Hashim Amla kicked on to a magnificent unbeaten double century and was backed up by the imperious Ollie Pope as Surrey asserted their dominance over Hampshire.
Surrey started day two in much the same way they finished day one. Both Burns and Amla looked as comfortable as batsmen can in the county game, making it ever more difficult to comprehend the stark difference between their innings and the disastrous one from Hampshire that preceded it.
The visitors did find some joy in the first hour through Liam Dawson, who took the wicket of Burns. The England opener had a big swing at a shorter ball that never got as high as he wanted it to and a bottom edge, hitting both pads on its way through, ricocheted into his stumps. A strange moment to bring about the end of Burns, and a mistake that cost him a chance at what would have been a well-earned hundred.
Someone who was not about to make any mistakes was Amla. He played with all the skill and guile you would expect of a man on the brink of 18,000 first-class runs. Because of this, his century soon came in the 56th over of the day, a ton he scored off of just 142 balls; a strike rate of 70.42.
The final half-hour before lunch was relatively quiet. Both Amla and new man Ollie Pope looked set; happy to take singles instead of boundaries and carry their bats to lunch, and the Hants attack seemed equally happy to get the run rate back under control after a rather expensive morning. This period did, though, did see Amla tick over to 113*, and in the process score his 18,000th first-class run. An incredible milestone for an incredible player who we are truly lucky to have on the county circuit.
Lunch came with the score sat at 243-2, something that would have seemed impossible this time yesterday.
Pope was looking like himself after lunch, slashing a gorgeous drive through the covers off the bowling of Scott Currie in the first over of the session. Not to be outdone, Amla resumed his innings with a backward cut to the rope off the bowling of Liam Dawson and, as if lunch had never happened, Hampshire were on the back foot once again.
Pope is a player that has every shot and he knows how to use them. His 50 came off 88 balls and in the next over he hit the most textbook of on-drives for four.
Mohammad Abbas was brought back into the attack after Pope’s landmark, but it still felt like Hants were a long way away from a breakthrough. As Burns proved early on in the day, the only people seemingly capable of getting the Surrey batsmen out were the Surrey batsmen.
Quietly, Hashim Amla, a man at the opposite end of his career to his young partner, ticked along to his 150. It would have come sooner had a cover drive not been fielded by a slow-to-react pigeon in the outfield, but it eventually came in the 86th over.
Surrey continued to look comfortable at the crease up until Ian Holland was brought into the attack. Pope, who up until this point had not been rushed, was suddenly playing and missing outside off; maybe a symptom of being in the ‘nervy 90s’, but the key for Surrey was that he did miss them.
In the next over, Amla brought the calm back to the partnership by taking the pair to the 200 mark.
Joining Holland in the attack was James Vince who also had Ollie Pope playing and missing outside his off-stump; one ball even seemed to take the edge and just evade the glove of Lewis McManus before going through to the boundary for what would have been Pope’s century, but byes were instead signalled.
Next ball, the English youngster made no mistake, smashing a flowing drive through the covers, moving his score onto 101 from 139 balls at a strike rate of 72.66.
It was another dominant Surrey session, 153 runs at a rate of 4.5 an over, without a single wicket falling.
After lunch the 400 did come up in a rather unceremonious way, Pope edged the bowling of Bradley Wheal through the cordon down to a vacant third man boundary. He did however make up for it, clinically pulling Scott Currie for four to bring up the 250 partnership.
Ever growing in confidence, Pope continued to look to take on the bowling of Currie, and that was what finally brought about his downfall. Slashing outside off, a loose ball was taken well at backward point by diving Brad Wheal. A typically gorgeous innings from Pope ended on 131.
The wicket also signalled the end of a 257 run partnership, but perhaps more importantly to Hampshire it earned them a bowling point, meaning they would avoid the ignominy of a completely pointless four days.
The next man in was Jamie Smith, who straight away hit back to back boundaries in his first over, immediately looking at home on this seemingly flat and lifeless playing surface.
Currie seemed to be finally getting some life out of the pitch and probably should have had Amla caught at second slip. Instead, the ball flew through the hands of Joe Weatherley and away for four more runs, creeping ever closer to a seemingly inevitable 200. And inevitable it indeed came to be. A late cut behind point was the shot to bring up the impressive milestone, encapsulating a fantastic display of patience, discipline, and talent honed over a long and decorated career.
The light was dying but, before it forced the players from the field, Jamie Smith decided to really attack the final phase of the day. His scintillating 51* came off just 64 balls.
Before long Surrey had amassed another 100 partnership, the the third consecutive partnership over 100 in the innings. Whatever way you frame it, there are no positives that they can take from this long, gruelling slog in the field.
Hampshire’s only hope is to attempt to completely forget the last two days and treat tomorrow’s innings as their first. If they attempt to even begin to fathom the mammoth task that is ahead of them, minds are likely to become frayed, and frayed minds do not salvage matches.