Words by Mark Baldwin ECB Reporters Network
Ben Brown’s battling 95 held Hampshire’s batting together after champions Surrey had threatened to overwhelm them with an impressive five-man pace attack on day one of their much-anticipated LV= Insurance County Championship match at the Kia Oval.
Hampshire, for a long time last season Surrey’s closest rivals for the title, were struggling at 114 for six just after lunch, after opting to bat, but Brown was joined by Keith Barker in a determined seventh wicket stand of 96 in 35 overs as they made it to 254 to frustrate Rory Burns’ side.
By the close Surrey were 37 without loss in reply, from 14 overs, with Burns and Dom Sibley looking solid on 23 and 12 not out respectively.
Yet it might have been a day totally dominated by Surrey if Brown, on 3, had not survived a difficult chance to Tom Lawes on the deep backward square leg boundary when he aimed a pull at Sean Abbott. In addition, Hampshire opener Fletcha Middleton, who made 32, was dropped on 0 by keeper Jamie Smith off Kemar Roach.
Lawes, brought in to Surrey’s side due to Ben Foakes’ absence with a minor back complaint – Smith taking the gloves – finished with 4 for 58, with the rest of Hampshire’s wickets shared out between the the other four seamers and last man Mohammad Abbas run out for a duck after being sent back by James Fuller, who made a useful unbeaten 23.
Keeper-batsman Brown, the former Sussex captain who moved to Hampshire last year, fought for almost four hours while Barker’s 58 occupied 130 balls. It was a particularly spirited effort from the pair given that Hampshire have been beaten by an innings in their last two visits to the Oval, in 2021 and 2022, failing to total more than 227 in those four innings.
Surrey struck two early blows through West Indies Test fast bowler Roach, who had Felix Organ leg-before for 8 in the fourth over and then, from around the wicket, bowled Nick Gubbins for 2 when the left-hander tried to withdraw his bat at the last moment but only succeeded in deflecting the ball down into his stumps.
A mini-revival ended when James Vince, after three fours in his 18, pushed hard at Abbott and edged to first slip where Sibley held on at the second attempt, falling to his right.
And, in the next over, the 14th of the innings, Hampshire slumped further to 39 for 4 when Lawes struck with his second ball, a magnificent leg-cutter that hit Liam Dawson’s off stump to send him back for 1.
But Middleton and Brown, after his early escape, did well to add 49 with Brown driving Abbott through extra cover and past mid off for fours before taking ten runs from Jordan Clark’s opening over.
At 88, however, Clark produced a beauty to feather the edge of Middleton’s defensive bat 15 minutes before lunch and when Ian Holland fell soon afterwards, held in the gully off Dan Worrall for 5, it seemed as if Surrey were on course to bowl out Hampshire for a below-par score.
But Brown, completing his half-century from 79 balls, withstood all that Surrey’s pace quintet could throw at him while Barker hung on grimly despite looking uncomfortable against the short ball.
That batting was never straightforward, even on a decent surface, was perhaps best illustrated in the 51st over when Brown, on 59, was beaten by a brute of a delivery from 20-year-old tyro Lawes, which pitched on leg stump and lifted and left him so sharply that Smith did well to claw it down as he twisted back to his right behind the stumps.
Hampshire reached tea at 179 for 6, but Brown had added only another 13 runs after the interval before Lawes pinned him leg-before with a full-length inswinger. He had faced 167 balls, hitting 11 fours.
Barker was eventually caught down the legside by Smith, pulling at Lawes, who then yorked Kyle Abbott for 2 before Fuller turned down a second run to long off to leave Abbas stranded.
Words by Mark Baldwin ECB Reporters network
A truncated second day’s play at the Kia Oval allowed Surrey only to move to 153 for 4 in reply to Hampshire’s first innings 254 in their LV= Insurance County Championship clash, with England’s Ollie Pope unbeaten on 48.
Surrey lost the wickets of Dom Sibley, Rory Burns, Ryan Patel and Jordan Clark in the 43.3 overs bowled across four separate sessions before play was eventually called off at 6.10pm – just over half an hour after the players had left the field for what proved to be the final time.
Rain meant only 25 minutes’ play was initially possible in the morning session, ahead of an early lunch, in which Burns and Sibley added just five more runs to Surrey’s overnight 37 without loss.
But a restart at 1.25pm almost immediately brought a first success for Hampshire’s quicker bowlers with Sibley (16) edging the metronomic Mohammad Abbas to Liam Dawson at second slip, from the seventh ball of the afternoon.
Pope was comprehensively beaten by the second ball he faced, from Pakistan international Abbas, and on 4 edged Keith Barker at catchable height straight between first and second slips.
Surrey captain Burns, who had resumed on 23, fell for a well-made 45 when Abbas came from around the wicket to produce a fine ball which forced the left-hander to thin-edge to keeper Ben Brown.
