<
>

Amar Virdi claims 14 wickets for the match as Surrey crush Nottinghamshire

Amar Virdi bowls Getty Images

Surrey 240 (Elgar 59, Ashwin 6-69) and 224 for 9 dec (Smith 57, Clark 54, Ashwin 6-75) beat Nottinghamshire116 (Virdi 8-61) and 181 (Ashwin 66, Virdi 6-78) by 167 runs

If there were any newly-enthused cricket fans tempted to make the trip to Trent Bridge after the heady drama of Lord's it is to be hoped they were rooting for Surrey. Otherwise it could have been a fairly miserable experience as a flatter-than-flat Nottinghamshire sunk to another heavy defeat.

Only R Ashwin, who knows a thing or two about playing cricket on turning pitches, kept Surrey's knot of loyal followers from toasting their team's success while the Trent Bridge Inn was still serving lunch. Ashwin added an unbeaten 66, the highest individual score of the match, and with the help mainly of Stuart Broad's 30 managed to extend the agony until tea was due, the last two wickets putting on 91.

Not that it counted for anything, apart from a red-inker to go with Ashwin's 12 wickets in the match. Without a win in the Championship since June last year, it seems inconceivable that Nottinghamshire will not be relegated. Assuming Essex beat Warwickshire, they will at least be no further adrift at the bottom of the Division One table than at the start of this match, but it is no more than a straw to clutch at.

They face Warwickshire, at Trent Bridge in the penultimate match of the season, although their more cynical followers (most of them, it sometimes seems) would point out that if Nottinghamshire prepare a surface as friendly to Ashwin as this one has been, then Jeetan Patel might be the man to make the tactic backfire as comprehensively as Amar Virdi did in this contest.

Adding 6 for 78 to his 8 for 61 in the first innings, the off-spinner, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Friday, became the first Surrey bowler to take 14 or more wickets in a match since Martin Bicknell bagged 16 for 119 against Leicestershire at Guildford in 2000. A further measure of the achievement is that only six bowlers in the county's history have achieved 15. If he was at all rusty in his first Championship outing of the season, it did not show.

"It was quite a helpful pitch from the start, it stayed dry throughout and as the game went on there was a bit of rough," Virdi said. "It was clearly quite a big turning pitch. It is certainly one of the more spin-friendly pitches I've played on.

"I think there is no harm in having pitches like that once in a while and it was nice to play on, yes. My strategy really was just to bowl at the stumps, to make the batsman play the ball and to bowl round the wicket to keep all the dismissals in play."

The tactic paid off handsomely. Six of Virdi's victims across the two innings were leg before, another two bowled, although he would have to concede that the collective failure of Nottinghamshire's technique against the turning ball offered him plenty of encouragement.

"No one gets 14 wickets in a game without bowling well," the Nottinghamshire head coach, Peter Moores, said afterwards, admitting that inquests such as the one he has now to conduct "are beginning to feel like groundhog day".

"But we didn't play him well enough and there is no hiding place for any batsman," Moores added. "The innings that Ravi Ashwin played showed that it was a wicket you could play on, as did the youngster from Surrey, Jamie Smith. Your footwork had to be good and it was a good challenge, for sure, but our players that missed out can have no excuses.

"It was hard for the left-hander against the off-spinner going away but certainly for the right-hander it was a pitch where getting on the front foot served you well. But we seemed reluctant to do that, especially in the first innings."

Smith impressed Virdi in equal measure. With 99 runs in the match, he outscored everyone, including Ashwin, whom he played with much greater know-how than you might expect of someone who turned 19 only last week. He can keep wicket, too. In his first senior match with the gloves, he took a fine catch in the first innings, off the bottom edge, to dismiss Ashwin, and pulled off the sharpest of stumpings to remove Broad in the second, making the England bowler pay for lifting his back foot off the ground as he played and missed a drive.

Both were off Virdi. "He's one of the guys that I probably don't like bowling to in the nets, because he seems to play me quite easily," Virdi said. "He is still young but you have seen him play one of the best spinners in the world really well in this game. And he is a very good 'keeper too."

Nottinghamshire have two more home matches, against Kent and Warwickshire. They must win both and though Ashwin will be their trump card again, he may have to work harder for his wickets than he did on this occasion. Nottinghamshire will reflect on the wisdom of preparing a surface so unlike the norm at Trent Bridge and are likely to admit that it played into the hands of the opposition.

"Ravi has proved he can play on pretty much most surfaces," Moores said. "He does not need the surface. One of his great gifts is that he turns the ball both ways and, if you ask him, you'll probably find that he has got three or four different release points, three or four different grips and three or four different ways of making the ball come out. He generates very good pace on the ball too and all those things make him effective on any surface.

"But we have played on lots of different surfaces this season and the bottom line is that we have not batted well enough. We have to be better."

The win makes Surrey effectively relegation-proof, taking them 57 points clear of Nottinghamshire with four matches remaining. It might be too late to get near defending their title, but with the pressure lifted, an upward-looking end to the season seems more likely.

Notts 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
21BT SlaterJD Libby
9JD LibbyTJ Moores
17JD LibbyJM Clarke
14SJ MullaneyJM Clarke
10SR PatelSJ Mullaney
0R AshwinSJ Mullaney
2R AshwinLA Patterson-White
19R AshwinL Wood
56R AshwinSCJ Broad
33R AshwinZJ Chappell