Surrey v Somerset, The Oval, 3rd day May 18, 2012

Meaker express delivers for Surrey

David Lloyd at The Oval

Somerset 512 for 9 dec and 154 for 7 (Compton 50, Meaker 5-42) lead Surrey 388 (Davies 104, Maynard 89, Philander 4-88) by 278 runs

The Test cricket was on the other side of the Thames. But for really tough cricket, in terms of a terrific, see-sawing battle between bat and ball, one could not wish for much better than that on offer at The Oval.

Graham Thorpe, England's lead batting coach and a Surrey legend to boot, was among those watching as an absorbing contest changed direction several times before bad light ended the action almost an hour early. The loss of nearly 13 overs this evening could prove costly so far as obtaining a positive result is concerned but at least the forecast for tomorrow is good.

Somerset, with a lead of 278 and three wickets in hand, find themselves in the better position but all outcomes remain possible. As for the quality of the cricket, that will struggle to get any better than we witnessed for long periods today while Stuart Meaker and Jon Lewis were bowling in tandem for the hosts against a batting department held together for three hours by the run-ravenous and yet ultimately unsated Nick Compton.

Thorpe did not see as much of Tom Maynard as he might have wished, Surrey's No. 6 adding only 26 runs to his overnight 63 before he was prised out. But one of several young batsmen around the country now attracting serious attention from on high had done just about enough to ensure the hosts were not made to follow-on for a second consecutive match.

As for Compton, Thorpe must add more words of praise, surely, to the many already written this season, if he is filing a report to HQ. True, the Somerset man made 'only' 50 - small beer for him in a campaign that has brought 869 first-class run so far - but his technique stood up to a long and searching examination until he was finally dismissed in artificially enhanced but still tricky light.

Having scored nearly 7,000 Test runs, Thorpe is also more than capable of making constructive comments with regard to what makes an international-class fast bowler. And it would be surprising indeed if he were not hugely impressed with Meaker, who ought now to be added to the admittedly long list of those pacemen pushing for an opportunity in five-day cricket.

Now 23, Meaker played a couple of ODIs for England over the winter. But he continues to improve by leaps and bounds and his performance today, while taking five for 42 from 16 overs, was top-drawer. At 6ft 1in, he is not especially tall by current fast-bowling standards. But he is especially quick (a 90mph merchant, without doubt) and here he demonstrated not only great pace but also excellent control. So few deliveries were wasted, particularly during the session between lunch and tea, that Compton - a batsman in the form of his life, remember - scored one run in 10 overs as Meaker and the ever-reliable Lewis joined forces.

The wickets, when they came, were eye-catching, too. Extra bounce did for Alex Barrow, James Hildreth snicked a particularly rapid ball and Peter Trego managed to get only part way through an ambitious pull shot, to name just three of the victims. Compton, to his great credit, survived everything hurled at him by Meaker - and survived most of it with calm assurance. He failed to see out the day, though, with an attempted pull against Chris Jordan going sadly wrong.

That wasn't the last bit of damage inflicted by Jordan before the evening's second and final stoppage for bad light. The allrounder hit Vernon Philander on his bowling hand with a short ball, leaving the South Africa Test star in some pain. Philander called for the physio but was able to carry on after some TLC.