On a day when champagne cricket was witnessed across the country at Taunton, Lancashire took most of the fizz out of Surrey’s batting with a disciplined bowling display in damp, gloomy conditions at the Oval.
Kyle Jarvis was the main benefactor, whom after a run-filled start, came back following tea to remove Kevin Pietersen and Zafar Ansari to put the visitors in a slender position of superiority.
A late partnership between in-form pair Steven Davies and Jason Roy saw Surrey put on 71 runs before close, the half-century coming in 7.2 overs, as the sun began to appear.
“It was hard work against the really hard new ball,” said Alec Stewart, Surrey director of cricket. “Lancashire bowled well, the best bowling attack we’ve seen [this season], but it was nice to see Davies and Roy play their own game. The ball has bounced and seamed but they still tried to attack when they could, in a controlled attacking manner.
“We always tell the players to play to their strengths and read the situation and look to hit the ball when they can, and that’s what they’ve done throughout their careers. It is not easy; it’s a decent pitch. We’re very impressed with what we saw of Lancashire’s bowling in the 45 overs of play that were possible.”
Heavy, intermittent showers had curtailed any chance of play getting underway before 3pm; the groundstaff’s tireless efforts prevented on two occasions from starting the clean-up process prior to an early lunch.
When the weather did relent, the players were out of their changing room boxes like puppies freed from homebound confines for the first time, gallivanting around the outfield.
Lancashire captain Paul Horton settled his pack by winning the toss and, unusually for an Oval pitch, deciding to bowl first – overhead conditions understandably determining his choice.
Horton’s judgement was correct, and although they were made to wait ten overs until a wicket fell, the favourable seam conditions were evident from the off.
Tom Bailey drew the first sighs of “ohh” from the crowd as Rory Burns left his bat out to a ball that moved a touch too far to elicit a nick. Three overs later and Bailey found the edge, Alex Davies taking the catch.
Kumar Sangakkara made a temporary stay, adding ten runs, before hooking Jordan Clark to the welcoming hands of James Faulkner at long-leg. Sangakkara was well aware he had played it poorly – even though the ball came in a little and rose quicker than expected – practicing his downwards hook at the crease before leaving the middle.
Kevin Pietersen departed next – three balls after a restart for bad light reduced the day by a further five overs – clipping a Kyle Jarvis delivery to Horton at first slip that reared up slightly and left him.
Ansari, meanwhile, who has struggled for form and is yet to make a half-century in first-class cricket this season, looked improved of late, playing through leg and driving crisply. He worked hard to reach 37 – hit in the stomach and elbow to some discomfort along the way – upon which he glanced Jarvis behind for Horton to hold.
From there Davies and Roy took the attack to Lancashire, whose harassing lines had previously deceived the batsmen now became fodder, 11 fours struck by the pair before the end of play.