Rory Burns has been out in single figures for Surrey in first-class cricket only twice this season. The first came against Yorkshire at The Oval three months ago, the second came on the opening day of this match against Lancashire.
His next innings after scoring nine against the White Rose was 151 at The Ageas Bowl. And, before dragging onto his stumps for 70 against the Red Rose, Burns had looked well set to reach three figures once again at The Oval.
Burns wasn’t without a stroke of luck. Graham Onions squared him up with a beauty that left him a fraction, but Steven Croft spilled a routine chance at second slip. Three balls later and the Surrey captain went past 50 for the seventh time this season.
Having fallen in disappointing fashion first time around, unsure whether to cut or leave on six — perhaps trying to channel the batting prowess of his desired international teammates at Trent Bridge — this was a much more assured, typical Rory Burns innings. The perfectly-timed late cuts worked a treat and the crowd purred when he drove through mid on.
It was the debutant, Josh Bohannon, who removed Burns half-a-dozen short of 1,000 first-class runs for the summer. Still, it’s difficult to imagine him being too far from a Test call-up.
Burns was partnered for eight overs by Aaron Finch. Before play began, as the Australian stood ready to receive his county cap from Burns, the public address announcer reminded spectators of his first-class debut for the club, when he slog-swept Jeetan Patel for six from his first ball.
For those that stuck around into the night session — which applied to most of the 2,636 that entered prior to it — Finch served up his own reminder, had anyone missed his blistering T20 form. He took 22 from two Matt Parkinson overs, clearing the OCS stand with a slog-swept six and finding the middle of it an over later. Graham Onions ended his 34-ball cameo on 32.
It was Bohannon who had bedded in during the first session to frustrate Surrey and deny the hosts a first innings lead. At just 21 years old, he looked entirely at ease against a three-pronged seam attack, all of whom have played Test cricket.
He ran Morne Morkel’s second ball of the day to third man for a boundary, and later took 12 from a Sam Curran over, playing a pair of sumptuous cover drives. He might be the shortest man playing this match — the Boltonian is rivalled in his diminutive stature only by wicketkeeper Alex Davies — but what he lacks in height he makes up for in technique.
Bohannon did get a life, dropped on 20 at short leg by Will Jacks — on as a substitute for Jade Dernbach, still suffering with a sore groin. Lancashire had yet to lose a wicket at that stage of the day — although Shivnarine Chanderpaul was run out in a mix-up during the following over — and they added 73 more before being bowled out.
Amar Virdi removed Bohannon nine balls after the first interval, turning one back into the right-handers pads to take his eighth lbw of the season. Before the break, Virdi had found sharp spin and Joe Mennie feathered behind a cut. Graham Onions chipped to cover to end proceedings with Lancashire 36 in front.
When Mark Stoneman fell into the trap and hooked Tom Bailey to deep square, and Arun Harinath fell victim to the third “yes, no, sorry” run out of the match, Surrey were just 37 ahead.
Thanks to Burns’ knock and Finch’s counter-attack — along with a stylish, speedy, chance-filled __ from Sam Curran — Surrey ended the day 197 for four, 161 runs clear. With Lancashire’s 247 the highest score of the match, the prospect of batting in the best conditions against an aging, lifeless ball, and the surface already offering spin to Virdi, the hosts are very well placed.