New batsman Patel initially struggled to get going against tight bowling from both Abbas and Kyle Abbott, but he then took ten runs from three balls off Ian Holland’s medium pace and also produced a lovely extra cover driven four off Abbott.
On 20, however, Patel edged a drive at James Fuller and saw James Vince cling on to a sharp tumbling catch at chest height at first slip.
Pope, having flipped Fuller’s first ball off his pads for his fourth boundary earlier in that over, was joined by Clark, who almost chopped his second ball – from Holland – into his stumps just before the players went off for a second time at 3.15pm.
After resuming at 3.45pm, following an early tea, only two more overs were bowled before bad light intervened again, with Clark’s clip past mid wicket off Abbas for two the only scoring shot.
An hour later, at 4.55pm, the players emerged again for a final mini-session of 9.3 overs in which Clark was leg-before to an Abbott nip-backer for 3 before Pope and Jamie Smith (9 not out) hung in determinedly while also playing the two strokes of the shortened day to take Surrey to within 101 runs of Hampshire’s total.
Smith clipped Abbas powerfully wide on mid on for four and Pope then danced down the pitch to drive Abbott with a flourish to the extra cover ropes, but the light soon became unplayable again and no more cricket was possible.
Abbas, with figures of 21-7-39-2, bowled testingly throughout in the bowler-friendly conditions and Abbott was not far behind him with 1 for 35 from his 15 overs overall.
Words by Mark Baldwin ECB Reporters network
Mohammad Abbas’ superlative 6 for 64 and a fighting 79 not out from 181 balls by Nick Gubbins vied for Hampshire’s top billing as their LV= Insurance County Championship clash against Surrey moved towards an exciting finish during a riveting third day’s play at the Kia Oval.
For Surrey, it was Ollie Pope with 91 and Dan Worrall’s 3 for 30 which did most to keep their own hopes of victory alive, but Hampshire reached stumps on 198 for 5 – a lead of 182 – as Gubbins added a potentially match-deciding unbroken stand of 79 with Ian Holland, who was unbeaten on a stubborn 76-ball 25 when bad light ruled out the last ten scheduled overs.
Fast bowler Worrall, Surrey’s leading wicket-taker in last season’s title-winning campaign, struck twice with the new ball and later returned to end Ben Brown’s 61-run fifth wicket partnership with Gubbins.
Earlier Surrey’s first innings of 270 was a total boosted by a late 40-ball 52 not out by Australian paceman Sean Abbott, who certainly showed he can also wield a bat by blasting two sixes and seven fours in a timely effort.
It gave Surrey a modest 16-run first innings lead at the lunch interval, and Hampshire were soon struggling for survival as Worrall bowled Fletcha Middleton for 15 with a beauty that hit the top of off stump and then saw Felix Organ (11) taken at the second attempt by Dom Sibley at first slip in his fourth and fifth overs.
Abbott followed up by having James Vince caught at second slip by Pope for 1 in the next over, forcing loosely in all-too-familiar fashion, and Hampshire were suddenly 34 for 3.
Worrall’s opening salvo earned him figures of 6-2-17-2 and his replacement from the Pavilion End, the 20-year-old Tom Lawes, kept up the pressure on Hampshire by striking in his second over to bowl Liam Dawson for 10 with a perfect outswinger.
Brown, though, Hampshire’s first innings top-scorer with 95, top-edged a pull at Lawes for six over long leg and both he and Gubbins also struck fours, square cut and on-driven, in an over costing 15.
It seemed to tip the balance of the game back towards Hampshire as bright sunshine also bathed the ground throughout the two afternoon sessions, making batting considerably more comfortable, and there was an almost visible sense of relief in Surrey ranks when Worrall pinned Brown leg-before for 32.
But there was no further joy for Surrey’s five-pronged pace attack after Holland joined Gubbins – Holland upper-cutting Jordan Clark over the slips for four and Gubbins, on 48, edging Kemar Roach just short of first slip. Yet Gubbins, with nine fours overall, was otherwise in control in an excellent knock.
Surrey had begun the day 101 runs behind at 153 for 4, and Abbas and Kyle Abbott were soon in partnership again as batting continued to be difficult beneath overcast skies.
Pope, on 48 overnight, soon completed his gritty half-century but then Jamie Smith was bowled through the gate for 11 by an Abbott off-cutter and for some time it seemed as if Hampshire’s pace attack were capable of earning their team a healthy first-innings lead.
Cameron Steel, though, dug in resolutely alongside Pope and even managed to whip a ball from James Fuller off his pads behind square for six – a remarkable stroke to the long boundary on the Harleyford Road side of the ground.
But when Surrey’s total had reached 201 a similar stroke brought Steel’s downfall on 11, with Middleton at deep mid-wicket taking the catch, and much now looked to depend on Pope if Surrey were to match Hampshire’s 254.
