Published On: Fri, Aug 26th, 2016

Footitt's seven finishes off fading Lancashire

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Surrey 480 (Sam Curran 96, Burns 88, Sangakkara 67, Davies 59, Sibley 56, Lilley 5-130) and 39-0 beat Lancashire 287 (Clark 56, Sam Curran 4-61, Meaker 3-83) and 230 (Petersen 56, 3-8 (Procter 76, Petersen 56, Footitt 7-62) by 10 wickets

Mark Footitt finished with seven wickets for Surrey © PA Photos

When Surrey last met Lancashire in the County Championship, the UK had not voted to leave the European Union and Pokemon Go had yet to be unleashed on British shores. But for these two teams at The Oval, the most significant change in the intervening three months has been on the pitch. Surrey have surged after a dreadful start to the County Championship season, and Lancashire’s run of three wins in their opening five games, including an evisceration of Surrey, has given way to a winless run of eight matches.

Here Lancashire were gazumped by two left-armers who were absent in May. Back then, Mark Footitt was injured and Sam Curran had his pesky A-levels to overcome.

Footitt was Surrey’s marquee winter signing, lured from Derbyshire for his left-arm brawn in return for Division One cricket, on a four-year contract that was sizeable indeed for a 30-year-old with a history of injuries. For much of this season that investment has seemed hard to justify: Footitt’s injury problems gave way to a return so indecisive that he was left out of the side.

Yet as he bounded in from the Pavilion End, the gifts that had enticed Surrey, and led to Footitt’s selection for England’s tour to South Africa, were undeniable. In a 10-over spell in the early evening, Footitt’s four wickets prized open the game. His alliance of pace, hostility and awkward bounce made him relentless.

The roar he let off after taking his maiden five-for for Surrey was deserved indeed: this was a triumph of will and speed, and refusing to kowtow to a pitch that, in his estimation, has got slower and lower as the match has progressed. On such occasions a fast bowler’s short ball is an essential weapon but, while Footitt deployed his sagaciously to harry the batsmen, his wickets were all vindication for pitching the ball up.

Earlier in the day, The Oval had been left bewitched by another Surrey left-armer, but for his batting. Sam Curran has already wooed sage judges with his left-arm pace bowling, yet at Surrey they reckon his batting will be even better.

Three consecutive fours off Kyle Jarvis gave notice of why. There was an impudent upper-cut over the slips to reach his half-century; a perfectly timed leg glance; and then a drive thrashed imperiously through the cover.

He was even more ruthless against the spin of Arron Lilley, three times smearing huge sixes over midwicket that seemed to mock Curran’s own slight frame. The third took him to within four of a maiden first-class century but, the man briefly reverting back to being a boy, he chipped the ball tamely back to Lilley.

For a few seconds Curran resolutely refused to move, disbelieving of his fate. His slow walk from the crease gave off the air of a dejected child being dragged away from their favourite TV programme – or from Pokemon Go, perhaps – and remained sheltered in his helmet as he walked up the stairs.

As he returned to a warm, sympathetic applause – some, so enraptured by this radiant talent, even stood up in acclaim – no one doubted there would be many times in his professional cricket career when Curran traverses through the 90s unscathed. This was an innings defined by the 96 delightful runs he scored, not the four he failed to.

Had it not been for Luke Procter, Surrey might even have won with a day to spare. Procter is a distinctly unglamorous cricketer: his medium-pacers are delivered off the wrong foot; he faces up to bat with an unusually wide stance, hunching so low that he can look like he is attempting to burrow into the ground. But he is also a highly effective one, as he has proved all year in Division One. This 76, a product not just of his obduracy but also some fine driving – one push off Footitt rattled past mid-off, so exquisite was the timing – took his Championship tally in 2016 to 810 runs at 40.55 apiece.

That represents a commendable effort, especially for a batsmen some had thought would struggled with the step up to Division One. But here, as on too many occasions in recent weeks, Procter received too little support. Alviro Petersen batted jauntily for 56 but, just as he was lashing the ball regally through the covers, perished playing the same shot off Footitt.

The upshot is that, sometime early tomorrow, Surrey should secure their fourth victory in seven matches, effectively ensuring they will not be relegated despite four losses and no victories in their opening seven games. The push has come too late to entertain title hopes, but Surrey now have legitimate hopes of finishing in the top three – and with scope to build on that achievement, especially with Sam Curran now unburdened by school commitments.

For 2015’s other promoted side, a long trip home tomorrow, after an eighth consecutive Championship match without victory, now looms, and the creeping notion that Lancashire’s cherished Division One status might yet be imperilled.

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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