The odds favoured Surrey, with all day to secure nine wickets against a Yorkshire side who would have needed to exceed a county record if they were successfully to chase a total of 356 to win, and effectively place themselves out of reach in the race for the title. If only Yorkshire supporters in their middle years and beyond can remember the last Championship in 1968, surely none survive who recall the 331 scored to defeat Middlesex at Lord's in 1910, which is as many as any Yorkshire side have made to win a match in the fourth innings.
It was a victory Surrey needed, too, to keep themselves in with a realistic chance of shattering Yorkshire's dream and ensuring the title remains at The Oval. But well though they bowled at times, they were unable to break a third-wicket partnership between Matthew Wood and Darren Lehmann that spanned almost four hours. Indeed, Lehmann completed his fourth century of the season, extending his aggregate in the last two matches to a highly impressive 458.
The young opener and the prolific Australian came together after Surrey achieved what was to be their only success 11 minutes into the day's play, when Martin Bicknell appealed successfully for a leg-before verdict against Anthony McGrath.
The teams were driven from the field after 25 minutes by a prolonged shower, and it was supposed that the consequential loss of 22 overs, in addition to the 42 trimmed from Friday's schedule, might have cost Surrey their chance. In the end, Wood and Lehmann batted with such authority that it was probably the home side whose opportunity was lost.
The dilemma for Adam Hollioake, Surrey's captain, was in judging how much he could attack, aware of the irreparable damage the majestic Lehmann might inflict, following his double century against Lancashire here a week ago. Pinning down the Australian left-hander is difficult at the best of times, and Surrey could not claim to have succeeded here, although by his standards Lehmann was restrained in reaching 69 in two-and-a-half hours by tea.
At least, with Bicknell and Ed Giddins bowling with admirable accuracy and gaining good support from Ben Hollioake, they prevented a full-blown Lehmann onslaught, his century coming off a relatively sedate 181 balls with 13 fours. Then again, Yorkshire's first objective was to avoid defeat, especially against Surrey. Having successfully seen off an ex-Prime Minister on the basis only of him being a Surrey man, they were hardly likely to hand them some easy points.
The row that blew up over the invitation to John Major to open the new West Stand at Headingley should be resolved at a committee meeting today, when an alternative guest of honour will be chosen, following the former PM's decision to decline the invitation. Ray Illingworth, Fred Trueman and Geoff Boycott all raised vociferous objection, not because Major is a Tory or anything other than a decent chap, but because, quite apart from not being a Yorkshireman, he is president of Surrey.
All three would presumably have admired the stubbornness clearly inherited by the 24-year-old Wood, the Yorkshire opener whose dogged defence was as valuable as Lehmann's assuredness in stifling Surrey's ambitions yesterday.
Following the success of Yorkshire's rookie off-spinner Richard Dawson in taking six Surrey wickets on a wearing pitch on Friday, the anticipated field day for Saqlain Mushtaq failed to materialise as the Pakistan star sent down 21 overs without a breakthrough. Wood, meanwhile, finished unbeaten on 85 after almost six hours at the crease, his partnership with Lehmann eventually worth 190.Reuse content