Surrey were confidently expected to be slaughtered by Hampshire, and why not? Humiliated by Yorkshire last week, they were set 503 to win and had already lost two wickets when play began on a fine morning. Shane Warne and Shaun Udal - the best pair of spinners in the Championship - were bowling and although the wicket was benign, the confidence of the Surrey batsmen had been brutalised in their first innings of 203: Warne 5 for 45.
Except that they damn nearly did it. When the last hour began Surrey were only 77 runs short of the target with three wickets left. Azhar Mahmood and Ian Salisbury had already put on 140 for the seventh wicket, and if they kept it going to 503 they would have made the memorable contribution to the highest score in a fourth innings to win a Championship game. Quite suddenly, prospects of a Surrey victory had shifted from utterly improbable to entirely possible.
Mahmood and Salisbury were routinely plundering Warne and Udal for fours and sixes. Hampshire's fielders appealed loudly for a succession of lbws and caught behinds, but umpires Graham Burgess and Vanburn Holder were not giving them.
Runs continued to flow and then, with 447 on the board and 12 overs to go, more drama. Udal, fielding off his own bowling, fell, rolled over twice and failed to get up. He was carried off on a makeshift stretcher, and went to hospital with a suspected broken ankle - the best pair of spinners sundered for a while. This is Salisbury's benefit year and he had given away 197 runs in Hampshire's two innings in what must have seemed like a particular benefit performance for the batsmen. But he began to restore some balance when he reached his century off 118 balls, with 84 of his runs coming in boundaries (18 fours, two sixes). He heaved Warne over the midwicket boundary as though this were some club game against an occasional bowler.
Sorry to say, the story ends in anti-climax, for Surrey and the spectators anyway. With the score on 460 Mahmood drove hard but straight back to James Tomlinson, who juggled with the ball before holding his arms aloft. The stand was broken at last, after raising 177 runs.
Get one and you'll get two, and two runs later Warne tossed the ball up, Salisbury danced down the wicket, was beaten by the spin and was stumped. His flamboyant, improbable innings of 103 was worth a few more bob in the collection plate. The last wicket fell with 5.4 overs left and Surrey were a mere 35 runs short.
The heroics had been made possible by a sturdy fourth-wicket stand of 129 between Jon Batty, a former captain, and Mark Butcher, the present captain, who consolidated Surrey's innings after they lost a third wicket on 113. Both Batty and Butcher had been dropped in the first 30 minutes of the day, and both were still there at lunch. By mid-afternoon, Udal had them both caught behind, Batty after scoring 121, the highest score of the innings.
Udal had taken four of the first seven wickets, Warne only two, but the old maestro kept coming back, and between them they took seven wickets, though the cost was 168 runs, which was rather more than they would have expected when play started seven hours earlier.Reuse content