Should any Hampshire bowler wake up in the middle of the night with an irrational fear of a monster under their bed, chances are, they’d be wrong. But, equally, there is every chance that there is something there, but it is no monster: it is actually the spirit of Rory Burns, coming to haunt them in their sleep as he does by day.
Hampshire must surely be sick of the sight of Burns, whose grit has seen him score more than 300 runs against them in three first-class innings this season, having been dismissed twice. In both matches, he looks to be the deciding factor in denying the south coast side a win – his maiden double hundred led to a high scoring draw at The Oval in July, while a half-century at Southampton may well salvage Surrey some points.
After Gareth Berg helped the hosts to a 90-run lead, Burns was required to once again dig in with top order wickets falling at the other end. He had 27 when Jason Roy was bowled with the score 51-3 and, partnered by Ben Foakes, was patient as he had been two months ago.
Only an attempted reverse sweep to Liam Dawson represented a lapse in judgement during his 63, which was aesthetically pleasing only to those enamoured with the red-ball game – he found the boundary just three times.
It was, much like his Oval marathon – in which he batted for 756 minutes across both innings – an innings that showed his character. Or perhaps it’s just that he loves to see Hampshire in particular suffer: he’s passed 50 against them six times in ten attempts, and averages 100.14.
For him and his team, it is a shame that he isn’t unbeaten overnight, removed lbw sweeping the offspin of Joe Weatherley seven overs from the end of the day. But rain is forecast for the majority of Friday, and so he may well have done enough to earn Surrey their ninth draw from 11 Specsavers County Championship games.
Berg’s fourth highest first-class knock for Hampshire marked the end of a sublime turnaround, with his side having recovered from 31-5 and 60-6 to reach 290. He attacked the ball nicely and looked sturdy in defence, with the wearing ball doing little for a seam attack far less potent this morning than on the second evening.
A particular favourite of his was running the ball fine through third man, pushing his side into a lead playing it against Gareth Batty and stealing ten in a single Tom Curran over. Batty was the bowler when Berg advanced and played a glorious straight drive for six to reach fifty.
He was ably assisted first by Ian Holland, who hit his second first-class half-century (the first, coincidentally, came at The Oval), and then by Kyle Abbott – a very handy number ten – who struck an unbeaten 37.
His five boundaries helped push the score above 250 and when Berg fell, edging Jade Dernbach behind for 80, Fidel Edwards’ cameo entertained the small crowd. Three consecutive boundaries against Dernbach took him to 20, his highest first-class score in England, before losing off stump attempting to heave Tom Curran over midwicket.
The Surrey reply started slowly before Ryan Patel, who hit 81 in the first innings, top edged a sweep and was caught for 20. Scott Borthwick avoided a pair but was caught behind well by Tom Alsop for just one – Roy suffered the same numerical fate; he looks a place too high at four and will be grateful to see Kumar Sangakkara back next week.