Yorkshire have played a total of 129 away matches against Surrey and 126 of these have been at The Oval. Of the remaining three, one was at Lord’s in 1914 when The Oval was requisitioned for the War and the other two have been at Guildford – in 1991 and 2002. Yorkshire return there for the 2019 match and Paul Dyson looks back at one of the Woodbridge Road ground’s two previous games which produced an exciting conclusion. The photo of Phil Robinson – taken in the year of this match – comes courtesy of Mick Pope.

July 19, 20, 22, 1991, Guildford: Yorkshire 289 (PE Robinson 74, MD Moxon 73, MA Feltham 4-64) & 153 (MD Moxon 68, Waqar Younis 6-40); Surrey 250-2dec (RI Alikhan 86, DJ Bicknell 80, AJ Stewart 53*) & 193-9. Surrey won by one wicket.

Both Surrey and Yorkshire were the sleeping giants of the County Championship; the two counties had won more titles than any of their other competitors but Surrey’s last win had been in 1971, Yorkshire’s in 1968. A less similar contrast was that Yorkshire had finished 16 seasons in the bottom half of the table since 1968 but Surrey had done so on only four occasions. The current season’s results told a similar story. Surrey had won four of their first ten games, losing only two. Yorkshire had played 11 games so far, winning only one but losing only two.

For the first time Surrey scheduled a fixture against Yorkshire to be played at a ground other than The Oval (discounting the Lord’s game of 1914 which had to be moved from headquarters because of the War) and a very exciting match it proved to be. The visitors were asked to bat by Surrey on what turned out to be a ‘slow pitch of low and uneven bounce’ (Wisden). Ashley Metcalfe was the first to go, for six, as he mistimed a stroke off his legs and was caught at short mid-wicket. Martyn Moxon withstood the pace attack for four hours, scoring only 23 from 106 balls before lunch. He quickened his scoring rate later but his stand of 89, for the second wicket with David Byas, used up 45 overs. Richard Blakey’s short innings was ended by a ‘splendid yorker’ (Ibid.) from Waqar Younis but the bowler seemed tired in what was the fourth of his five spells and duly ‘limped off with a stiff back’ (Ibid.). Moxon fell for 73 two balls after Blakey had been dismissed, pulling a long hop to short mid-wicket. Phil Robinson showed ‘much-needed initiative’ (Ibid.) and brightened up the middle-order with a 127-ball innings of 74 which included three sixes – all struck soon after tea off Medlycott – and eight fours but the general progress of the innings was slow, being described as a ‘colourless display’ (Ibid.). The innings reached its lowest point at 170 for six with Tony Murphy and Mark Feltham both bowling tidily but Keith Medlycott’s control was mixed even though he did get some turn. The 36 overs of the pre-lunch session had produced only 52 runs and only 217 runs were scored in the first 100 overs. The visitors ended the day on 256 for eight, Robinson’s wicket being the last one to fall, him being dismissed by a ball that kept low.

The second day began with Yorkshire’s last two wickets adding a further 33 runs (the last four added 129), mainly due to Peter Hartley’s 35 not out, before they were dismissed for 289. Feltham’s medium-fast bowling was responsible for producing the best figures for four for 64. Surrey then forced the pace, starting with an opening partnership of 150 in 50 overs between Darren Bicknell, who hit 13 fours in his 80 having been missed by Robinson in the gully when on 30, and Rehan Alikhan, who was eventually dismissed for 86 by a fine, diving catch from Chris Pickles at mid-off. Yorkshire’s attack was ‘painfully short of penetration’ (Ibid.), their cricket being ‘lethargic and listless’ (Ibid.) over the first two days, and only Phil Carrick managed to hold Surrey in check. Alec Stewart struck a half-century from 53 balls, adding 78 for the second wicket with Alikhan before the latter was dismissed by the off-spinner Jeremy Batty. Surrey declared 39 runs behind Yorkshire’s score in an enterprising move to keep the game open.

Surrey were rewarded with the capture of three wickets before close of play, Yorkshire’s scoreboard by then showing 42 for three. Waqar bowled fast on the slow pitch, moving the ball both ways and bringing his lethal yorker into operation. Metcalfe tried to leave a ball from Murphy but edged it onto his leg stump. Byas was then lbw to one that kept low – the pitch was exhibiting some variable bounce. At 15 for two Blakey was struck on the right knee and had to retire hurt, it being badly bruised, and Waqar also struck Moxon ‘a fearsome blow on the left arm which had the captain wincing in pain despite being protected by an arm guard’ (Ibid.). The ball had lifted from a good length and looped to Bicknell on the off-side but Umpire Don Oslear was unmoved by Surrey’s appeals and long stares them having been influenced by the sound of the impact. Moxon later successfully kept down a lifting ball from Waqar only, next ball, to have to deal with a yorker which speared towards his left foot. Robinson was now at the wicket and in the first innings he had hammered Medlycott whom Stewart now bravely brought on to bowl. Robinson immediately hit him for four and six in consecutive balls to ‘cow corner’ and then tried to work the next ball onto the leg-side but spooned a catch off a leading edge. The bowler dived to his left and clasped the ball inches from the ground. Thus ‘an absorbing final day was in prospect’ (Ibid.). Moxon remained on 18 not out having drawn on his ‘resources of skill and courage to withstand a fiery spell of bowling’ (Ibid.).

On the third day Moxon duly completed his second half-century of the match – this being the first such instance for his county against Surrey since 1969. The skipper had kept his team in the match, batting for the second time ‘with calm authority’ (Ibid.). The game then turned dramatically in the afternoon session. Moxon was the first victim, being bowled middle stump, in a spell from Waqar which produced figures of 4.3-1-8-5 as he tore through the batting to take all of the last five wickets to fall, these going down for a mere 20 runs, the first four falling for only three, in a 25-minute spell of devastation. This spared Moxon a potentially tricky declaration and left the home side 58 overs in which to score 193 for victory. Waqar had demonstrated a considerable degree of control in his bowling with seven of his eight victims in the match being bowled or lbw, his ‘thunderbolts’ (Ibid.) creating havoc through the batsmen’s defences.

In the final innings of this absorbing game Yorkshire bowled much better than they had in the first innings and the home side struggled against the two spinners ‘on a turning pitch from which the dust flew’ (Ibid.). Carrick and Batty bowled in tandem for most of the final two hours. Surrey’s requirement moved to a likely 82 from 20 overs with six wickets left but the later batsmen were ‘too intent on aggression rather than gathering their runs with care’ (Ibid.) and with only three wickets left 61 were needed from the last 10 overs. With the scoreboard later showing 139 for eight, the northern county were the more likely victors, even though only six overs remained (54 to win). However, it was to be Waqar’s day and he struck 31 – mainly from pulls and drives – from only 19 balls while adding 52 for the eighth wicket with Medlycott, who also ‘hit freely’ (Ibid.). He had already hit four fours before the start of the final over, which started with Surrey wanting eight runs for victory, which was to be bowled by Carrick. Waqar struck a six from the first ball before being caught at short extra cover from the third. Murphy then swept his first ball for two to win the match with two balls to spare. It was a remarkable victory for Surrey after it had seemed that their chance had gone. Yorkshire’s two spinners had each taken three wickets in bowling over 65% of their side’s overs but it was all in vain. Despite the narrowness of the win the unfairness of the points system in use at the time meant that Surrey took 22 points and Yorkshire only two.

An image of Lauren Winfield-Hill and Adil Rashid, with the Yorkshire logo and Northern Diamonds logo in the middle

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