George Bartlett is a young man of considerable promise. On a testing wicket after a tricky first hour for Somerset, he completed a very assured century to put his side in control at Guildford.
It could all have been so different. The 21-year-old strode to the crease at 35-3 after Tom Abell won the toss and elected to bat, seeking to avoid a repeat of last year’s innings defeat here. Bartlett poked at Matthew Dunn and found the edge, straight to first slip. It was a routine catch at shin height but it went in and out of Rikki Clarke’s hands.
Clarke rarely drops catches, standing at 6 ft 4 in and with buckets for hands, but this one was costly and reflected the current luck of the winless champions. Surrey have just one win in all competitions this season and will have to work hard to change that here.
Bartlett is from Frimley, half-an-hour up the road from Guildford, although he moved to the West Country at a young age. After his first ball lapse, he looked at home against Morne Morkel and the rest of the Surrey attack. That is hardly a surprise: his other centuries came against James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
He played some terrific shots off the back foot, driving and punching the ball behind square early in his innings. Before lunch, he had been largely watchful in making 25, but opened up after the break to reach three figures.
Bartlett’s fifty came through a cover driven four, his seventh boundary, and he and Steven Davies were positive as the afternoon wore on. Gareth Batty was dispatched over the midwicket boundary to send Bartlett into the 80s.
The crowning moment was briefly a nervy one: tickling fine, three balls before tea, just evading a diving, despairing Foakes. Guildford’s healthy crowd rose to applaud a mighty fine knock from a mighty fine young talent.
His concentration could perhaps use some refinement, having on a few occasions wafted aimlessly, feet in concrete, at deliveries a long way outside his off stump. One such miss was followed by a sumptuous cover drive for a couple, making it all the more unnecessary, but he is 21 and will learn in time.
Certainly, he will have impressed England Lions coach Andy Flower, who was in attendance.
It was Morkel who eventually got Bartlett, prodding forward on 137 — his highest first-class score —and finding a thin outside edge to Ben Foakes. He was given another standing ovation, and richly deserved too.
His stand with Tom Banton had frustrated Surrey after a strong first hour. Morkel had Abell caught at slip, Clarke found Marcus Trescothick’s edge from a loose shot, and Dunn pinned James Hildreth plumb in front.
Banton favoured the legside, clipping off his legs beautifully and playing a magnificent pull off Clarke. He did ride his luck, edging Ryan Patel for three consecutive boundaries all through a vacant gully region. Dunn ended his 95-run stand with Bartlett, finding some extra bounce and forcing an edge in a nothing shot.
Davies had been previously bowled through the gate and Surrey took quick wickets with the new ball, the Overton brothers both castled by Clarke and Tim Groenewald edging behind. Jack Brooks suffered the same fate after some late hitting and Somerset fell six short of a batting point, but what a remarkable recovery it had been.
One positive note for Surrey: Ollie Pope spent time at lunch doing sprints with Darren Veness, the strength and conditioning coach. Pope was out of his sling and generally looked comfortable although did, after a sprint, feel the left shoulder he dislocated in April. He is still set to be out for several weeks, however.