JP Duminy set to replace Smith
Surrey 269 for 7 (Solanki 67, Harinath 65, Ponting 50*, Rankin 3-42) trail Warwickshire 631 for 9 dec. by 362 runs
Surrey are set to announce that South Africa's JP Duminy will replace Graeme Smith's stand-in Ricky Ponting for the last two months of the Championship season. The way things are going here, they could do with all three of those international batsmen playing together on the final day against a Warwickshire side suddenly sensing a chance of victory.
While Ponting - whose current spell in English cricket will conclude towards the end of July - stood firm during a dramatic final session that was completely at odds with what had gone on before, the hosts lost three wickets in the space of six telling deliveries from Boyd Rankin (and 5 for 37 in all) to lurch into real trouble.
They had been a seemingly solid 232 for 2 at one stage, still 250 runs away from saving the follow-on, admittedly, but with Ponting and Arun Harinath enjoying each other's company for the second time in as many matches.
But unlike at Derby last week, where the pair added 180, they were parted here after putting together a mere 63 with Harinath slapping a catch to cover. And, from then on, the Bears were pawing at the ground against opponents who suddenly looked like the second from bottom outfit that they are.
Rankin, who only joined this match at the halfway stage after being released by England, bowled an expensive first spell. But when he rejoined the action from the Railway End with a ball old enough to produce reverse swing, a relatively serene picture for Surrey quickly turned into a nightmare.
The big Irishman bowled Zander de Bruyn off his pads, made a nonsense of the decision to send out Stuart Meaker by ripping through the nightwatchman's defence and then boomed a delivery back into Gary Wilson to earn a leg before decision.
Three wickets for two runs in five balls looked bad enough. But Surrey's day became even worse when Jason Roy chose to play an expansive drive against Keith Barker during the final over to be splendidly caught by a diving Jim Troughton at point.
The crowd were stunned. And so was Ponting, judging from the way he marched off without even waiting for the sheepish Roy to join him
Surrey will start the final day requiring another 213 runs to avoid the follow-on and with Ponting - who completed an 84-ball half-century amid the late mayhem - having only the tail for company.
Even assuming they are made to bat again, this match should be saved. But it should never have come to this on a pitch where Warwickshire made more than 600 and the hosts made good progress after 37 overs were lost to rain on the third morning.
Harinath and Vikram Solanki settled to the task confidently enough. And if Ponting felt even a smidgen of pressure after waiting for two days and two session to bat in front of a 'home' crowd, he certainly did not show it. Off the mark with a pushed single against rookie spinner Ateeq Javid, the 38-year-old was soon threading drives through the covers, pulling powerfully and, when the opportunity arose, depositing Javid beyond the rope at wide long-on.
But now even a second consecutive big century, after his 192 at Derby, is likely to save Surrey from the follow-on. Game on - and a full blown crisis, too, if defeat is the end result.