As the Surrey players enjoyed their Saturday evening after ending the first day against Hampshire in a strong position, they were treated to the tricks of an American magician.
The now retired magician — a hippie-looking man, attending his first cricket match, whose investments have earnt him plenty of coin — even did contortion, with his general skills bringing a smile to Michael Di Venuto’s face.
On the second evening, it was Surrey’s quartet of quicks — and Rikki Clarke in particular — who returned the favour and entertained the transatlantic guest, but there was no secret as to where Hampshire’s top order disappeared to.
Clarke claimed only his fifth first-class five-wicket-haul in a demolition job during an elongated final session of 44 overs, thanks to a combination of overs made up from Saturday and slow over rate.
He began by removing James Vince with a beauty that pitched on off stump and nipped away. Vince had to play, and Scott Borthwick took a good low catch at second slip. Clarke then did for Jimmy Adams — who might have been removed for five not 13 when seemingly edging Sam Curran behind — leg-before.
A flurry of wickets ended Hampshire’s first innings. Clarke had Gareth Berg lbw and then Brad Taylor, fending off a terrific bouncer, gloved to the cordon — the delivery was as fierce as the Surrey attack had been. Fidel Edwards was caught behind to end the innings with Hampshire all out for 135, a mammoth 233 runs behind.
Either side of the tea break, Surrey looked firmly in control with the ball. Joe Weatherley edged through a vacant gully with the first ball of the innings and it set the tone for the 60 overs left in the day. It wasn’t long before his downfall, another loose drive to Jade Dernbach flying straight to first slip.
Then it was the turn of Morne Morkel, in his first-class debut for Surrey. His former international teammate-turned-counterpart, Dale Steyn, had earlier looked a man playing his first red-ball game in five months, and Morkel unsurprisingly outshone him.
He removed Sean Ervine — making his first Specsavers County Championship appearance of 2018 — inside-edging behind, and then Rilee Rossouw, on 46, guiding to gully two balls after being struck on the left hand with a sharp lifter. Sam Curran had done the exact same a few overs previous, and deserved the wicket of Lewis McManus, beaten for pace.
The final eight overs of the day weren’t possible due to bad light, with stumps called at 7.15pm. Even without the extra overs, play would have ended no earlier.
The day began as badly as it ended for the hosts. Rory Burns, 109 unbeaten overnight, quickly added 17 and was handed a stroke of luck, Ervine dropping a sitter at first slip. Kyle Abbott, the bowler, looked aghast. Even standing umpire Billy Taylor held his head in his hands.
To be fair, Burns had deserved good fortune, such was the quality of his innings. He nurdled well in the morning when a soft ball was of no assistance to Hampshire, moving to his second 150 of the season, his 500th run in the Championship this year — and taking the spot as Division One’s leading scorer to boot.
Burns got himself out trying to hit Brad Taylor over the Shane Warne stand with one of very few hoiks across the line. But it’s clear he loves batting against Hampshire — he now boasts a first-class average of 90.8 against them.
His overnight partner Ben Foakes once again attacked Taylor but was trapped in front by Fidel Edwards for 90. Foakes’ conversion rate is poor: the last 11 times he has passed 80 for Surrey, he has seven double figure dismissals and just one century.
Edwards tested the batsmen all day — with the occasional loose delivery — and removed Clarke, Ollie Pope, and Amar Virdi to finish with figures of five for 93 as Surrey were all out for 368.
That may well prove enough for even an innings victory — if, of course, this bowling attack have a few more tricks up their sleeve.