylishness was not dissimilar to that of his 39-year-old partner. That the wicketkeeper won the Surrey Supporters’ most improved player at the club’s awards night on Thursday is of little surprise from what he has learnt batting with Sangakkara on several occasions this year.
The straight drive is his trademark, executed in perfect and brutal fashion on several occasions, using it to take six from Bess as Surrey reduced the target to under 30.
It took a moment of magic to remove Sangakkara: Bess plucking a well-hit straight drive from the air with his left hand. As he departed, 15 runs short of the win, Somerset’s fielders rushed to shake his hand and the crowd rose to their feet; a standing ovation for he dubbed King, raising his bat and helmet aloft.
Ollie Pope claimed the winning runs, taking six and then four over wide mid-on in an almost symbolic passing of the torch.
Earlier, Davies had been classy as ever, playing with the same finesse this Oval faithful are used to having seen in their favour. He was given a life when Stuart Meaker looked to have won a battle between the pair, making a mess of his stumps with a fine yorker, only to be denied by a no ball signal.
Having moved through the forties with a beautiful drive through backward point, Gareth Batty drew him forward on 52 and he edged to slip. The lead was then just 34, the bowler exuberant.
Trego has history against Surrey and Batty in particular – you would suspect sweeping Surrey’s captain to reach his half-century satisfied him – and it looked for a time as though he may be the one to push victory from their reach, especially when Sangakkara shelled him on 36.
As he found the boundary driving and smashing square, he had moved to 68 in quick time but went for one shot too many against Ryan Patel and played all around one trying to flick through midwicket.
Bess, who strode to the crease the over before with Craig Overton lbw, took matters into his own hands and propelled a charge. For a 20-year-old number nine, he has an immense drive in him and utilised it both straight and through cover.
Run and time accumulation were crucial, and Bess delivered on both counts. 35, his third highest first-class score, was valuable in giving his side a chance and, when he feathered behind, a final session chase of 143 kept Somerset in the game.
Surrey take 23 points and move second in the table; Somerset claim just four and are now 13 points short of sixth-placed Hampshire. They are fortunate that the South Coast side were defeated by Essex despite having enforced the follow-on.