Surrey find focus for Ponting farewell
Surrey 198 and 186 for 2 (Harinath 69*, Ponting 41*) trail Nottinghamshire 410 (Patel 110, Mullaney 104) by 26 runs
In the context of the match, Surrey still have much to do but, in isolation, they controlled day three of their encounter with Notts in a professional manner, making up ground in a match that looked to have passed them by. A good day was capped off with a special achievement, as Ricky Ponting passed 24,000 first class runs in his 494th and last innings in the format.
Just over 20 years from his first, the landmark was met with upstanding applause, recognised by Ponting with a coy raising of his bat - almost embarrassed at the thought of acknowledging the crowd with just 19 to his name.
The applause that greeted his entry to the middle at 89 for 2 was not quite as loud as that which welcomed him in the first innings. You can blame the Ashes for that - but as Australia's top-order faltered in Trent Bridge, Ponting, along with Adam Voges at Uxbridge and Simon Katich at Wantage Road, provided all and sundry with some neat hypothetical plotlines.
Camera phones were out in force, each owner desperate to catch the last moments of a legend; the routines, the forward press, that pull shot. Even the acclaim for his boundaries seemed to linger - the finest a dead heat between a perfectly balanced cover drive off Ajmal Shahzad and an advancing inside-out drive through the same region off Samit Patel. The romantics didn't want it end and neither, apparently, did David Hussey, who resisted the urge to run out Ponting at the non-striker's end when he was backing up too far. A cheeky feint to the stumps, ball in delivery hand, brought a wry smile from both.
But it would be wrong, even in his final first-class innings, to dwell too much on Ponting and ignore Arun Harinath, who played a fine hand. Dormant for the first segment of his innings, he exploded to life in the evening session, planting Graeme White for two sixes over the left-arm spinner's head.
Harinath as a spectacle takes a lot of getting used to. He finds fielders often, which can frustrate spectators, but does so with an air of assurance that quickly becomes infectious. At 26 years of age, he is somewhat of a late bloomer, more down to a lack of opportunities than performance, but credit to Surrey for affording him the chance to prove them right.
England selector James Whitaker was present at The Oval, casting a watchful eye over Chris Tremlett. England's favourite Transformer-esque fast bowler's only contribution of note was a back-of-length ball that Samit Patel hit on the up past the cover fielder to bring up his second Championship ton of the season.
By the time Whitaker left, Surrey had neatly finished off the Nottinghamshire innings but not before the visitors had taken their lead past 200. Jade Dernbach was the chief architect, taking his first wickets of the match when he saw off Patel, White and Andre Adams - the latter's lusty hitting taking the score past 400.
With Surrey trailing by 212, Rory Burns began like a man possessed, crashing three fours off one over from Harry Gurney, the first two through the off side making a whopping thud off his bat. But when he departed for a sprightly 38 and a calamitous run-out saw the end of Vikram Solanki, there was a chance the home side could wobble.
But Harinath and Ponting saw their way to stumps with Surrey a mere 26 runs behind. After two days of apathetic cricket, Surrey awoke to open up the possibility of a potentially outrageous smash and grab.