Kieron Pollard sparks chase to help Surrey maintain unbeaten run

Surrey 152 for 6 (Pollard 34, Dawson 2-21) beat Hampshire 151 for 7 (Fuller 39*, Overton 2-21) by four wickets

Kieron Pollard chose the ground that brought back memories of one of the most distressing moments of his career to put his worst IPL season behind him and restate his credentials as one of the most destructive batters in the world.

It was a soup├žon at best, the merest hint that Pollard, at 35, can still have many explosive moments in store, but his 34 from 22 was essential to extend Surrey’s record of eight consecutive wins and maintain their supremacy in the South Group. Hampshire, buoyant after four successive victories, made them work on an excellent pitch offering pace and bounce before conceding a four-wicket margin with five balls to spare.

It was at the Ageas Bowl, in the T20 final 10 years ago, that Pollard was struck in the eye by a short ball from Dominic Cork. His right eye was closed by the swelling and he feared serious injury, even though scans in a Southampton hospital revealed nothing untoward, and it was nearly a week later after his return to Trinidad when he was satisfied that his sight was unaffected.

Pollard had not played on this ground since, and he seemed bent upon exacting satisfying revenge until Joe Weatherley ended his innings with a flying grab to his right at deep square leg after James Fuller had been deposited into the leg side. Pollard smoothed towards the pavilion with a philosophical nod of the head in recognition of the quality of the catch. That left Surrey only 22 runs short with 26 balls and five wickets remaining, and they reverted to an approach of minimal risk to chip them off.

Such has been Pollard’s lean run that his 34 was his highest return since he made 41 against England in Barbados in January. He has been a key element in Mumbai Indians’ five IPL crowns since 2010, but he finished the latest campaign with only 144 runs under his belt at an average of 14.40 and a strike rate of 107.46 – his lowest strike rate in any IPL season. With Surrey so dominant, he had been limited to a few cameos, staying in trim with the hope of bigger things to come.

That led to Ian Bishop suggesting that Pollard had borne the weight of Mumbai Indians’ failures too heavily and that he had to reinvent himself. There was not much sign of reinvention at the Ageas, more a reaffirmation, as he slammed the legspin of Mason Crane for successive sixes over extra cover and long-off, the second of them brutally mistimed as his top hand came off the bat but he still landed the ball deep into the stands.

Fuller’s fast-medium was then whipped through mid-off twice in a row with awesome power. Nathan Ellis was swatted through square leg as an irritant not worth his consideration. The familiar Pollard was by then in mode: the saunter down the pitch and the dismissive little touch of the top of his thigh pad to confirm that things were going well. Rory Burns, at that point, just played the supporting role of token glove puncher, but he had the nous to stick around in understated fashion until the match was won. The decisive moment came with eight runs needed from seven balls, at which point the Australian Ellis tried to bounce out Chris Jordan and the ball whistled for six.

Hampshire had been inserted on a pitch that initially was so quick the match might have been rescheduled for Perth. James Vince, on the back of a sublime century on Friday night, was dropped by Burns on 19 when he drilled Gus Atkinson to backward point, but it was not overly costly: Jamie Overton’s reputation is growing and the thought of a short ball on a fast pitch caused Vince to trust to the back foot and be lbw to a fullish one. The middle order faltered against Sunil Narine and Jordan, the latter taking a stunning return catch to dismiss Ross Whiteley. It took Fuller’s elan (39 not out from 22 balls) to post a meaningful score.

Vince, unsurprisingly, is leading Hampshire’s recovery from a poor start to the season and lies second to Rilee Rossouw in the tournament’s runs tally.

Overton, who hopes to make his Test debut at Headingley, had a mixed afternoon. He added a second wicket when Weatherley pulled him to deep square leg, but on a pitch that suited him down to the ground, he did not quite assemble the hostility that might have been expected.

Perhaps with a Test debut on the horizon he was being slightly conservative in his approach, perhaps he was taking a steady-away approach to the shorter format. Whichever it was, it was a relief to discover that when he fell over in his follow-through in his third over no harm was done.

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