Hashim Amla’s amazing rearguard action denies Hampshire crucial Championship victory against Surrey at The Ageas Bowl
A defiant batting display for the ages from Hashim Amla staved off defeat for Surrey and thwarted Hampshire's push for victory and their questf for a top-two finish in Group 2 of the LV = County Championship.
Resuming on 6-2, Surrey held on for an unlikely draw, reaching 128-8 with former Hampshire overseas signing Amla batting all day to be unbeaten on 37 from 278 balls, writes IAN McCULLOUGH.
To put it another way, the South African great scored 37 runs in six hours and 21 minutes at the crease!
Amla demonstrated incredible restraint to repel an attack that bowled an incredible 64 maidens and over 500 dot balls in an glacial innings where the hosts were made to pay dearly for three dropped catches.
Despite Amla's heroics, the result almost certainly ended any chance of Surrey being one of six teams to qualify to play in division one later in the season and the opportunity to win the title and the Bob Willis Trophy.
Hampshire now require victory over Gloucestershire in their final game, starting this coming Sunday, in a potential winner-take-all clash at Cheltenham, to keep alive their season.
Amla remarkably scored just three runs from the first 100 balls he faced and did not find the boundary rope until the 125th ball of his vigil, where he took three heavy blows to the body that had many traditionalists at The Ageas Bowl purring.
Hampshire's attack bowled tirelessly but were left to rue the dropped chances - including a simple opportunity grassed by Ian Holland at leg slip 17 overs from the close when Amla was put down off the admirable Keith Barker, who finished with astonishing figures of 3-9 from 22 overs, 17 of which were maidens.
Following-on after being bundled out for just 72 in response to the home side's 488, the visitors scored just 18 runs in the first session with nightwatchman Amar Virdi the only wicket to fall.
Ryan Patel should have joined Virdi back in the pavilion before lunch but was given two lives after being dropped by stand-in skipper Kyle Abbott, off a caught-and-bowled chance, and Joe Weatherley's second slip spill.
Although those missed opportunities cost only 14 runs, they crucially allowed Patel to soak up 85 balls before his off-stump was uprooted by Abbott after lunch.
Felix Organ took Hampshire's third wicket of the day when Jamie Smith's inside edge looped into the hands of Holland, before first-innings centurion Colin de Grandhomme bowled debutant Ben Geddes for 15.
Barker got his third wicket when Jordan Clark was trapped lbw for four, before Organ raised hopes of a home victory when he bowled Jamie Overton.
However, Amla and fellow fellow veteran Rikki Clarke held firm for the final nine overs to see out the draw.
Abbott said: ‘Every bowler and every fielder put it in today. The energy was excellent from 11am until 6.30. Unfortunately we couldn't get across the line but you can't fault the effort.
‘I said to Hash that he is not obviously going for a Hundred contract! He is an incredible batsman and when he gets into his bubble he doesn't let much through. In saying that, he gave us a chance we couldn't capitalise on.
‘That kind of summed up our bad luck on the day. You need those chances to stick if you want to win matches, especially on day four.’
Amla remarked: ‘I did enjoy it, every batter that went out there had a plan and tried our best to just block it out.
‘You don't know how far you can go but we managed to go all the way. We had some nervous moments but the way the youngsters played was fantastic.
‘It was a real battle. Everyone wants to score runs, but we had a cause. You need a lot to go your way, especially on this wicket. It was up and down and there was quite a bit of rough from the off-spinner.
‘The game dictated that we have to save the game. The last thing you want to do is play a couple of bad shots and the game is over by lunchtime. But the way everyone played today we managed to pull it back after being outplayed on days two and three.’