Surrey tailenders frustrate Northants but it's all to play for on the final day
Surrey’s Amar Virdi and Gus Atkinson made career best scores in an enterprising last wicket stand worth 83 in 36 overs to help set Northants a daunting 320 to win in their LV= Insurance County Championship clash at Wantage Road.
The pair safely negotiated the extra half hour with Surrey nine wickets down before lunch and emerged after the interval keen to play their shots against the new ball. Virdi, belying his tailender status and an average of seven, struck seven boundaries in his 47, including clubbing Rob Keogh confidently over long-on.
Surrey’s bowlers then made early inroads with the ball, taking two early wickets, but an unbeaten stand of 69 by Emilio Gay and Keogh kept the hosts in the hunt going into the final day at 106 for two at stumps.
Atkinson and Virdi came together after Will Jacks had registered his second half-century of the match amid a clutter of wickets.
Spinner Simon Kerrigan claimed three scalps in a marathon spell.
Bowling throughout the extended morning session, former England man Kerrigan made an immediate breakthrough in the second over of the morning, taking the key wicket of Hashim Amla who pushed forward to a turning ball and was caught behind by Adam Rossington for 26.
Seamers Ben Sanderson and Tom Taylor then accounted for Jordan Clark and Rikki Clarke cheaply as Surrey lost three wickets for just 23 runs inside 12 overs.
Jacks though moved to 50, mixing stylish boundaries with solid defence, before Kerrigan struck in successive balls.
First, he deceived Jacks in the flight and hit the stumps. Then he bowled Reece Topley through the gate before Virdi safely negotiated the hat-trick ball.
Atkinson lived dangerously with a couple of streaky boundaries through the slip cordon as well as taking a blow on the helmet which flew away for four leg byes.
After lunch though he began to find the middle of the bat against the new ball and he and Virdi found runs easy to come by, frustrating the County's hopes of keeping the run chase to a minimum.
Surrey’s seamers built early pressure and Northants' hopes were dealt two early blows when first Ricardo Vasconcelos nicked a Clarke delivery behind before Jordan Clark trapped Harry Gouldstone lbw to leave Northamptonshire 37 for two.
Gay looked increasingly assured after playing an early crunching backfoot punch for four through backward point.
He was soon overtaken by Keogh who got off the mark with back-to-back boundaries down to third man off Clark and then punched through extra cover for four more as scoring became easier.
Flags around the ground were flown at half-mast to mark the death of former Northamptonshire player and past President Peter Arnold at the age of 94.