Sean Abbott, however, almost immediately began to take the attack back to the Hampshire seamers, as the second new ball loomed, and it was a major surprise when, nine runs short of what would have been his 11th first-class hundred at the Oval, Pope aimed to dab a ball from Abbas down to third man only to deflect it instead into his stumps.
Pope’s reaction to his own error, an angry bat swish, told of his intense disappointment to have got out with the second new ball less than two overs old and with Surrey still short of a halfway lead. His innings, though, was still a major contribution in the context of such a hard-fought contest and, in the testing conditions in which he had batted, one of his finest for his county.
Roach hit one classy straight four off Abbas before the Pakistan international had him leg-before for 5, half-forward, but any uncertainty about who was to claim the halfway honours was then quickly put to bed by Abbott’s magnificent late assault.
Keith Barker’s left-arm swingers were struck for 4, 6, 4 from successive balls – a murderous blow though long on’s hands, a clean hit high over wide mid wicket and then a thumping swat past mid off – and in the next over Abbott also lofted Abbas way over the long on ropes for a second six before the bowler ended the merriment by castling No 11 Worrall for 2.
Words by Mark Baldwin ECB Reporters Network
It is only the LV= Insurance County Championship’s second week but Surrey’s impressive nine-wicket victory against Hampshire at the Kia Oval was a resoundingly powerful statement of intent from last season’s champions.
Needing to score 243 from 72 overs after finishing off Hampshire’s second innings on 258, Ollie Pope’s scintillating unbeaten 122 from 102 balls sped them to a 20-point win with 16.4 overs in hand, while Dom Sibley played a superb anchor role with 79 not out. The pair added an unbroken 193 in 30 overs for Surrey’s second wicket with, by the end, complete freedom.
Hampshire however, for much of last year Surrey’s closest challengers for the title, fully contributed to a terrific toe-to-toe contest over the four days but, in the end, as overhead conditions eased and the pitch remained good, Surrey’s all-round strength saw them pull away in devastating style in the final session of the match.
Pope was annoyed to miss out on an 11th Oval first-class hundred in the first innings, even though he had kept Surrey in the game with a hard-fought 91 when batting was far more difficult, and he treated a good-sized Sunday crowd to a stream of memorable strokes after a solid opening stand of 54 between Sibley and Rory Burns.
An extraordinary six off fast bowler James Fuller was struck tennis-fashion over the keeper’s head and one drilled straight drive for four, from a skip or two down the pitch against the same bowler, will live long in the memory.
Pope struck three sixes and 14 fours in total, finishing the match in style by lofting Felix Organ’s off spin for successive sixes, after cruising to his half-century from 60 deliveries, while Sibley faced 144 balls, hitting 10 fours.
Earlier, Dan Worrall's 5 for 40 from 17 overs provided the main cutting edge in a five-man Surrey pace battery that, to a man, played its part in the win that followed a high-scoring draw with Lancashire at Old Trafford in the opening week. There were also two wickets apiece for Kemar Roach and Tom Lawes.
It took Surrey 22 overs, at the start of the day, to finish off Hampshire’s second innings after they had resumed on 198 for 5. With 14 overs still to be bowled before the second new ball was due, the onus was on Hampshire to press on in that first hour, but their cause was not helped when Nick Gubbins edged a fine ball from Lawes to first slip with just ten runs added to the overnight total.
Gubbins had made only five more on day four but his 84 was a mature, responsible innings that had rescued Hampshire from the depths of 34 for 3, and then 58 for 4, midway through the third afternoon.
Ian Holland, on 25 when the final day began, continued his own excellent innings and with new batsman Fuller put together another valuable 33 for the seventh wicket.
Fuller, with clear instructions to attack the bowling, had slashed his first ball, from Lawes, high over the slips for four and he also clipped the 20-year-old powerfully to the mid wicket ropes, but on 23 he fell to Roach in the first over of the second new ball.
After lofting a drive just short of a diving Burns at mid off, and getting two runs for it, Fuller again aimed to hit Roach’s third ball on the up and this time succeeded only in lobbing a gentle catch to cover.
Keith Barker made six before getting in a tangle trying to hook Worrall and splicing to keeper Smith and Holland was left unbeaten on 46 when last man Abbas was pinned in front by Worrall to go for a duck.
Surrey’s chase was given the perfect, measured start by Burns and Sibley, who initially blunted the Hampshire pace attack with careful application studded by the occasional stroke of authority – such as Sibley’s whipped four to mid wicket off Mohammad Abbas and leg glanced and extra cover driven boundaries by Burns off Barker and Abbas respectively.
The opening stand had occupied 25 overs when Kyle Abbott was finally rewarded for some classy, probing bowling from around the wicket to Burns, having him well held for 35 at first slip by James Vince after beating him several times off the pitch.
Pope, however, then arrived at the crease and – suddenly – a potentially awkward victory target began to shrink to something easily attainable in the time still left in the game.