Yardy's grit keeps Surrey at bay
Surrey 1 for 0 trail Sussex 295 (Yardy 69, Linley 4-68) by 294 runs
There was nothing wrong with Surrey's commitment here, and not much awry with their cricket, either. But taking complete command of a Championship match remains beyond them, for another day at least.
Having won a toss they would not have been distraught to lose, bowling first had to be the right decision - given that the pitch spent all of a wet day one under cover and conditions this morning were ripe for a bit of lateral movement.
But, as is almost always the way at this delightful tree-ringed and grassy banked ground, batting was not even close to being an impossible occupation, meaning that the visitors could never quite claim to have a significant advantage, despite periods of real success and a four-wicket haul for the deserving Tim Linley.
Given that Sussex are the leaders and their opponents arrived only one place off the bottom, denying all but Mike Yardy a half-century can count as a Surrey triumph. Collectively, though, the hosts posted the sort of total which could yet see them in a position to apply pressure over the final two days.
This was a situation, and a grafter's pitch, made for Yardy. More than happy to dig in, play low and wait for opportunities to drive and pull, the left-hander enabled Sussex to overcome the early loss of Luke Wells and the unexpected departure of Chris Nash, just before lunch, with some comfort.
Getting rid of Wells, lbw to Jade Dernbach when shouldering arms, counted as a perfect start for Surrey. Back in April, the opener scored a double hundred at The Oval, having made a century in each of last season's four-day fixtures between the two sides. But it was Nash's dismissal that underlined the need for care on this surface.
Driving at Linley, Nash was undone by a ball that appeared to stick in the pitch, was through his shot too early and succeeded only in poking a simple catch to cover.
Thereafter, Yardy and, for a time, Ed Joyce, kept Surrey's attack at bay with confidence and increasing success. Indeed, six overs immediately after lunch yielded 34 runs with Linley and Dernbach, especially, being punished for errors of length.
Joyce fell victim to a combination of pitch and lightning reflexes - miscuing a pull against one that also stopped on him but then looking aghast as Linley stuck out a hand to hold a return catch to treasure. But Yardy appeared well set for a second century of the season, only to have those thoughts ended by a yorker-length delivery that capped an excellent spell from Zander de Bruyn.
Soon it was time for the pendulum to swing Surrey's way. Matt Prior, victim of a controversial catch at Lord's last week, survived two chances in the deep but could not get away with a third error, top-edging a sweep against left-arm spinner Zafar Ansari. Then Ben Brown had his stumps re-arranged by one from Dernbach that nipped back and Sussex were in trouble at 206 for 6.
In trouble, but not in tatters. Luke Wright, hero of that great escape against Middlesex at Lord's last weekend, and Chris Jordan both scored useful runs with some ease to put this match perfectly back in the balance.
The second new ball did for Sussex's last four wickets in just 10 overs. Then Surrey survived the final 24 deliveries without alarm. Yes, the visitors can be said to have their noses in front, just about, but this contest could yet go any one of three ways. Perfect, really.