Flat pitches, big runs and heavy demands on bowlers to earn their wickets might be what England believe the County Championship should be about but it is the low-scoring contests such as this that provide the most fun.
Surrey bowled out Nottinghamshire for 191 yesterday, which reflected well on the effort put in by their seamers, but they still face a tough final day if they are not to lose at Trent Bridge for the first time since 1992.
Stuart Meaker, who has bowled as sharply as anyone in the Championship this season, took four wickets for the second time in the match and he was well backed up by Jade Dernbach and Tim Linley, but one way or another, Luke Fletcher was clearly intent on being the key player.
Nottinghamshire’s outstanding bowler as Surrey were dismissed for 207 in the first innings, Fletcher’s ability to wield a bat served a benefit for his side as well. In an extended stay as nightwatchman, the broad, bustling 24-year-old biffed his way to 26 off 38 balls. He rode his luck a little, dropped twice in the slips before one finally stuck, but his bold approach deserved a bit of fortune. Given that the top score in the innings was Samit Patel’s 37, they were valuable runs.
Later in the day, as Surrey began their pursuit of a testing last-innings target of 259, he struck two quick blows with the ball, producing a brute of a delivery that saw a startled Jason Roy edge high to first slip before persuading Arun Harinath to push fatally at one that left him outside off stump.In the same Fletcher spell, Vikram Solanki chanced a quick single to mid-on and was run out brilliantly by Steven Mullaney’s direct hit as Surrey wobbled precariously at 29 for 3.
The visitors might have put themselves in a better position had they held their catches, of which four went down in the day. Even so, none of the Nottinghamshire batsmen who looked as though they might provide a substantial innings was able to get away. Ed Cowan, who batted four and a half hours in the match for his 35 runs, faced 97 balls for his 20 before being bowled off the inside edge.
The floodlights were on most of the day, regularly putting the umpires in a dilemma over whether conditions were safe for batsmen to see the red ball, although Michael Lumb, given out leg before to Linley, and James Taylor, caught at second slip, might have wondered how well the officials themselves were seeing it. Lumb appeared to be convinced he had put bat to ball and if Taylor’s catch carried, it was only just.