Young Surrey spinners seize control as Gloucestershire follow-on at The Kia Oval
Gloucestershire 158 (Hammond 77, Moriarty 6-60) and 124 for 5 trail Surrey 473 (Amla 173, Clarke 65, Patel 62, Overton 50*) by 191 runs
Rarely do Surrey have licence to play the underdog card, but having lost to these opponents in the opening round of fixtures there was an added bite to their play here. In the stands, some pinkly glistening patrons attempted to start a “thunder clap”, made famous by Iceland’s football fans during exuberant campaigns at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. Gloucestershire, still 191 runs adrift at the close and having collected just two bowling bonus points from their trip to Kennington, face going home with little more than a pat on the back.
Rarely does the county game provide the stage for two young, English spinners to dictate proceedings in tandem, but with the sun shining down on a dry and dusty Oval, conditions were ripe for Virdi and Moriarty to wheel away. Le tweak, c’est chic, as the French don’t quite say. Certainly they are a complementary pair, having taken 18 wickets together in the victory over Sussex during last season’s Bob Willis Trophy. Virdi, the diminutive offspinner, bounds in and gives the ball a twirl, while the taller, more angular Moriarty sinisterly stalks his quarry.
Asked to bat again in the face of a 315-run deficit, Kraigg Brathwaite and Chris Dent walked out to find Moriarty and Virdi waiting for them again. Gloucestershire’s openers survived their unusual new-ball test, only for Brathwaite to chip a return catch to Jamie Overton, before Abbott struck twice in as many overs, pinning Dent in front and then castling Tom Lace to send the former Middlesex man on his way having bagged a pair.
Ryan Higgins avoided the same fate, but was stumped off Virdi deep into an extended evening session – Jamie Smith completing the dismissal after a smart take by his left shoulder – after Ian Cockbain had fallen to a ripping offbreak.
For the first hour of the day, Gloucestershire seemed capably attuned to the requirements of navigating a way past the follow-on target of 324. While spin was always likely to play the major role, this used pitch was still some way removed from a raging Bunsen. Indeed, after Brathwaite and Hammond had seen off the pro forma opening overs of seam – the latter taking advantage of Overton’s pace to pull and drive three boundaries in as many overs – the introduction of Virdi and Moriarty initially did little to change the tenor of the morning.
In the end it was a lack of turn, deliberate or otherwise from Virdi, that succeeded in foxing Brathwaite, as the West Indies opener played around an offbreak that went straight on to rap the back pad. Virdi was off and running, haring across the square in celebration, and so were Surrey, as the visitors tumbled from 84 for 1 to 89 for 5 inside five calamitous overs.
Lace was Moriarty’s first victim, sucked into pushing at a flighted delivery from round the wicket that straightened just enough to clip the outside edge. Cockbain attempted to counterattack but only succeeded in cuffing his sweep off Virdi straight to square leg, and Higgins was guilty of an even more glaring misjudgement when he offered his second ball unimpeded passage into off stump. With Jonny Tattersall turning a full delivery straight into the hands of leg slip and Tom Smith snapped up one-handed by Jacks at forward short leg off the face of the bat, Moriarty had four and Gloucestershire were limping to lunch on 113 for 7.
Despite the carnage at the other end, Hammond had doggedly held the line throughout, earning praise from a small-but-vocal pocket of Gloucestershire support in the JM Finn Stand. He moved to a sixth first-class fifty – and first for Gloucestershire since 2019 – with a single from his 124th ball, though might have been stumped in the following over when Moriarty turned one inside the bat only for it to elude Smith as well.
Surrey’s charge was briefly held up by the eighth-wicket pair, as Matt Taylor dug in for more than an hour. He had just driven Abbott through extra cover for four when he left a delivery from Jacks that spun big to hit off stump and give the Surrey allrounder his maiden first-class wicket. Moriarty claimed the last two, including that of Hammond, who dragged a short delivery to midwicket; the spinner’s name may hint at Machiavellian intent but Gloucestershire were too often complicit in being duped.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick