A brilliant knock of 53 not out from Ryan ten Doeschate saw Essex earn a nerve-wracking one-wicket win over champions Surrey on the final day of the County Championship season at The Oval.
Surrey’s brilliant performance in the field was spearheaded by Morne Morkel before Essex, just about managed to chase down the their 132 target.
Jade Dernbach and Amar Virdi also played their part, sharing the other four wickets, but could not prevent Surrey losing their unbeaten record in Division One this term.
A wonderful finish also included a crazy run-out of Matt Coles when, for some unknown reason, Ten Doeschate called his partner for a third run that was not there.
Ten Doeschate had driven Morkel towards the extra-cover boundary but Mark Stoneman dived to pull back the ball just feet from the ropes and Will Jacks, who had sprinted to support his team-mate, threw to keeper Ben Foakes with Coles stranded.
Suddenly, 122 for eight had become 124 for nine, and Ten Doeschate was left with just last man Matt Quinn for company as he tried to get his side over the line.
A crucial leg bye, though, gained despite Dernbach barging into non-striker Quinn as he tried to get to the ball, meant Ten Doeschate kept the strike for Morkel’s 12th over and the 38-year-old took a two and a single from the second and third balls to take Essex to within two runs of victory.
Quinn survived the last three balls of Morkel’s over, despite needing attention when an 88mph bouncer thudded into the grille of his helmet, and Ten Doeschate turned Dernbach for the winning boundary in the next over.
Morkel had triggered early Essex jitters by producing an absolute beauty of a leg-cutter which pitched on middle and hit the top of Murali Vijay’s off stump.
Nick Browne then drove at off-spinner Virdi and was adjudged caught at slip by Rikki Clarke even though Sky Sports television replays suggested that bat had not come into contact with the turning ball.
Dan Lawrence lifted Virdi high over long-on for six but, on 10, he was surprised by the steep bounce of Dernbach’s first ball and edged to Clarke at first slip.
And, in the next over, Ravi Bopara’s match to forget was completed when he was given out caught at short-leg off Virdi for a seven-ball duck, leaving Essex 47 for four.
Dernbach, in a sharp spell of 4-2-7-2, also forced Tom Westley to edge a lifter into the safe hands of Clarke but, from 55 for five, Ten Doeschate and Adam Wheater steadied Essex with some selective strokeplay.
Wheater, though, was fortunate to survive on 10 when he top-edged a reverse sweep at Virdi and saw Dernbach fail to hold on to a shoulder-high chance as he dived to his left at backward point.
But, on 11, he edged a rapid leg-cutter from the returning Morkel to second slip where Ryan Patel held on to a sharp catch.
Three balls later and it was 97 for seven, with Morkel producing another wickedly lifting ball to have Simon Harmer, a first-innings century-maker, caught by keeper Foakes for nought.
Morkel struck again to pin Jamie Porter lbw for four with a near-yorker before Ten Doeschate finally saw his side home at the death.
Essex had earlier taken 26.2 more overs – and 142.2 in total – to work their way through the rest of Surrey’s tenacious second innings after the Championship winners had resumed on 477 for five.
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Surrey were eventually bowled out for 541 shortly before lunch, with Essex seamer Coles, a substitute for concussion victim Sam Cook, taking five for 123.
Jacks added just one run to his overnight score before falling for 53 in the third over of the day, edging a drive at Coles to Harmer at second slip.
But Patel and Clarke took Surrey past 500, adding 53 for the seventh wicket when Coles angled one across the latter from around the wicket to have him caught behind for 39.
Morkel lasted just two balls, steering a shortish ball from Coles to gully, and Patel’s near three-hour resistance was finally ended when he unluckily thin-edged an attempted leg glance to a rising ball from Coles through to substitute keeper Michael Pepper.
Surrey sealed a first County Championship title for 16 years with a tense three- wicket win over Worcestershire at Blackfinch New Road.
Openers Rory Burns and Mark Stoneman laid the foundations with a century stand but the bottom county made the visitors fight all the way before victory was clinched 20 minutes before tea.
