Final day: Warwickshire drew with Surrey
A defiant last-day performance enabled Warwickshire to draw their County Championship Division One match against Surrey. Sounds familiar doesn't it?
Just as they did against Kent and, last season, against Sussex and Gloucestershire, Warwickshire saved a match, by dint of steadfast batting, that appeared to have been lost.
Fortune favoured the Bears. Nick Knight was reprieved after edging to slip and, had rain not reduced the match by 87 overs, Surrey would surely have won.
Most of all, however, Warwickshire were saved by determined batting. On a deteriorating pitch and against a top-quality attack, defeat was the odds-on result entering the last day. The character of the champions, so often their defining feature in the last couple of years, was again prevalent as they reached 222 for three by the close.
But the resolve shown on the last day should not mask the fact that Warwickshire were outplayed. Their first innings batting, albeit against fine bowling, was disappointing. Though they bowled well, the loss of Naqaash Tahir for six weeks is a bitter blow. Surrey are real candidates for the championship title.
Michael Powell and Alex Loudon clinched the draw in a stand of 132 but the foundations were laid by Knight and Jonathan Trott. "They batted brilliantly," Powell said. "They saw off the bowlers at their freshest and the ball at its newest. They did the hard work."
It was desperately difficult at first. Jimmy Ormond, bowling brutishly quickly, unsettled all the batsmen with his hostility while, for a time, Harbhajan Singh appeared practically unplayable. The support bowlers performed well on a surface affording encouragement, so to survive the first 20 overs of the day was a notable achievement.
Knight was granted a most fortuitous reprieve, however. Surrey were convinced that Warwickshire's captain had been caught waist-high at second slip off Harbhajan off an obvious edge. The batsman stood his ground, however, and umpire Allan Jones reasoned that Knight had squeezed the ball into the ground. Video replays confirmed that he was mistaken. Knight scored only another eight runs but lasted a further 25 overs - undoubtedly, a pivotal moment.
Trott batted much better here than in the recent past without much reward. He looked impressively solid before being taken at slip, pushing rather too firmly at Harbhajan's 'doosra'.
Powell, struggling for runs since his century in the first Championship match of the season, batted beautifully after a nervous start. Initially all at sea against Harbhajan, he survived a series of appeals - some a great deal more convincing than others --from the cluster of five men crouched around him but eventually decided that attack was the best form of defence. This sensible policy appeared to unsettle the offspinner, who visibly lost heart as the day progressed.
Powell said: "Last season we proved that holding on to draw these tight games is almost as important as winning. It's not just that we gained an extra four points, it's that we stopped Surrey getting ten more.
"There was a lot of bounce in this wicket. There were no lbw dismissals in the match and only one bowled. We worked out that a high percentage of balls were going to bounce over the stumps, so we could leave a lot of them alone. We hadn't worked that out in the first innings.
"This Surrey attack is the best in the country so to score runs against them when the team really needs them is very pleasing. I've felt under some pressure in the last few weeks. I haven't been getting the runs I should."
Skipping down the pitch, he lofted the spinner for six over mid-wicket and later played some delicious late cuts. His high-class batting ensured a first half-century since that first Championship innings against Glamorgan. It helped to save this match and should help him retain his place against Gloucestershire despite the availability of Ian Bell and Mark Wagh.
Knight departed, unable to get his hands out of the way of a vicious bouncer, having scored only eight runs in the last 29 overs of his innings.
But Loudon, belying the tension of the situation, reeled off a succession of sublime cover drives and continues his rapid development into a high-class player.
Perhaps Harbhajan was not at his best. In his first match since March he remained a threat but a legstump line and propensity to bowl too fast lessened his effectiveness.
Indeed, he was replaced by Ormond's part-time off-spin and once the rain returned, 12 overs before the scheduled close, Surrey had long given up hope. Harbhajan, in his first match since being cleared of 'chucking' by the International Cricket Council, appeared to be no-balled for throwing by umpire Jones after consultation with umpire Peter Willey at square leg.
This was not his 'doosra', however, it was a much faster bouncer and bears no relevance to his earlier problems.