Surrey stumble after Batty's haul
Surrey 233 and 144 for 4 (Roy 71) lead Warwickshire 247 (Chopra 78, Batty 6-73) by 120 runs
Inviting schoolchildren to spend a day at the cricket is always a bit of a gamble. If being hostage to the weather gods is not risk enough, there is always a chance that the cricket will be interminably dull, at least to the undiscerning eye. Little wonder, then, that Surrey's marketing folk were grinning widely.
Not only did they have the good fortune to pick a gorgeously warm day to usher somewhere approaching 3,000 schoolchildren through the gates of The Oval, they were blessed with entertaining cricket. As a bonus, given that all of the invited young guests were from Surrey or south London, the team on top - at least until most of them had gone home - was the one wearing brown hats.
Then again, the cricket is seldom dull when Surrey are involved. Dismissed for 223 in 60 overs on the opening day, they responded by bowling out Warwickshire, the Division One leaders going into this round for 247, six wickets going to the offspinner Gareth Batty, who finished with his best return for Surrey.
Given that Warwickshire had gone into day two only one wicket down and thinking in terms of 400, perhaps even 500 on the board in what had seemed to be ideal conditions, Surrey could congratulate themselves on an entirely acceptable half day's work when the last wicket triggered tea almost 30 minutes hour early.
When Jason Roy, in his preferred manner, raced to 71 off 85 balls, they appeared to be putting themselves in complete control, a position they might well have retained and enhanced had Roy and Rory Hamilton-Brown, a batsman with a similarly destructive approach, not both been out in the space of four deliveries.
Those two blows put the brakes on Surrey's progress rather emphatically, forcing Jacques Rudolph and Tom Maynard to adopt a much more measured approach to what remained of the day. The last 13 overs added 36 to the total and Surrey lead by 120 going into the third day, with six wickets in hand. The outcome, as you always hope at this stage, is in the balance.
A drying pitch is beginning to play increasingly into the hands of the two principle offspinners, with Jeetan Patel's success or otherwise on the third day likely to be an important factor, although not perhaps as influential as Batty could be when Warwickshire bat for a second time.
Batty has had to contend himself with playing second-fiddle at key moments in his career, which has been to the detriment of his total of Test caps. When he won the last of his seven, against Bangladesh in 2005, it was only because Ashley Giles was injured. He was called into the one-day squad that toured the West Indies in 2009, but only to replace Samit Patel, who was omitted because of fitness concerns, with Graeme Swann injured.
At 34 he is an experienced and difficult opponent, nonetheless, and it was by dismissing both Will Porterfield and Varun Chopra inside the first hour that he began to seize the initiative for Surrey. Porterfield squandered his wicket somewhat, edging to slip after going down the wicket but failing to get to the pitch of the ball, ending a partnership with Chopra that had put on 117 in 44 overs.
Warwickshire suffered another setback when Jim Troughton's bad run continued. The captain, yorked by Stuart Meaker, has scored only 40 runs in eight Championship innings so far. But it was Batty's removal of Chopra for 78 that changed the face of the innings.
He earned the wicket, too, with a fine piece of bowling, inviting the opener to claim his 10th boundary by offering him some width outside off stump before bringing the next one in just a little straighter and then catching him by surprise with a quicker, fuller delivery that bowled him.
At 182 for 4 at lunch, there was still an opportunity for Warwickshire to secure a workable advantage. Instead they lost their next five wickets for 27 runs. Darren Maddy and Rikki Clarke were leg before to Meaker and Batty respectively, in between which Hamilton-Brown, a reluctant purveyor of offspin, took his first Championship wicket since last May to stilt Tim Ambrose's progress.
Batty subsequently took two in two balls, having Keith Barker stumped and taking a return catch to remove Patel before Chris Wright repelled the hat-trick ball. His success persuaded Surrey to delay taking the new ball until the 90th over, with the scores level, at which point, slightly ironically, Wright and Chris Woakes began to score more freely, with the ball coming on to the bat a little quicker. The last 20 balls of the innings yielded another 24.