As Surrey’s bowlers skittled Hampshire in two sessions for the second day running, India A were practising on The Ageas Bowl’s adjacent nursery ground.
The team, coached by Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid, are in England for matches with the England Lions and West Indies A throughout June and July. Had Dravid witnessed events the other side of the groundsman’s shed, he might well have imploded.
On the second evening, Hampshire were bowled out because of some fierce, relentless bowling. While Surrey’s discipline did not drop second time round, a three-day innings victory was made easier by some poor batting in pursuit of overturning a 233 run first-innings deficit.
James Vince, the captain, drove his way to 28 during a morning session in which survival was the operative word. He showed little regard for it when charging Amar Virdi, trying to work to midwicket. A superb piece of work from Ben Foakes, taking the ball high from sharp bounce, saw Vince stumped.
It said plenty that Joe Weatherley, at the non-striker’s end, turned his back on his departing captain. Weatherley had 16 at the time and batted maturely on his way to a third first-class half-century.
But if Vince’s dismissal frustrated him, his own would have done so even more. Rilee Rossouw ran two after a misfield by Morne Morkel at mid off, before attempting a third. Weatherley was caught unaware with no interest in the run and was left to scamper, with Foakes completing a relay move run out.
It was kamikaze, and from a Hampshire perspective it was where the game looked to have slipped from them — their top four back in the hut, and still 127 behind. “That partnership was our hope,” Vince said afterwards. “They both looked comfortable and to end in a fashion like that sucked any life that we had left out of us.”
From there, Surrey took hold and refused to let go. Morkel bowled Lewis McManus with the delivery of the match — it pitched on middle and seamed away at the last moment, taking the off bail — before Rikki Clarke picked up Gareth Berg and Brad Taylor lbw. Such is his skill that, even at 36 years old, Clarke found a 44-over-old ball hooping like a banana to dismiss Berg.
Virdi’s talents were on full show as he found a patch of rough which Kyle Abbott did not account for. He left one which spun back sharply and was adjudged leg-before.
Morkel wrapped up the game with two wickets in four balls — first Dale Steyn caught brilliantly at gully and then Fidel Edwards, fending off a bouncer. Hampshire had lost by an innings and 58 runs, the first time they’d done so at home since playing Surrey two years ago.
It left Surrey top of the table — temporarily, at least — and Hampshire languishing with only Worcestershire below them. “We all need to look at our own games and perhaps our methods,” Vince added. “Whether it’s mentality I’m not sure, but definitely ahead of next game we have to have a rethink and come out with more than what we showed in this game.”
Surrey captain Rory Burns, who scored 151 in his side’s only innings, was reluctant to suggest they could be in for a title challenge, but did heap praise on his four seamers — Morkel, Clarke, Sam Curran and Jade Dernbach).
Burns said: “I think the way they’re going about their business is the best in the country.
“Wherever you turn, you’ve got somebody who’s going to go and do you a job, so there’s obviously different roles within in that attack and how you use them, but one thing you know is that whoever you choose to bowl at any one time, they’re going to deliver the goods.”