Result: Surrey 319 & 323/3d (Sangakkara 136, Borthwick 108*) drew with Lancashire 470
As a veteran of nearly 300 matches, with a bucketload of runs earning him a switch from Durham to Surrey, Scott Borthwick is hardly a man who needs to spend his time in the middle learning.
But that doesn’t mean the batsman is going to stop any time soon.
Back in 2014, his then-Durham teammate Kumar Sangakkara credited an 84 against Sussex as “just what you want from a number three” – quite the badge of honour coming from a man who had batted there 186 times in Tests.
It’s easy to wonder therefore what the Sri Lankan legend wondered about Borthwick’s match-saving innings against Lancashire this time around.
After 256 runs and 64.2 overs together, Borthwick was the man who stood tall once stumps were drawn on a day where Surrey lost just two wickets, Sangakkara going in the penultimate over when the game was already secured.
This could, quite understandably, have been a day of jitters for Borthwick. His Surrey teammates had struggled under the spin of Simon Kerrigan and Stephen Parry – of similar England outcast fame – with wickets at times greater than runs in their bid to avoid the follow-on on Day Three.
But aside from the team, still 96 runs in arrears, the 26-year-old could have quite rightfully had a selfish hat on.
In what was an impressive victory against Warwickshire last week, Borthwick had missed out with the bat, making 23. He only made 19 in the first innings here, too, while fellow Durham departee Mark Stoneman had already registered three figures. The pressures of wanting to make a mark would have been understandable.
But, in a role that has not often been thrust in his direction, the number three took the patient duty. An unbeaten 108 from 250 balls was his prize come the end of the day, usurped in scoring by Sangakkara.
More than three years since being coached in the middle by the Sri Lankan veteran, Borthwick was happy to take up the same mantle. After all, his ‘badger’ nickname came after referring to Sangakkara as an “absolute cricket badger” in that match at Hove.
“The hundred is something I’ve dreamt of for the last five, six months so it was nice to get it, any hundred is nice but I think the team needed it to bounce back from yesterday,” said Borthwick.
“It was fantastic to be there with Sanga too, watching him go about his business was quite unbelievable.
“We wanted to look for positives to score from, and when you’ve got Sangakkara at the other end you’ve got the best seat in the house.
“It was nice for me to get that century, but to bat with him you feel like you’re learning from the way he talks to you when you’re out there in the overs. He’s a bit of a batting coach out there, especially against spin.
“It was good for myself but for the team as well. That partnership for them was really good and they bowled pretty well, but today was about bouncing back and showing that character.”
With the 39-year-old Sangakkara rather long in the tooth, Surrey will be keen to milk him for every run he has until the pads are finally retired. Reaching the 45,000 mark in all professional games by the time that happens is not beyond the realms of possibility.
He went 136 closer on Day Four before eventually departing, unwittingly and somehow being bowled by Kerrigan who, with two for 101 from 24 overs, struggled for the same impact as he had shown just a day before.
That was largely due to expert batting by both players, each taking a boundary from Kerrigan’s first over the morning on the ground where he was ruthlessly dispatched by Australia in his only Test.
A Sangakkara straight six over his head may have perhaps brought up old wounds and bad memories.
Save for a drop at slip by Ryan McLaren, the two were chanceless as Borthwick in particular orchestrated an air of patience while Sangakkara caressed through the covers in only the way he can. Had he not been bowled late on, it could have counted as workplace bullying.
Two bludgeoning blows off Liam Livingstone – who impressed as a debut captain – followed by a square cut took him to the cusp of three figures, while his junior followed soon after to back up his twin tons against the same opposition at Chester-le-Street last season.
Such was the confidence the two had and gave off, you easily forgot Surrey were barely 50 ahead in the afternoon session, with plenty still to do.
They had almost created an opening too as Stoneman danced down to Parry for 27, stumped with his side still trailing.
But that was to be as good as it got for Lancashire as the hosts took a draw to add to their impressive Warwickshire win, with the same opponents next to come on Friday at Edgbaston.
For Lancashire and Glen Chapple, disappointment will be short-lived. They were, after all, 146/5 before Jordan Clark and Shivnarine Chanderpaul took up the Borthwick/Sangakkara role earlier in the piece, a comparison both sides can leave London happy with.