After a day's cricket that can only be described, for the most part in any case, as painful to listen to Surrey have their noses just ahead on 95-4, needing 46 runs to win.
In all 19 wickets fell on day three as the wicket became increasingly difficult to predict with the ball seaming extravagantly. Surrey's final five first innings wickets fell in quick time and in the end it was a collapse of ten wickets for 137 runs. Of the final six batsmen only Jon Lewis made it into double figures.
As if to emphasise the deterioration of the pitch Middlesex bettered that collapse losing all ten wickets for just 106 runs in less than 36 overs. Zander de Bruyn, again handed the new ball, this time repaid his captain's faith with two wickets in the first six overs. Hats off to Hamilton-Brown for sticking with the plan.
Malan and Robson then steadied the ship somewhat with a partnership of 36 before the carnage began. Jon Lewis in particular ran riot with 5-41 as the final eight Middlesex wickets tumbled for 41 runs. Dernbach chipped in with the important wickets of Robson and Malan while the other three bowlers were barely needed.
That gave Middlesex a lead of 140, not substantial under normal circumstances but since Rudolph and Davies' partnership twenty wickets had fallen for just 243 runs. These were far from normal circumstances.
Surrey's chase was only five overs old before the first wicket went down, that of Rudolph for six, swiftly followed an over later by Davies for eight. Ramprakash endured another tough stay at the crease but was gone six overs later leaving Surrey tottering at 22-3. 141 looked an awfully long way off.
That left de Bruyn and the skipper knowing they had plenty of work to do and they responded with a positive partnership of 46, driven mostly by Hamilton-Brown. Collymore then accounted for de Bruyn and the game was firmly back in the balance, 68-4 with 73 still needed.
Tom Maynard and Hamilton-Brown, the rescuers against Sussex, were again positive and an unbeaten partnership of 27 saw Surrey through to close. The captain went to an impressive 50 in the process. The only other scores of 50+ in the game have been scored at a rate of no more than 43 runs per hundred balls, Hamilton-Brown's was scored at a rate of over 90 runs per hundred balls.
So with only 46 runs required it would be tempting to say it will be simple enough for Surrey, but 19 wickets in a day says otherwise. Hamilton-Brown and Maynard will need to start all over again in the morning, and the pitch is unlikely to be any friendlier. The pair will look to attack and in Jordan, Batty and Lewis we have three batsmen to come who aren't likely to block out many overs. It could go one of two ways, but either way it probably won't take long. Here's hoping we make it two wins out of two.
The Steve Smith infographic
1 day ago