Mullaney slots into promoted role
Nottinghamshire 360 for 6 (Mullaney 104*, Patel 87*) lead Surrey 198 by 162 runs
A second ever Championship hundred in three years for Steven Mullaney and an unbeaten 87 from Samit Patel were the key notes on a day when Nottinghamshire seized the initiative at The Oval.
Mullaney's previous foray into three figures came back in May 2010 when, on first-class debut for Nottinghamshire, he made 100 not out, but has until now only been able to replicate the feat in an MCCU fixture against Durham in April of this year.
Primarily a middle order dasher, he was shifted up the order against Sussex to plug the gap left by Ed Cowan to partner Riki Wessels, who himself had recently come in for the faltering Alex Hales. Both have made their respective transitions seamlessly.
Starting promisingly with an opening stand of 63 at Hove, they have followed up with 105 in this match - the highest opening partnership Nottinghamshire have had this season. The expectation here was that both would register half centuries, however Wessels was unable to join Mullaney at that milestone when he fell to Chris Tremlett's first ball of the day - a full delivery that swung in late and rapped his front pad.
But Mullaney moved on, displaying good persistence and better footwork to maintain a healthy scoring rate through to lunch. Good pressure from Surrey after the interval meant he was limited to three boundaries the last of which - a flat-batted slap through cover after Zander de Bruyn's slower-ball malfunctioned - was greeted with a scream of "Yes!" and a punch of the air, as it took him from 96 to 100.
Although the score won't suggest it, Surrey can take some positives from their efforts. For starters, through sheer will, they took charge of the second session. Perhaps it was down to a pep talk from Alec Stewart or Stuart Barnes - perhaps just 40 minutes of self-reflection - but the energy in the field was up and a fightback of sorts was on.
It was Tremlett who began converting this energy into something palpable, as he produced a brilliant four-over spell that went for only two runs and, more importantly, ended Michael Lumb's innings from around the wicket. Gary Keedy then out-foxed the dangerously stubborn James Taylor with a smart piece of bowling; tempting him down the wicket only for the ball to turn past the outside edge and find the gloves of Steven Davies, who completed the stumping.
But once that intensity dissipated in the late afternoon breeze, frustration crept back in, despite the dismissals of David Hussey and Chris Read - Hussey in particular looking to take the game away from Surrey. The new ball - taken after 94 overs - found two edges, one of which was put down by de Bruyn at first slip and the other he could only watch as it bisected him and Davies behind the stumps.
Quite how far ahead Nottinghamshire will be when their first innings closes will depend largely on Patel. Resting with 87 runs to his name, he will return tomorrow eyeing up a second Championship hundred of 2013 as he continues to kick on as one of the best middle order batsmen in the country.
Gareth Batty did his best to frustrate him, shutting down his release shot with two men positioned in close between square leg and midwicket. But, while it curbed the rate at which Patel scored his runs, it did little to curtail the quantity.