Mark Stoneman and Rory Burns formed a century opening stand to help Surrey to a comfortable position in the final session of the second day against Hampshire, despite the hosts remaining 535 runs behind.
The visitors travel to Cardiff immediately after this game ahead of a T20 on Friday night, and they may well be unable to spot the difference between the M4 and the wicket they are currently playing on.
Even with Hampshire’s dominant batting performance, the old adage of not judging until both sides have batted was required. 20 wickets in the match feels unlikely, let alone 20 Surrey wickets.
Stoneman picked up where he left off on Saturday, batting sensibly but relatively quickly, favouring the cover drive and the offside in general. All of his ten boundaries came that side of the wicket.
He got into gear early, taking three fours off Gareth Berg’s second over and giving just one chance, edging one from Ian Holland but the ball bounced just short of gully. The opener was fluent, 36 of his first 50 runs coming through boundaries. It’s the sixth time he’s passed fifty in first-class cricket this year.
He had looked very well set, until Sean Ervine, in his first over, found an edge from a yorker with Rilee Rossouw doing the business at first slip. It was a rather tame end, given how many runs were on offer and how well he batted.
Stand-in captain Burns had batted nicely too, although much more in the vein of opening day centurion Jimmy Adams: watchful, patient. By the close he had reached 45, partnered now by nightwatchman Conor McKerr.
Despite the strong start, the hosts had and continue to have a job to do, having begun their innings with a follow-on target of 499.
Hampshire would expect at least one early wicket in the morning with McKerr and, however tough it may be, a Surrey side missing Kumar Sangakkara gives them an in.
Earlier, Hampshire had piled on the runs having seemingly decided they weren’t interested in batting twice in this game.
Captain George Bailey picked up where he left off yesterday, continuing to find gaps in the field and accumulating runs quickly. Only one real moment of excitement came for Surrey, Bailey flashing hard but out of the reach of gully.
He and Sean Ervine otherwise batted a pretty chanceless morning in which, by the lunch break, it seemed as though the hosts were simply going through the motions. Ervine took Hampshire past 400, clipping four through midwicket.
Bailey reached his second hundred for the club, reverse sweeping Amar Virdi for his 14th four – the shot was a particular favourite of his, scoring at least a dozen from it.
His partner’s innings, meanwhile, was unfussy and mostly unremarkable, racing to his half-century in 68 balls but with little recklessness, bringing up the milestone with a cover-driven single.
136 runs were added before lunch and after it, Hampshire increased the tempo.
Ervine rocked back and pulled a very nice four through midwicket, but in the next over he cut one from Conor McKerr back onto his stumps, departing for 83 – his second-highest first-class score this season. He and the skipper had added 167, a new record for the fifth wicket against Surrey.
Bailey went on, advancing to Scott Borthwick and hitting his second six over wide-mid-on, bringing up his 150 in the process. Assisted ably by Ian Holland, he made it to 161 – his second-highest first-class knock – before holing out to Mark Footitt in the deep, the fast bowler taking a very fine catch on the rope.
Holland cut boundaries off McKerr and Dominic Sibley, hitting a third boundary back over Borthwick’s head. He became the fifth batsman of the innings to pass fifty paddle sweeping two, his maiden first-class half-century.
Gareth Berg was essentially deployed as a pinch-hitter, facing just 16 balls but striking 35. He thrice plonked Sibley for six, twice over long off and once straight back into the pavilion, taking 24 from the part-timer.
But Sibley got a glimmer of vindication when another big hit went wrong and Tom Curran caught a high ball at long-on.
Hampshire’s total was their fifth highest and their biggest score against Surrey; it was the eighth largest tally conceded by the hosts.