Saturday, 21 April 2012

Captain Marvel sets up intriguing finish

If the London weather behaves itself tomorrow we could see a second nerve-jangling finish in seven days. Surrey ended the day 131-6 in their second innings, a lead of 152 runs after a frantic day's play.

Surrey began the day looking to add to their overnight total of 123, but the final three wickets only managed to add 17 runs. Meaker flashed at one from Alan Richardson to give him a sixth wicket, Ben Scott taking a superb one-handed catch to his left. Gareth Batty looked ill-at-ease at the crease, struggling to find any timing at all before he managed to crunch one through the covers. It was to be his last scoring shot though as two balls later he edged Lucas into the slips. Last man Dernbach saw off only one ball before offering Scott his second catch of the morning.

That meant Surrey's last 20 wickets had fallen for just 277 runs and we looked to be on the back foot. The Worcestershire reply began sedately, the first four overs producing only five runs. Jon Lewis then made the breakthrough in the fifth as Klinger aimed a pretty average shot at a good length ball which Lewis may have held back slightly. Zander de Bruyn was again given four new-ball overs and in them rarely presented the batsmen with any trouble.

When Meaker was introduced in the ninth over he was immediately more dangerous, rapping the knuckles of Vikram Solanki with a sharp ball short of a length. Solanki was gone soon after offering a leading edge off Lewis to Chris Jordan at cover point who took an excellent diving catch. Meaker was then into his stride bowling quickly and full of length, he trapped Moeen LBW and had Mitchell well caught at second slip before lunch. Worcestershire went into the break reeling at 39-4.

After lunch there was no let up. Ten balls into the afternoon session Lewis picked up his third wicket, Kervezee offering Maynard his third slip catch of the innings. Just three overs later Meaker picked up his third wicket, Ben Scott for just one, having been hit in the unmentionables by Lewis a few balls before. Maynard was in action again as Choudhry became his fourth slip catch of the day to give Meaker his fourth wicket.

Meaker's spell was extended by the captain in search of a five-for and his hundredth first class wicket. It duly arrived in typical Meaker style as David Lucas' off stump was sent a good few yards back. Worcestershire were 74-8 and Stuart Meaker had ripped through their batting.

Chris Jordan was introduced into the attack and bowled a disappointing four over spell which produced no wickets and leaked 20 runs. A 50 run first innings lead had looked possible with Meaker in full flight but Jordan's wayward spell allowed Cameron and Jones to mount a mini fightback. Dernbach broke the stand in the end, having Jones caught at slip and the captain turned again to Meaker to finish the innings, which he did, having Cameron caught behind for a dogged 41.

That meant a first innings lead of just 21 and with only five sessions remaining a result still seemed unlikely. But the tricky bounce and swinging conditions meant the fun continued. Surrey's second innings went the way of the first as five wickets fell for just 50 runs in less than 20 overs. Ramprakash registered his sixth consecutive sub-25 score and his place will soon come into question, if it isn't already. He badly needs time in the middle, he's hit just seven fours in six innings, April is not a time for a batsman to find form.

Hamilton-Brown though defied the odds with his fourth innings of substance in tricky conditions of late, hitting a run-a-ball fifty in a match where only one other player has passed 40. Chris Jordan offered support, hitting just nine runs but hanging around for 55 balls, and Gareth Batty then helped his captain add 28 runs in five overs before the close.

So a lead of 152 runs with four wickets and three sessions remaining, a pitch offering varying bounce and conditions tomorrow which, if they don't force the players from the field, are likely to offer swing, a result now seems likely. If the rain stays away, you'll want to be at the Oval one way or another tomorrow.

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