Stumps, Day One: Surrey 394-5 (Sangakkara 171, Roy 85, Burns 80) v Somerset, at The KIA Oval
Kumar Sangakkara’s record-breaking 171 led Surrey to a domination over Somerset on the first day of their County Championship match at The KIA Oval. It was the Sri Lankan’s sixth First Class century at the club and was as entertaining as it was effortless.
Somerset opted not to bowl first and asked for the coin to be tossed, and Sangakkara’s display illustrated exactly why. Rarely mistiming a shot, Sangakkara batted with ease and flair, quickly taking the attack to the bowlers. Craig Overton in particular suffered, conceding 46 runs to him.
There was the odd nerve early on. He edged to first slip on nine, where the ball fell just short, before being dropped at midwicket soon after, though it may be harsh to suggest it as so, given the power with which the ball was struck.
After that, Sangakkara played perhaps one false shot in an innings that showed he is still one of the best batsmen in the world.
Striking ten from a single Jack Leach over, the 38-year-old moved to an elegant half-century from just 52 balls. The Somerset bowlers looked powerless to stop him as he accelerated the Surrey run rate, which was nearing five an over by lunch.
Just after lunch, on 85, Sangakkara walked down the track to Overton and dispatched him for a lofted four over wide mid-on, before bringing up his 94-ball ton just 30 minutes after the break. He did it in style, smashing the ball over mid-on off Roelof van der Merwe for his fourth maximum.
Sangakkara was partnered by opener Rory Burns, who batted with far less freedom than the number three, but just as masterfully.
Burns passed 4000 runs for the club early on in his knock and kept things ticking over, building his innings carefully. He reached fifty just before lunch and soon after his partner’s century, hit van der Merwe back over his head for his first six.
But on 80, Burns advanced to the same bowler and could only chip the ball straight back for an easy catch. The pair had put on 187, but the 26-year-old will be bitterly disappointed that he couldn’t also reach a three-figure score when it was well within his grasp.
Burns’ wicket, along with the subsequent dismissal of Steven Davies, who never really looked comfortable and edged to Peter Trego at first slip for nine, caused the Sri Lankan to slow down. Two balls before the tea interval, he moved to his 150 where his strike rate had dropped just below 100.
He was finally out on 171 as he struck the ball in the air to deep extra cover where Peter Trego made no mistakes, despite a large flock of pigeons obstructing him. Sangakkara’s knock came from just 176 balls and by the end, his departure felt like a mercy after making batting look as easy as you like for the better part of the 62 overs he was at the crease.
Sangakkara broke multiple records as he passed his 1000th First Class run for Surrey, his highest First Class – and later, outright – score for the club and his highest score in county cricket.
His departure brought Zafar Ansari to the middle, who returns after a long recovery from a hand injury sustained in September, and he, along with Jason Roy, ensured their side didn’t suffer from the type of collapse that plagued them at times last season.
Roy was in no desire to wait around, playing a crunching drive to the fence through wide mid-on from his first delivery. Ten more boundaries came in his 89-ball 85 before he was trapped in front by Lewis Gregory. Ansari moved to 28* with Ben Foakes yet to trouble the scorers at the other end when bad light ended play about 30 minutes from the scheduled close.
Earlier in the day, Somerset had made some good use of the new ball, with Overton and Gregory probing away just outside Burns’ and Arun Harinath’s off stumps. Overton trapped Harinath in front for nine, but once he departed, it became the Sangakkara show, and what a show it was.