Eyes would have lit up in the Yorkshire camp when the heavens opened at Guildford, for the second time in the morning session, just after 12pm and with the radar extremely bleak. In just 12.3 overs of play they had collapsed from 58-1 to 95-7, and those of a Surrey persuasion would have been left contemplating the result salvageable with some more cricket.
That was precisely what followed, with the rain clearing for a 2.35pm restart and an opening for Surrey to pick up their first Specsavers County Championship victory of the season at the sixth attempt. By the time Yorkshire were all out for 148 on the stroke of tea, an extraordinary finish was on the cards.
But it wasn’t to be. Adam Lyth and Will Fraine comfortably saw out 13.3 overs before bad light forced a premature end to the game just before 5pm, with Surrey taking 11 points and Yorkshire claiming eight.
Morne Morkel began the damage with the day’s first ball, Gary Ballance prodding off the back foot and edging to gully. Morkel’s seventh ball of the morning was driven through cover by Will Fraine; his eighth edged behind from the same shot.
It was three wickets in 12 balls when Ben Foakes caught Jack Leaning, diving with his right hand in front of first slip.
Jordan Clark took a hat-trick against Yorkshire last year and almost had another here with his first Championship wickets for Surrey. Jonny Tattersall cut him to first slip before Dom Bess pushed forward for the same result. In both instances, Rikki Clarke was the catcher, but Jordan Thompson denied a caught Clarke bowed Clark trio.
Clarke took a wicket of his own after a ten-minute rain break, Tom Kohler-Cadmore adjudged strangled down the legside, much to the batsman’s dismay — it looked to have come off his hip.
After a two-and-a-half hour rain delay, Surrey picked up in the same manner. Steven Patterson edged behind and Ben Coad played inside Morne Morkel to lose off stump. Jordan Thompson and Duanne Olivier added a quickfire 34 for the final wicket but Thompson was last man out to open the door for Surrey.
It had been the sort of morning that Surrey needed to kickstart their season. Inducing two collapses to force the most unlikeliest of victories might have done that, but the draw keeps them 61 points adrift of Somerset.
Any hopes of title retention appear slim, to say the least.
“Obviously it’s tricky with so much rain about, but the way the guys came in and used what was on offer with the wicket and got in a position where were trying to push to win the game was quite impressive,” said Foakes, captain in the absence of the injured Rory Burns.
“The wickets we’ve played on, they’ve been result wickets so if you’re playing good cricket you know you’re going to be on the right end of them, but it is just putting everything together and putting that performance in throughout the team and sneaking over the line.”
Rain has now intervened in Yorkshire’s last three matches and, although it helped the visitors on the final day, they would surely have fancied their chances over four days against the misfiring champions. They sit 36 points off the pace but, importantly, are yet to face Somerset.
“We can only do what we can do,” head coach Andrew Gale said. “Somerset have had a fantastic start to the season, they’re the team to beat at the minute.
“They’re playing the cricket that we played in periods when we won the Championship, grasping results when other teams aren’t.
“They’re the team to beat but we said from the start of the season we’re not the finished article but we’ve just got to keep doing what we can do and see where that takes us.”