BUTCHER LET DOWN BY HIS BOWLERS by Marcus Hook
Surrey 501-7d & 136-3d v Worcestershire 353-9d & 287-8. Worcestershire win by 2 wickets.
On an extraordinary final day, which nearly fell victim to the weather, Surrey ended up with egg on their faces as Worcestershire pulled off an astonishing two-wicket win with one ball to spare in failing light. After originally being set a target of 285 in 62 overs, rain resulted in the visitors needing to chase the runs down in just thirty-two. The flaw in Mark Butcher's decision to throw the game open was that it made no allowance for the buffet-style bowling his seamers, in particular, were to later serve up.
The damage was done before the players were forced from the field at 2.35pm, for a stoppage lasting more than two hours. Prior to this contest Surrey had not conceded a first wicket partnership greater than twenty-two this summer, but they could only watch as Phil Jaques and Stephen Moore put together their second three-figure stand of the match. The Worcestershire openers took full toll of some wayward bowling - fuelled, in part, by a wet ball - to post 95 without loss off the 8.4 overs that were possible before the recess.
As soon as Jaques collected four boundaries off Azhar Mahmood's opening over, three to the cut stroke, it was obvious that the hosts would struggle to keep a lid on things. By the time Rikki Clarke's first ball was pulled for six, the Brown Caps' body language was palpably depressing. Moments later Jaques went to a 28-ball half-century.
The break for rain should have been Surrey's saviour. The runs kept on coming, however, as Butcher opted to form an eight-man circle on the boundary rope, rather than protect one side of the wicket and urge his bowlers to do likewise. But if there was a plan of attack in the minds of Akram and Mahmood it was indiscernible.
In the twelfth over Jacques launched a short one from Azhar for six. Each of the next two overs from Mohammad Akram saw the ball sail over the wicketkeeper's head for four byes; the second coming off yet another no-ball.
Moore slog-swept Ian Salisbury for six in the leg spinner's first over, which yielded eleven runs, but was run out in the eighteenth by a pick-up, spin and direct hit to the non-striker's end from the bowler, Azhar Mahmood. But the respite was only short lived as Jaques tucked into Nayan Doshi in the twentieth over, which witnessed the Aussie cutting the left-arm spinner for four to reach his century off just 64 balls.
When Salisbury accounted for Jaques and Solanki in consecutive balls, both courtesy of well-judged catches at deep mid-wicket, all three results suddenly came into view. With ten overs remaining Worcestershire had got the target down to 79, but then Graeme Hick slog swept Salisbury for six, made room in the next over and cover drove Doshi and then lifted the 27-year-old over the rope at long-on in the twenty-sixth over. Next ball, however, Hick fell to a catch at deep backward square leg.
Doshi's next over brought the wickets of Batty and Davies. That left the visitors needing 33 off four, but not even the departure of Kabir Ali affected their resolve. Going into the last over they needed nine to win. Ray Price hit the second delivery straight up the ground for four, but was then brilliantly caught at deep mid-wicket by Chris Thompson. Smith took a leg bye off the fourth ball and with four needed off two Zaheer Khan launched Doshi for a huge six over long-on to secure an incredible victory for his side.
With wickets falling in the third and fourth overs of the day to catches at slip, Azhar Mahmood became only the sixth player to take five catches in an innings for Surrey in the County Championship. It also left the visitors 35 adrift of saving the follow-on with two wickets still intact. However, with Zaheer giving it the long handle, the prospect of Worcestershire being re-inserted had all but diminished by the time he was caught at backward point off a thick edge to give Doshi his sixth victim. The left-arm spinner finished with 6-91, his best figures - by some distance - at the Oval, but for the first time in his career a ten-wicket haul of his coincided with defeat for Surrey.
Taking a lead of 148 into their second dig, the Brown Caps telegraphed their intentions by opening with Benning and Brown. But, like their efforts to put the visitors under pressure in the gloaming, their endeavours to set a target did not go according to plan.
James Benning was caught at the finer of two gullies off the second ball and in the third over, which saw the introduction of Stephen Moore's friendly medium-pace, Alistair Brown picked out Nadeem Malik, who was fielding as substitute for Matt Mason, at mid-off.
Twenty-seven for two became 41-3 in the fourth over when Ben Smith claimed his fourth first-class wicket in 269 appearances - that of Mark Butcher who mistimed a drive and was caught at mid-off. When, on the stroke of lunch, Moore sent down a nine-ball over, which went for 31 and included six fours by Azhar, it seemed as if the home side might give themselves two whole sessions on a turning pitch to dismiss their opponents.
Surrey batted on for eight balls after the break, though not before Clarke had made an unbeaten 57 off 23 balls.