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SAM MORSHEAD AT THE OVAL: In a losing cause, the 28-year-old compiled a flawless, chanceless century; a compendium of batting goodness that, while ultimately in vain, at least prolonged Surrey’s wait for a first win of the season
Sam Northeast scored a brilliant hundred in a losing cause
The Kia Oval (final day of four): Surrey 211 & 407-9d, Hampshire 147 & 332 - Surrey won by 139 runs
Trevor Bayliss seemed to make it clear at the end of England’s epic Antipodean trek that he was not all that interested in his squad being tweaked before the first Test of the summer, even though a third of the County Championship season will have already been played by the time a ball is bowled in anger against Pakistan at Lord’s.
Quite how that news was received by those who would have understandably assumed early-season form is an important, perhaps even critical factor in selection is unclear.
What is clear after events at The Kia Oval over the past four days, however, is the abundance of talent tip-toeing around the national team’s periphery. And those players are going to make one heck of a racket until they can be ignored no longer.
Sam Northeast is one of those making noise. He’s been making noise for years, of course, but in swapping Kent for Hampshire over the winter he gave himself a loudhailer.
Here, in a losing cause, the 28-year-old compiled a flawless, chanceless century; a compendium of batting goodness that, while ultimately in vain, at least prolonged Surrey’s wait for a first win of the season.
Northeast made 129 in just under six hours
Resuming this morning on 14, Northeast sauntered his way towards the 20th first-class ton of his career - and ninth Championship ton since 2016, no one has more - without ever appearing to break a sweat.
Mixing elegant work through the offside - two cover drives for four in successive balls off Sam Curran in the morning session drew approving gasps from the crowd - with utter disdain for anything short and wide, Hampshire’s No. 5 marshalled an admirable rearguard from the lower middle order.
Ultimately, his county’s collapse in the first innings, when they were dismissed for just 147, left the ascent too steep and the climb too long but Northeast’s vigil did at least ensure that Surrey had to do more than simply turn up to work on Monday morning to claim their victory.
When the home side tried to tempt him into hooking himself into trouble, he resisted.
When he had to eat the strike to protect his tailenders, he did so, turning down singles left, right and centre even with more than 50 overs of the game remaining.
His innings of 129 lasted 254 balls spread across 11 minutes shy of six hours.
It was fine resilience in the circumstances and much to the frustration of Surrey, who became so perplexed in their efforts to be rid of the Hants man that at one point they took to inserting three midwickets at once.
Eventually, though, it was a routine nick that claimed the crucial wicket; Matt Dunn was the bowler and Ben Foakes, with a stunning grab low to his right, the catcher.
Northeast was not the only man with England aspirations to impress over four days in south London.
Amar Virdi claimed four second-innings wickets
Curran bowled with zip and guile throughout, claiming one second-innings wicket to go with four in the first innings, while Virdi took four scalps in Hampshire’s unsuccessful chase, including James Vince and Hashim Amla, and Foakes made 127 classy runs in the match.
Ollie Pope, whose international cause is much less advanced than the rest, contributed an excellent 145 for Surrey second time around, too.
More complicated algorithms and sabermetrics notwithstanding, those are all very impressive numbers indeed. Will they be the right kind of stats for the new National Selector?
Resuming on 116 for four in pursuit of a mammoth 472 for victory on Monday, Hampshire set about the imposing task with plenty of positivity.
Northeast and Rilee Roussow progressed the score to 150 before the latter was trapped on his front pad by Virdi.
Liam Dawson did not last long, going back to Jade Dernbach and chopping onto his own stumps, but Kyle Abbott offered more resistance for Hampshire.
The Kolpak import’s boisterous little knock - an entertaining 29 in which he deposited Virdi into the OCS Stand with a heave over mid-on and showed no fear in taking on Surrey’s entire attack - gave home captain Rory Burns reason to think.
Fortunately for Surrey, their skipper thought well.
Placing himself at silly mid-on for Virdi, Burns was in the right place at the right time to take the catch which dislodged Abbott.
Chris Wood made 26 before being pinned lbw by Curran for the second time in the match but Northeast found further support in the form of Brad Wheal, who batted for an hour and a half for 10 runs.
Wheal went soon after tea, lbw to Jade Dernbach and, with 24 overs remaining in the game, Dunn struck to remove Northeast.