Nick Gubbins, Peter Handscomb give Middlesex a sniff before draw with Surrey

Report

Wild shifts in dominance thanks to internationals and spirited captaincy fail to beat the weather

Middlesex 160 (Simpson 68, Clark 4-41, Roach 4-61) and 250 for 6 (Gubbins 124, Handscomb 70, Roach 5-86) drew with Surrey 190 (Burns 64, Stoneman 63) and 259 for 2 dec (Burns 104*, Stoneman 74)

As Robbie White shouldered arms to a Reece Topley short ball, turning the London derby into the seventh rain-affected draw out of eight County Championship fixtures this week, The Oval breathed a collective sigh of relief. Wild shifts in dominance engineered by high-quality internationals and spirited captaincy were not enough to beat the weather but it was to the credit of Nick Gubbins and Peter Handscomb that a definitive result had been a realistic proposition for so much of the final day.

Handscomb, averaging a wretched 7.50 for the season as captain, had joined Gubbins with Middlesex 47 for 2, needing another 243 to win in a nominal 54.3 overs and with Topley and Kemar Roach finding some assistance under ominous clouds. With little reason to trust in his defence from the evidence of his summer to date, Handscomb decided to attack and the partnership blossomed after tea: Gubbins flayed boundaries through extra cover, Handscomb whipped through midwicket off his pads, and Surrey threatened to lose their nerve.

Gubbins tucked into Amar Virdi – the only spinner used across the four days – by cutting, working, paddle-sweeping and then dumping him into the JM Finn Stand, bringing up his hundred as the floodlights took over by scrambling a single to mid-off. With the field spread, he scampered ones and twos with Handscomb to keep the required rate in check in a stand eventually worth 172 in 33.2 overs, and the equation was 74 to win from 78 balls before a brief stoppage for the lightest of drizzle.

Five bum-squeaking overs were lost, effectively sticking a knife into Middlesex’s hopes of a derby double. “The difference between chasing seven an over and 10 an over with the field out is quite a big thing,” Gubbins noted. “They stuck the field out and it was tough work.” Wickets tumbled: Handscomb nailed an upper-cut straight to deep point, John Simpson was foxed by a slower ball, and after mowing Roach over wide mid-on, Gubbins holed out to deep cover.

When Roach cleaned up Martin Andersson with a cutter to complete his five-for in his final game as a Surrey player, giving him 19 wickets in his last two appearances at The Oval, it looked like he had might even have given them a sniff of an improbable win. But Rory Burns kept the boundary-riders out for too long, and by the time he brought them into the ring, the moment had passed. Fist-bumps followed, and the crowd traipsed home.

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