Barker strips Surrey's shortcomings bare
Surrey 49 for 0 trail Warwickshire 631 for 9 dec (Chopra 192, Barker 125, Javid 85, Ambrose 84 Westwood 71) by 582 runs
On a day when Surrey's recruitment policy was again called into question, two of the county's brightest homegrown players combined purposefully to prevent another crisis from turning into a full-blown catastrophe.
An unbeaten opening stand of 49 may look like small beer when set alongside Warwickshire's mighty, and record-breaking, total of 631 for 9 declared but it is at least a start along the path to safety - and by seeing out 21 overs, Rory Burns and Arun Harinath have shown the hosts that they too can make considerable hay on this flat and inviting Guildford field.
The two left-handers, born in Epsom and Sutton respectively, were not who Michael Atherton had in mind when he bemoaned, in national newspaper print, Surrey's recent policy of hiring old pros from around the country and big names from overseas at the expense of developing their own talent.
One of those recruits, Ricky Ponting, will hope to fill his boots here before this match between first division strugglers and defending champions is done. And unless Boyd Rankin - now released by England and poised to join the contest at its halfway stage - can drag more than the very occasional bit of life from an exceedingly docile pitch, Australia's former captain may well succeed.
Two or three wickets during the last knockings on a second day dominated by Warwickshire's batsmen in general and century-making allrounder Keith Barker in particular would, however, have created a significantly different picture. No matter how quiet the surface, a follow-on target of 482 is daunting to any side, never mind a Surrey outfit low on collective confidence.
Burns and Harinath did their jobs splendidly, though, and - a couple of strangled screams for catches apart - they gave the home supporters few scares. Just as well, really, because the Surrey faithful were almost certainly fearing the worst after watching Warwickshire sail beyond their previous best against these opponents (585 for 7 at The Oval, 108 years ago) and then create a record seventh-wicket partnership for the fixture (211 between Barker and Ateeq Javid).
The second day did begin unexpectedly well for the hosts, with Jade Dernbach earning deserved reward for an excellent spell that ended Varun Chopra's hopes of a double century, stopped Tim Ambrose 16 runs short of a hundred and prevented Rikki Clarke from prospering with the bat against his former county and on his old club ground - all in the space of 29 balls and at a personal cost of only 10 runs.
Out of the blue, Warwickshire suddenly had to scrap to secure maximum batting points for the first time this season. But they achieved that target, with four balls to spare, and then saw Barker and Javid take complete charge for almost 60 overs.
Barker, modest and unassuming off the field, is anything but under-stated on it. He gives the ball a real clump with the bat and swings it at good pace when leading the attack. No wonder, then, that Warwickshire missed him while he was absent for four Championship matches with a side strain.
Born in Manchester and a former professional footballer, Barker was the only senior member of Warwickshire's pace department not to be involved with England, at one level or another, last winter. But at 26 it is certainly not too late for this godson of Clive Lloyd to make a mark at international level.
The powerfully build left-hander moved steadily to 50, then accelerated to the third first-class century of his career with the help of 14 fours as well as pulled six off Stuart Meaker.
Javid had to make do with a career-best 85, when a maiden hundred seemed almost certain, but Warwickshire already had enough runs to put Surrey under pressure. The hosts may yet buckle, though not if the early efforts of Burns and Harinath are anything to go by.