Recent Match Report – Middlesex vs Surrey 2023

Surrey 380 (Smith 97, Burns 88) and 73 for 1 beat middle sex 209 (Robson 76, Malan 66, Worrall 5-48) and 240 (Holden 43, Clark 4-25) with nine wickets

It bodes well for Surrey and not the rest of Division One that although they didn’t perform their best against Middlesex, they won convincingly. Not only by nine wickets in the end, but with 46 overs left on day four. Given the amount of time lost to rain, that last figure reinforces the gap between them and their London rivals.

From 128 for 3 on the night, Middlesex was bowled for 240, with three for Jordan Clark finishing 4 for 25 from his nine overs. That he came on the third substitution says everything you need to know about the great talent that the 2022 champions possess. A target of 70 took just 16.4 overs to brush off, with Ryan Patel taking the lead at the end with a flurry of bounds to pocket some decent red ink.

Could there have been more tension? Doubtless. Especially if Rory Burns’s firing had been followed four births later by Dom Sibley’s. The opener pushed Toby Roland-Jones just wide of third slip after Tim Murtagh forced Burns to find first. Perhaps at 17 to 2 panic had set in. In the end, Sibley and Patel made light work of the remaining runs, a half century stand with 60 balls, before Patel threw Mark Stoneman’s part-time offspin to the midwicket fence to confirm victory at 3:05.

A day that offered Middlesex the chance to pull off something special or frustrating Surrey quickly fell away. The morning loss of three middle-order batters for just 55 runs dented the hopes of the remarkable and the rebellious.

Make no mistake, the visitors conceded this match on day one, certainly hoping to win it, taking their last nine wickets in the first innings by just 43 runs. A position of 166 for 1 ceded would always be difficult to make up for. Making Surrey bat again was a small, small victory.

Still, Thursday’s capitulation meant that the prospect of losing seven wickets in the second innings before making up 43 runs felt very plausible. Three runs and 3.3 overs on the day, Kemar Roach got the first. The quick kill, perhaps even an inning victory, had begun.

A big one too, in Max Holden. A patchy start to the summer, punctuated by half a century in the successful pursuit against Nottinghamshire, seemed to be joined for a second.

Patience had brought him to 42 overnight, but he could only add a single when Roach did what he does with southpaws: round the wicket, nudge them and leave them for dead. Surrey (and Roach) had gone to bed to curse Holden’s presence after Will Jacks dropped an easy catch at second slip when he just had 18.

The second to fall was through a spectacular piece of work by Ben Foakes. Sean Abbott rasped one over John Simpson around the wicket, helping the ball down the leg side. Even before making contact, Foakes was on his way, and a dive took him all the way across to take the ball with his right hand.

Poetic in a way, as Simpson’s own exemplary day three performance had begun with Foakes’ wicket as he stood against the stumps. Though it will probably take some time for the Middlesex glove man to appreciate it as such.

Pieter Malan walked, pushed the order down after suffering from an unspecified stiffness, accompanied by Mark Stoneman as his runner. His moves were clearly inhibited, though the trio of bounds punched by Ryan Higgins to level the scores was simply the all-rounder that was his usually feisty self rather than taking on additional burdens.

A lead of 10 built before Gus Atkinson struck with his third legitimate pitch, pushing Malan a little too far forward for a catch to Patel on a back run.

Just eight deliveries later, Clark served a passable Roach impression with a worldie from around the wicket that drove Hollman into nothing – all but the rim – while Foakes skipped first to make another clever catch.

In fact it should have been three wickets in 11 deliveries, but Sibley took a solid lead from Higgins, at 28, over Atkinson, and even Foakes in this form couldn’t get the rebound.

Sibley would have a chance to make amends, albeit in Clark’s favour, when Roland-Jones moved forward and fended off a delivery that was pulled back a bit for a bread basket grab on first slip.

With two wickets to go and a lead of just 27, Higgins decided it was now time to lift his team over his shoulder and carry them one more time. Middlesex’s leading runs scorer possesses the kind of attitude and skill to suggest you wouldn’t do too badly with his XI. Unspectacular but effective, medium height with above average stance, especially in this world of cruiserweight boxer style all-rounders.

One of the latter – Clark – slapped him on the arm and grunted at Higgins as he returned to the umpire to retrieve his cap. After verifying that Higgins was not in great strife, Clark walked away satisfied that he had inflicted pain. Middlesex’s physio came out to tend to his left wrist, which had been wearing a bouncer as he attempted to go down the course for a second boundary from the over.

The physio was back again the next over, tending Ethan Bamber’s top hand after the bowler failed to hook a well-aimed bouncer from Atkinson. Bamber had better luck when Dan Worrall took over for Clark at the Pavilion End. A well-executed swing to deep square leg took him off target, even forcing Burns to move the fielder back to the fence.

A second boundary came at the end of the over, gloved just out of reach of a diving Foakes. Another half-chance from Bamber came with the lead on 52, as Jamie Smith failed to pop up at short leg.

By lunchtime, Bamber looked steady at 20 and headed for the break after holding off a yorker from Worrall. Higgins had come to trust his junior partner, and even with the hosts five wickets in the session, a lead of 63 was a handy starting point for a dart on a pair of fast runs on a glorious Sunday afternoon.

That’s definitely what Higgins was about. On the eighth ball after lunch, he pulled Clark to the square-leg fence – but Roach lay in wait and moved right to catch a few yards from the boundary. Tim Murtagh came out and soon got back, bowled by Abbott, though not before Bamber hit another boundary.

It was never going to be enough, and a string of consecutive victories is now coming to an end for Middlesex. At the very least, they exit this match after showing some positives from the victories over Nottinghamshire and Kent, even though they were overwhelmed by mistakes and the opponent’s superiority.

For Surrey, this third win out of five – they remain unbeaten – took them back to the top of Division One after Warwickshire held the position for 24 hours. Surrey are back home next week for Kent’s visit, with a great chance to go into the international break well to defend their crown.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo