Warwickshire 293 (Norwell 64) and 166 for 9 dec (Rhodes 54, Batty 8-64) beat Surrey 188 (Foakes 57*) and 141 (Clarke 51*, Patel 8-36) by 130 runs
Risk-taking cricket of a kind all too rarely seen enabled struggling Warwickshire to break their losing habit in spectacular style by defeating County Champions Surrey at the end of an intriguing match that has probably ended the possibility of Surrey taking the title again.
Rory Burns has seen his team fail to win in four matches, leaving them well adrift of leaders Hampshire and Somerset. His veteran off-spinner Gareth Batty took 10 wickets in the match, including a career-best eight for 64 and a hat-trick in Warwickshire’s second innings, but it was not enough to turn the contest in Surrey’s favour.
This was because Batty was eclipsed by his opposite number on the Warwickshire side. Jeetan Patel, who at a mere 39 concedes seniority to 41-year-old Batty, took 12 in the match, including 8 for 36 in the second innings – a career-best for him, too – to bowl Surrey out for 141 with just fewer than 10 overs remaining.
It had not been the best of pitches – “turgid” to use Patel’s own description – but there was more than enough in the surface for his skills to be used to deadly effect. He bowled two, dismissed four leg before, had one caught at short leg and another at backward square leg, when he found some extra bounce with a ball that took the top edge as Ben Foakes swept.
Henry Brookes, the 19-year-old fast bowler who is one of the young players now central to Warwickshire’s future, took the other two wickets, vital ones too. He had Burns leg before with a fast and straight delivery that removed one of the best chances Surrey had to win the game, and came back later as the finisher. Replacing Patel at the Birmingham End after a 31-over unbroken spell by the former New Zealand Test spinner – his second such marathon stint in the match – he struck with his fourth delivery to end the game as last-man Matt Dunn chopped the ball into his stumps.
Defiantly at the other end stood Rikki Clarke, in his first match on this ground since leaving Warwickshire for The Oval two years ago, his two-hour unbeaten half-century a vigil in vain.
Patel’s team, who for the moment relegate Nottinghamshire to the bottom of the Division One table, had been beaten in all their three matches before this and even though they had a lead of 181 going into the final day, with eight wickets in hand, you suspected their tactics would be conservative.
Having been the better side through much of the match before rain washed out two sessions on day three, it seemed unlikely they would risk giving Surrey a chance to further damage their fragile confidence.
Instead, the opposite happened. Will Rhodes and Sam Hain, the not-out batsmen overnight, looked to push the scoreboard along from the outset, and even after the loss of Rhodes for 54 and Adam Hose after he had made only nine, and they were beginning to look a little vulnerable, there was no change of approach.
In the end, it all descended into mayhem. Five wickets fell in the space of four overs for 12 runs, after which Patel suddenly declared at 166 for 9, which looked a strange decision given that last man Liam Norwell, whose 64 had done so much to give Warwickshire the upper hand, had not even faced a ball. No one looked more surprised than Batty, who had a hat-trick to his name after Tim Ambrose, Patel and then Brookes had taken it in turns to hit him straight to fielders on the leg side, yet stood with his arms folded across his chest, almost as if he was too embarrassed to celebrate.
Yet, as Patel revealed afterwards, it had all gone pretty much to plan.
“We talked about it in the dressing room last night, having had a day where we’d hardly got on the field because of the weather, and we decided we wanted to set them between 260 and 280 off 74 overs, which meant we had to score 80 to 100 off 20,” he said.
“Going at five might sound easy but on a wicket that was turgid and slow against a good bowling attack that wasn’t going to be easy. What I was proud of was that the guys never backed down, they did not take the easy option.
“Some people might say it was a bit reckless but we never thought about going for a draw to avoid a defeat. Three losses in a row would probably suggest we needed to look for a win, not just for the competition but for ourselves after all the hard work we have put in.
“I’m delighted to have passed my old career best, obviously, but more pleased to contribute to a win. As a leader I have to be the guy who puts his hand up to do a job.”
On what looked like an inspired decision to bring back Brookes at a moment when Clarke, effectively, needed to protect his partner from Patel for just five more overs, he said: “It was not the case that I didn’t think I could get that last wicket myself but in the first innings Brookesy got Dunn out leg before pretty quickly, and he is the sort of character that wants to win games.”
Batty conceded that Surrey, who were so impressive last season that some commentators saw them dominating the Championship for years to come, conceded that defending their title now looks improbable. Yet he felt that is not so much a reflection of any shortcomings on their part as of the high quality of English domestic cricket at the top level.
“I think it just shows – and I truly mean this – that our first-class system in England is the best in the world,” he said. “First Division cricket is as good as you get and as tough as you get.
“We need to be on guard against all the teams because the quality is very, very good. We played at Taunton against Somerset the other week and Marcus Trescothick said it was as close to international cricket as he has witnessed in his career.
“I think we need to cherish our game and respect it. I think it is a wonderful product and it just shows that you cannot just turn up and expect to anything to happen, whether you are seen as the best team or the worst team.
“The quality of players is as good as it ever has been, if not getting a bit stronger. I feel like we need to champion some of the good stuff we do in the English game rather than trying to concoct reasons as to why we need to change things.”
Source: ESPN Crickinfo