Heroics from Nair and Taylor help Northants to frustrate title-chasing Surrey
Nair shared a 114-run eighth-wicket stand with Tom Taylor before bad light and heavy rain arrived to further frustrate the leaders.
Nair’s memorable hundred and Taylor’s punchy 66 from 77 balls took Northamptonshire to 351 for nine in the 41.1 overs possible on the second day of a match both teams are desperate to win – the home side as they seek to hold off Essex’s challenge and complete back-to-back championship triumphs and Northants as they try to pull off a miracle escape from relegation to Division Two.
Jamie Overton took two wickets in successive balls in the second over after lunch to dismiss Taylor and Ben Sanderson, leaving Northants on 307 for nine.
But with last man Jack White hanging on, and even managing one on-driven four off Tom Lawes, the 31-year-old Nair produced some remarkable strokes to bring Northants a precious third batting bonus point, clinched when he slashed Lawes for a six and four from consecutive balls to square third man just moments before play was halted at 2pm.
Nair had also swung the suffering Lawes for an earlier six to wide mid-wicket and there were also 22 fours in all in his magnificent 238-ball innings.
The gallant White remained five not out, and Surrey have much to do over the last two days of this game if, somehow, they are to manufacture a ninth win of the season.
Former India Test batsman Nair resumed on 51 in Northamptonshire’s overnight 171 for six and initially batting remained a tricky proposition under grey clouds and with the Oval floodlights shining down as they had done throughout day one.
Justin Broad cover drove Lawes for four to start brightly, but on 17 he fell to a remarkable reflex catch by wicketkeeper Ben Foakes.
Broad edged Lawes into the slip cordon and Overton, diving across in front of first slip from his position at second, could only knock up the ball low to the turf as he tried to scoop up the chance, but Foakes athletically completed the catch by grabbing it with his right glove.
It gave 20-year-old seamer Lawes his fourth wicket of the innings but, in the rest of the morning session and despite the second new ball being immediately taken with Northants on 234 for seven, there was no further joy for Surrey’s five-strong fast bowling attack.
Their best opportunity to split the superb eighth wicket partnership, in fact, came early on when Taylor had made just a single. Edging Lawes, the No 9 saw Cameron Steel fail to hold on to a waist-high catch at third slip.
It was to prove extremely costly.
Overton, attempting to bounce out Taylor with the old ball, went for 17 in an over as the Northants paceman pulled him twice for four and, in between, also hooked him imperiously for six.
And, with Nair twice extra cover driving Lawes for four, runs were suddenly starting to come quickly despite the bowler-friendly conditions.
Nor did the second new ball slow down the scoring rate.
Both Kemar Roach and Dan Worrall were unable to stop the flow of boundaries, with Taylor on-driving and clipping Roach for fours and Nair going into the 80s with a lovely square driven four off the West Indies fast bowler.
Taylor reached his half-century from a sparkling 55 balls and Nair on drove Worrall for four with the shot of the morning before, on 99, clinching his 16th first-class hundred by upper-cutting the same bowler over the slips for his 17th four.
Northants lunched on 306 for seven and, after Overton’s double strike with Taylor leg-before and Sanderson bowled off stump, the stage was left for Nair – capped six times at Test level by India in 2016 and 2017 – to take on Surrey’s attack with startling results, although on 131 he was dropped low down by Ryan Patel diving forward at deep mid wicket off Overton.