“Ryan’s a hero,” said Jason Roy in earshot of Surrey’s 19-year-old opening batsman Ryan Patel, who scored 81 against Hampshire in just his second first-class match.
Though that could be conceived as an exaggeration, it perhaps isn’t too much a falsehood, for Surrey have control over a match that, if not for him, could very well be into its third innings – at a minimum.
Ben Foakes was the only other man to make more than 13 for the visitors. The rest of their batting lineup struggled on an Ageas Bowl pitch that appeared difficult to bat on, especially in swing-friendly conditions.
Patel’s knock was far from chanceless – having been dropped on 31 by James Vince at short cover, failing to hold onto a looping ball like a goalkeeper save, Hampshire thought they had their man a run later.
Skipper George Bailey claimed a catch at cover that appeared clean, but a consultation between the umpires followed and Patel remained. He was later dropped on 58 by wicketkeeper Tom Alsop.
The runs came nicely for the 19-year-old, with little in the way of flashiness – his lone six came pulling behind square – but rather with a focus on good cricket shots.
His fifth four, driven through backward point, brought up a maiden first-class half-century and at that point the innings was pretty evenly balanced at 113-4.
“It was tough in periods, but the wicket flattened out in the afternoon and got a bit easier,” Patel assessed. “Obviously, wickets falling at the other end [made it] quite difficult.
Ollie Pope’s departure brought about a collapse of six wickets for just 37 runs, with Patel bowled shortly after and Surrey’s tail succumbing to the hosts’ attack.
Rikki Clarke took six over mid-on off Liam Dawson but soon lost off stump to Fidel Edwards before Dawson trapped captain Gareth Batty in front.
It was left to Jade Dernbach to help get the seven runs needed for the final wicket for a batting point, stealing a single to midwicket before being caught and bowled by Dawson – he finished with four wickets for 22.
Tom Curran and Dernbach’s early wickets then had Hampshire reeling at 31-5 within 11 overs leaving a school of thought that even the follow-on – despite it being just 51 – wasn’t out of the question.
Dernbach bowled Joe Weatherley – in his home debut in the Specsavers County Championship – for a single before getting Tom Alsop lbw for a duck. Indeed, the batsman so clearly knew his fate that he walked without looking to see the umpire’s finger.
This is Curran’s first appearance for three weeks, having sustained a back injury, but he looked as sharp as ever accounting for the next three Hampshire wickets.
Both Jimmy Adams and Vince were trapped in front before Sean Ervine fell to a superb catch by wicketkeeper Foakes, diving low to his left.
It is thanks to captain George Bailey that Hampshire are still batting their first innings, as his 51 held together what had previously been a house of cards.
Even he looked uncomfortable on a wicket that is not very batsman-friendly, though as the late afternoon wore on his stroke-making improved, pulling and driving boundaries sweetly.
He flashed four just wide of gully to move to 47 and, just prior to stumps, pushed a single to mid off to pass 50 – only the third time he’s done so this season in the Championship.
Ian Holland partnered him as they put on 69 for the seventh wicket to salvage their first innings, but Bailey was lbw sweeping Gareth Batty in the penultimate over of the day to leave the match nicely poised.
Patel said: “[Getting Bailey] gives us a big boost. He scored 160 against us at The Oval so he was huge to get out.
“Now we’ve got through that international player and hopefully, we can finish it off in the first hour tomorrow morning.”
At the start of the day, Rory Burns – who occupied 756 minutes in two innings at the crease when these two sides met at the Oval in July – lasted just 33 minutes before nicking to slip.
Two wickets in seven balls – Scott Borthwick and Jason Roy lbw for ducks – brought Foakes to the crease, whose counterattacking play took him to the forties in the blink of an eye. Vince took a smart catch to dismiss him, pulling Dawson very hard to midwicket.