May 11, 2023 –Dan Worrall’s spectacular 26-ball burst of five wickets for one run torpedoed Middlesex’s first innings against Surrey in the London derby at the Kia Oval.
A partnership of 152 between Sam Robson and Pieter Malan had threatened to put Middlesex in early control before champions Surrey fought back in dramatic and thrilling fashion to bowl them out for 209. In reply Surrey reached 21 without loss in five overs by stumps, with Rory Burns 15 not out.
On a rollercoaster County Championship opening day, Middlesex’s last nine wickets fell for just 43 runs in 21.1 overs after Robson had made 76 and Malan an equally determined 66.
Worrall ended up with5-48, while Gus Atkinson was Surrey’s other star performer with 3-18 and, fittingly, finished off the Middlesex innings by having Luke Hollman caught behind for five thin-edging a hook.
It was the pacy Atkinson, indeed, who began the turnaround by removing both Robson and Malan just before tea. Robson edged head-high to Dom Sibley at first slip and Malan was pinned lbw, before Worrall and Kemar Roach combined to deadly effect to fillet Middlesex’s middle order in the final session.
Stevie Eskinazi edged the third ball after tea to go for 13, safely pouched by Sibley again off Worrall, and the same bowler then sent back John Simpson for a duck, with Sibley taking a third catch.
Roach nipped one away off the seam to have Ryan Higgins caught behind and in the next over Worrall had Max Holden, aiming to leg, caught low down at second slip by Will Jacks.
Toby Roland-Jones sliced Worrall to backward point and, three balls later, Worrall produced an unplayable out-swinger to hit the top of Ethan Bamber’s off stump.
In truth, Surrey’s five-strong pace attack did not get things quite right in a morning session that was cut short by five minutes because of the threat of lightning from storm clouds rolling in over South London.
Even though there was both swing and seam movement available from a green-tinged surface, prompting Surrey captain Burns to bowl first on winning the toss, there was too much inconsistency in length and line and – linked to some moments of good fortune – it allowed Robson and Malan to flourish.
Middlesex’s second wicket pair played positively, sensibly and with no little skill to add 97 at almost four runs per over in the pre-lunch session, although Roach was perhaps unlucky not to add to his early dismissal of Mark Stoneman, who he bowled through the gate from around the wicket.
Worrall, however, was not at his best in a five-over new ball spell costing 23 runs and neither Jordan Clark nor Sean Abbott could put the pressure back on Middlesex with Robson in particular impressing with 14 fours in his first score above fifty this season – a number of them beautifully-struck straight drives either side of the wicket.
It was also a surprise that Atkinson was not thrown the ball until the 24th over, with Middlesex 79-1. Atkinson had taken a career-best 6-68, and eight wickets overall, in Surrey’s hard-fought draw against Essex at Chelmsford last week but he managed only three sharp and accurate overs before play was suspended for just over two hours for rain and bad light.
And, by the time 25-year-old Atkinson was re-introduced for a second spell, in the 42nd over, Middlesex’s total had reached 154-1 with both Robson and Malan continuing to show positive intent following a 15:00 BST restart.
That, though, was the bowling change that provided the spark for Surrey’s remarkable fightback, with Atkinson literally lighting the touchpaper and Worrall providing most of the fireworks that followed.
Surrey and Middlesex players, meanwhile, have dedicated this match to the fundraising efforts of Surrey seamer Matt Dunn, who during the winter lost his two-year-old daughter Florence to a little-known form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome.
Dunn led a 20-strong group of friends and family who ran from Lord’s to the Oval as part of the ‘everydayinMay4Dravet’ initiative, arriving at lunchtime, to help raise awareness of the condition. Those supporting the initiative run, or walk, at least five kilometres every day in May to raise funds to combat Dravet Syndrome.
“It means everything to me that both Surrey and Middlesex are doing what they are to support us,” Matt said. “The love, care and support of everyone at Surrey to my wife Jess, myself and our little boy Freddie has been overwhelming, to be honest, and it’s why we are now able to try to help others who have young children with this condition.”