Dunn gets people talking
Essex 225 for 6 (Bopara 49, Dunn 3-53) v Surrey
On an even day that saw further time lost to rain and bad light, a fine display from Matt Dunn added a new angle on this encounter. The draw remains the odds on result but, with a host of England talent on show, it was Dunn who dominated most of the talk on what can be marked down as a professional display from both sides.
During Surrey's first match of the season against Glamorgan, Dunn drew a crowd on the outfield of the Oval during the first lunch interval as he went through his repertoire on a cut strip, meters away from the main pitch. As his run-up increased from one step to its full length, so did the number of onlookers, many using their phones to film his show of speed, as he continually rasped the baseball mitt of his coach.
It is a wonder how many times Dunn has gone through the motions alongside rather than in a Championship match. Since June 2011, when he became the first Surrey bowler for 56 years to take five wickets in an innings on debut against Derbyshire, he had only played three further times before now.
The talent has always been there; rarely will you have entered a discussion on Surrey's prospective arsenal of first-class bowlers in the last three years without his name featuring somewhere near the top. From the mechanics of his action to the breadth of his shoulders, generating pace was never going to be an issue.
It is his consistency that has had Surrey thinking twice about exposing him to more four-day cricket. At stumps, bowling coach Stuart Barnes was keen to praise Dunn's work behind the scenes as well as a worthwhile winter in Australia which gives Surrey's attack a newer dimension.
With England selector Angus Fraser a clear presence in the media centre and the members pavilion, Dunn's efforts will not have gone unnoticed.
Pace was always going to be the theme of the day, as Dunn and the returning Jade Dernbach were welcomed into the XI and, with a green track on offer, Graeme Smith won the toss and put Essex in to bat.
Even Chris Tremlett, who had lacked incisiveness and wickets in the defeat to Glamorgan seemed up for the fight when he was introduced to the attack after eight overs. He ran through the crease with greater purpose and got some encouraging bounce off the pitch.
A couple stung the knuckles of Jaik Mickleburgh, as the right hander's trigger to push forward caused him some discomfort. Just five balls into Tremlett's spell, Mickleburgh was surprised by a delivery which zipped up and, luckily, pierced the despairing grab of Jason Roy at third slip.
At the other end, Alastair Cook was off to a brisk start, using the pace of Stuart Meaker and Dernbach to work runs towards the short boundary towards the Archbishop Tenison's School.
It was this boundary that took the first casualty of the day as Zafar Ansari, attempting to rectify is own fielding error, slid into the side fence and badly injured himself. After a few minutes, he was helped to his feet and taken to hospital with concussion. He returned later in the day to be assessed by Surrey's medical team and remains a doubt for the rest of this match.
More than three overs after that break in play, Cook became the first wicket for Surrey and Dunn, when he misjudged a short ball, which caught the splice of his bat and eventually dropped into the hands of Steven Davies.
Upon Cook's demise, Mickleburgh began to rebuild as the more active part of a second wicket partnership with Tom Westley. But when Mickleburgh fell to a fine outswinger from Dernbach that moved late, and Dunn found the edge of Westley then Greg Smith's bat in the space of three balls, the match awoke to the prospect of bedlam.
Alas, it was not to be, as Ravi Bopara remained diligent yet typically laid back in defence. While runs did not flow freely, he used his finesse to dab the ball behind point on multiple occasions to keep the scoreboard ticking past 200 and a first batting point. Upon entering the forties, he took a brace of boundaries off Dernbach to move only to be strangled down the leg side by Jason Roy.
It was a deserved wicket for Roy, who was brought into the attack to fill-in the overs that Ansari would have bowled. Described by Barnes as "an enthusiastic bowler", his extra bow is another positive to be taken from the day for Surrey.