Surrey's poker face deserts them
Nottinghamshire 50 for 0 trail Surrey 198 (Davies 65*, Burns 57, Shahzad 3-43) by 148 runs
A day that started with Surrey in possession of all the right cards turned out to be a bluff, as Nottinghamshire dismissed the hosts for 198 on a track that will deteriorate as the game progresses. Certainly, that's the impression garnered from Surrey's decision to select three spinners in Gareth Batty, Gary Keedy and Zafar Ansari.
On the same pitch that was used in last Friday's Twenty20 derby against Middlesex, their decision to bat first after winning the toss in conditions that looked optimum for batting was no surprise. Even the loss of the first two wickets could be passed off as a blip, such was the assurance with which Rory Burns and Ricky Ponting batted initially.
But Nottinghamshire's attack are continually showing their capacity to maintain focus during long passages of play and that was in evidence again, as wickets came as a result of carefully knitted together periods of pressure.
There was a healthy crowd on hand to applaud Ponting out for his penultimate first-class innings and we were greeted to a few staples - the entrance routine (heel kicks, two shadow drives, a flick of each wrist followed by heel kicks) and a trio of swivel-pulls - as he settled into a groove with Burns.
It is hard not to think what lies further ahead for Burns, Surrey's leading scorer in four-day cricket, with a game so tight he could bat in a telephone box. There was enough pace in the pitch to let his technique do the talking, as he drove down the ground with exceptional timing; his cover drive off Ajmal Shahzad eliciting a purr that floated around the ground like a Mexican wave born out of satisfaction rather than tedium.
But when the boy wonder was strangled down the leg side on the stroke of lunch, Harry Gurney ending the only fifty partnership of the Surrey innings, Nottinghamshire went into lunch with their tails up.
Tighter lines in the afternoon session saw a further three wickets fall for 80 runs, as Chris Read paired spin with pace to good effect. It was only in the 52nd over that he asked anything of Graeme White, the slow left-armer in his first game back after a month-long loan spell at Northants, by which time Samit Patel had bowled 20 overs. It was Patel who removed Ponting, who gave a simple catch to Riki Wessels trying to turn the ball around the corner.
Surrey's capitulation could have been worse were it not for Steven Davies, who worked with Zander de Bruyn and then Ansari to try and get the score past 200. But when both departed in rather cheap fashion - de Bruyn lazily swiping at Shahzad and Ansari nailing the ball at bat-pad to give White his first wicket - the run scoring fell solely on the keeper's shoulders. He managed 25 more, trying to incorporate some malice into his elegance, as the last four batsmen failed to make a single run between them, leaving Davies unbeaten and frustrated on 65.
A Nottinghamshire wicket would have been nice from a Surrey perspective, but nothing was forthcoming - Wessels and Steven Mullaney bringing up a collective 50 with a single off the last ball of the day.