Batty out for count as Surrey hopes are battered

Surrey 411 and 94-0 Middlesex 385 Match drawn
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The Independent Online

While Jonathan Batty needed treatment for the second of two blows he received from the Middlesex pace bowler Ashley Noffke, the blow that the weather has delivered to Surrey's title aspirations is potentially far more serious.

After the third day was lost to rain, there were enough niggling stoppages and threats of a downpour yesterday to deter the captains from contriving a more positive finish than a draw - the first in a four-day match on this ground.

Batty was struck first on the grille of his helmet by a ball from Noffke, and immediately called for a replacement. Once armed with his new headgear, the wicketkeeper ducked into the next ball, another short delivery which barely got up. This time it was a lot harder, catching Batty behind his left ear. It dropped him to his knees for a compulsory count of nine minutes while his cornermen worked to get him back on his feet. Once up - but looking groggy - he was able to play out the last two balls before lunch. He stayed behind when they re-emerged, allowing Mark Ramprakash to take his place.

That did provide a little tension when, coincidentally, the former Middlesex man was also struck on the helmet, by a ball from the occasional bowler Ed Joyce. This was just after play had resumed following the deduction of a further eight overs.

Something about Joyce clanging Ramprakash appeared to amuse his erstwhile colleagues, and the Surrey batsman's face was blacker than the clouds when shortly afterwards heavier rain once more interrupted the almost pointless proceedings and drove the players off.

At that point Ramprakash was just 27 runs away from reaching 1,000 for the season - a feat he has achieved on 12 previous occasions. But persistent rain throughout and beyond tea meant the match was abandoned as a draw.

At least Surrey had time to pick up maximum bonus points, the fall of Simon Cook, lbw to Martin Bicknell, providing their third bowling bonus point. But with rivals Sussex breathing down their necks, it sets up a taut meeting between the two at Hove later this week - weather permitting, of course.

In polishing off the Middlesex first innings, Surrey were without Azhar Mahmood and captain Adam Hollioake, two more than useful prongs in attack, but the First Division leaders still did well, with Bicknell - on his home-club ground - doing the deed.

After accounting for Cook, he was presented with last man Chad Keegan. The South Africa-born all-rounder is no mug with the bat, but Jimmy Ormond and Bicknell had their tails up. The former had Keegan dropped in the slips before he had scored. The next ball also found the edge but flew over the slip cordon. Yet he did not last. Nash, on the threshold of a deserved hundred, pinched a single off the first ball of Bicknell's over and two balls later it was over, with Keegan bowled.