Seven home-grown products were part of the side which clinched a ninth successive Championship victory for the visitors, while another – Sam Curran – was voted England’s man of the series in the Test triumph over India.
The last time Surrey put together such a sequence of victories in first class cricket was in 1999, when on the way to the first of three titles in four years under Adam Hollioake.
The Championship pennant has eluded Surrey since 2002 when one of the current side – Rikki Clarke – was part of the squad.
But the depth of locally produced talent – plus key overseas signings like Morne Morkel – suggest they could now go on and enjoy a similar run of success as achieved under Hollioake.
Worcestershire, who themselves fielded nine home grown players, were the last side to deny Surrey victory in south London in early May and they again fought hard in the return encounter.
But Morkel’s devastating five-wicket burst on Wednesday evening proved crucial in ensuring Surrey had to tackle a less demanding target than had looked likely for most of the third day.
It means they now face an uphill task to avoid an instant return to Division Two and will have to beat Essex at Chelmsford and visiting Yorkshire to have any hopes of survival.
Surrey resumed on 70 without loss and Stoneman and Burns looked relatively untroubled and a back foot cover drive for his 10th four by the former at Wayne Parnell’s expense took him to a 69-ball half-century – and also raised the century stand.
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Burns followed his partner to fifty in the same over – from 90 deliveries and with the aid of eight fours.
It was Parnell who finally broke the partnership on 111 when he bowled Stoneman for 59.
Dillon Pennington bowled a probing spell and was rewarded when first innings century-maker Burns was bowled off his pads for 66.
Burns has had a memorable first year as club captain with four hundreds and six half-centuries and looks good for a place in England’s squad for the forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka.
Another of Worcestershire’s promising crop of young pace bowlers, Josh Tongue, then accounted for Elgar – also bowled – for 21.
Pope and Ben Foakes, able to bat in his accustomed position after illness meant he dropped down the order in the first innings, saw Surrey to lunch with no further alarms.
Only 62 were needed when Foakes (22) went for a top-edged pull against Parnell and fell to a fine catch by Ross Whiteley, running back from square leg.
Worcestershire continued to plug away and Will Jacks (12) holed out to extra cover off Ed Barnard.
Pope (49) was comprehensively bowled by Pennington and the same bowler dismissed Tom Curran (seven) as he gloved to Whiteley, running back from slip.
But the 36-year-old Clarke kept his nerve to see Surrey over the finishing line and there were wild scenes of celebration when Morkel turned Pennington for the winning boundary.
Surrey have pulled off a major coup by landing India captain Virat Kohli on a one-month deal.
Kohli, cricket’s biggest global star, has agreed to join the Brown Caps throughout June.
News of Kohli’s first domestic deal on foreign soil is the latest example of a relaxation in attitude from the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
The BCCI has also allowed Cheteshwar Pujara (Yorkshire), Ishant Sharma (Sussex) and Varun Aaron (Leicestershire) to sign as overseas players in England this year.
The 29-year-old averages more than 50 in all three formats for India and is ranked as the top one-day batsman in the world.
Kohli said: “It has long been an ambition of mine to play county cricket and I am thankful to (director of cricket) Alec Stewart and Surrey for allowing me the opportunity to join them during their 2018 season. I can’t wait to get to the Kia Oval.”
Former England captain Stewart said: “We are thrilled to have signed the biggest name in world cricket for the month of June.
“Playing and training alongside Virat will be a massive benefit for our players who will have the opportunity to learn so much from him.
“At a time when there is much discussion around the future of county cricket, the arrival of Virat should give our domestic game a massive boost and positive exposure around the cricketing world which in turn can benefit every county.”
Kohli will be available for three Royal London One-Day Cup games and three Specsavers County Championship fixtures.
Surrey’s current overseas player, South Africa’s Dean Elgar, is contracted to the end of May and they have also strengthened their bowling attacking with recently-retired Proteas seamer Morne Morkel on a Kolpak deal.
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