Morne Morkel took six wickets in a thrilling win for Surrey over Lancashire and enhanced his status as a cutting-edge leader.
Surrey won by just six runs in a day-night first-class match at the Oval, thanks to two inspired spells from the former Protea star.
The victory preserves Surrey’s unbeaten run in the County Championship and keeps them 32 points clear of Somerset in second place after their win against Essex at Taunton.
In the opening session, Morkel, who took a Kolpak contract after retiring from international cricket, looked to have taken Surrey to the brink of victory with a sensational three-wicket burst that first broke a stubborn partnership of 78 between debutant Josh Bohannon and Steven Croft, before exposing Lancashire’s usually fragile tail.
When Joe Mennie fell to another snorter from Morkel, edging behind to Ben Foakes, Lancashire were 209/8, still needing 63 for victory. Amar Virdi was keeping one end tight while Morkel was reaping havoc from the other end, until Graham Onions decided to smash Morkel out of the attack.
While he was rested, Lancashire moved to 247/8, adding 70 runs in 31 overs, but with the target 18 runs away Morkel returned to spread Onions’ stumps. Then a brilliant catch by Will Jacks at short leg completed the victory and gave Morkel 6-57 in the innings and eight for the match. The lanky bowler had also contributed a useful 29 in Surrey’s second innings to give the team a workable total.
Morkel has transformed the Surrey attack from reliable grafters into the most potent strike force in the country. Last season no one took more than Gareth Batty’s 25 wickets, and apart from Rikki Clarke, no one averaged below 29. Last season, Surrey managed to win only two of their 14 games. In part, moribund pitches were to blame but there was a lack of cutting edge.
This time round, led by Morkel’s 33 wickets at 14.12, they have five bowlers who have already taken 25 wickets or more and all of them at an average below 28.30. This victory was their seventh in nine matches.
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