Lancashire battle back to set up tense final day at the Oval
Amar Virdi took 3 for 61 in a 21-over spell, with each wicket greeted by his now-trademark arms-aloft celebratory run into the outfield, as Surrey strived for a seventh Specsavers County Championship victory in nine games by beating Division One strugglers Lancashire in the pink-ball contest at the Kia Oval.
At stumps, however, Lancashire had fought hard to reach 177 for 5 in their second innings, just 94 runs away from reaching their 271-run victory target, with Steven Croft on 28 not out and Josh Bohannon unbeaten on 22.
The sixth wicket pair have so far added 52 in 19 overs, and they gritted it out impressively under the floodlights in the final session. Croft has faced 74 balls, hitting two fours, while Bohannon has yet to find the ropes in a gutsy 66-ball effort that continues an eye-catching championship debut.
The 21-year-old from Bolton hit an excellent 52 in Lancashire’s first innings and has also bowled his medium-pacers usefully in this match.
Virdi followed up his initial scalp of Alex Davies removing both Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Rob Jones in the final session as Lancashire lost three wickets inside 12 overs immediately after the third day’s second interval.
Rikki Clarke struck in the second over of the last session, pinning Dane Vilas leg-before for 3 and, when Chanderpaul edged Virdi to slip to go for 2 and Jones’s excellent 48 was ended by a second brilliant reaction catch by Will Jacks at short leg, Lancashire had stumbled to 125 for 5.
Jones, the 22-year-old batsman, had fought hard through 89 balls in a stay of almost two hours. He had driven Virdi high over long on for six to go into double figures and also hit six fours before he advanced to the off spinner, nicked hard on to his front pad as he tried to whip to leg and saw Jacks move smartly to his left to take the catch.
At the start of the innings, Davies struck 35 from 38 balls to launch Lancashire’s chase in some style, but Virdi’s wicket-haul started when he was brought on for the 12th over, at 45 without loss, and with his second ball had Davies superbly caught by Jacks, the substitute fielder, at short leg.
Davies had greeted the introduction of Morne Morkel in the fourth over – after Jade Dernbach had left the field after bowling just one over with the new ball, suffering a recurrence of a groin injury – by thumping the giant former South African fast bowler’s fourth ball through extra cover for four, and then driving his fifth ball high to wide long off for six.
He then square cut Morkel thrillingly to the ropes and had hit six fours in all, plus that remarkable six, when Jacks clung on to a clip off the face of the bat low to his right.
Morkel , however,then returned for a second burst from the Vauxhall End and dismissed Lancashire’s other opener Haseeb Hameed leg-before for 20, as they reached tea at 93 for 2.
Earlier, Lancashire’s challenging victory target had been set after Surrey moved from their overnight 197 for 4 to 306 all out, with tailenders Dernbach and Morkel featuring in an important ninth wicket stand for the second time in the match.
They had added an unlikely 56 in Surrey’s first innings of 211 and, this time, they put on 51 with Morkel playing some handsome drives in his 29, before Graham Onions spread-eagled his stumps, and Dernbach being left 24 not out when No 11 Virdi was bowled for nought by Joe Mennie.
The third day began with Sam Curran adding just four runs to his overnight 27 before slashing at a short ball from Tom Bailey and edging to keeper Vilas to go for 31.
Ben Foakes – who resumed on 20 – battled on doggedly, in conditions that were still testing despite facing an older ball, but on 33 he edged a fine ball from Mennie through to Vilas to leave Surrey 226 for 6.
Ryan Patel was leg-before to leg spinner Matt Parkinson on 14 and Clarke, dropped at deep mid on when he had made 2 as Chanderpaul failed to hold on to a skier off Parkinson, was almost immediately leg-before to Onions for 19 when Lancashire took the second new ball.