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Vithushan Ehantharajah at The Oval
April 22, 2014
Surrey 217 for 6 (Smith 65) trail Essex 306 (Dunn 5-60) by 89 runs
After a day that had Graeme Smith and James Foster battling with the elements as much as each other, it will require some negotiation and engineering from both for a positive result to be achieved by either. How that comes about is solely down to them, although Essex are better placed to control events holding a lead of 89 and needing to take three more wickets to end Surrey's first innings as Zafar Ansari will not bat due to concussion.
However, with Matt Dunn's second five-wicket haul of a budding Championship career and Essex's impressive nous in the field, both sides already have positives they can take from this abridged encounter. Impressing yesterday with his aggression, Dunn's two scalps today gave him figures of 5 for 60, four matches and three years after what remains a career best five for 56 against Derbyshire in June 2011.
Early morning rain meant it was only at 12pm that Foster and Graham Napier could reconvene in the middle on 225 for 6.
Four overs in, Stuart Meaker used the new ball (two overs old) to find Foster's edge, twice for catching chances in the cordon. The first was spurned by Gary Wilson at second slip, before Jason Roy atoned for his teammate's error with a catch at third.
Naturally, Napier became the aggressor, as David Masters sat solid in defence, picking off the odd boundary, as his partner opened his shoulders. Surrey's bowlers did well to restrict Napier to just 24 more runs in the morning, but they could not prevent the unlikely duo of Tymal Mills and Monty Panesar from taking Essex beyond 300.
Both genuine No. 11s, they rode their luck with some outlandish swipes of the bat but were rewarded for their cavalier approach. Those in attendance were also able to appreciate the entertainment, as lunch and fielders were reluctantly pushed back.
Mills decided to showcase his armoury of shots, sometimes all at the same time, as his arms and shoulders rolled over one another, with fours over the keeper and down the ground. Panesar, not wanting to be left out, took eight off three Tremlett deliveries - he was dropped at mid-off in that sequence - as Essex reached 306.
The afternoon session saw Surrey bat with relative ease. It could have been better had Rory Burns been a bit more alert and Ravi Bopara a bit less brilliant. With Bopara bowling around the wicket from the Pavilion End, Burns dropped the ball into the leg side and took a few steps down the track in anticipation of a run. Bopara then diverted his follow through, fielded the ball cleanly with his right hand and back-handed it onto middle stump, with Burns short of his ground.
Masters was the most threatening, beating the bat of Smith on a few occasions. Every bit of their 25 years of collective experience was evident as the locked horns in a compelling battle of wits.
Smith was happy to leave outside off stump, as Masters dabbled with coming around the wicket early as he searched for a suitable point of attack. As the battle went on, Foster stood up to the stumps to anchor Smith down, who seemed to be happy to settle for scraps off Masters before feasting on the other bowlers, on his way to his first fifty of the season.
When Foster returned to stand back, Smith charged only to be squared up by a delivery that darted off the pitch. Masters offered a wry smile, perhaps quietly confident a breakthrough was coming. And it was he who found it, as Smith was unable to keep a lifting ball down and guided it to Jaik Mickleburgh at third slip.
Mickleburgh was into the action once again for the next dismissal, this time taking a brilliant catch, as the ball zipped off the shoulder of Sibley's bat, low to Mickleburgh's right.
Sibley stood his ground briefly, before eventually trudging off, shoulders slumped, with his bat dragging behind him. He may have been questioning the legitimacy of the catch, but it is just as likely that he was frustrated with himself. He had played the situation well, timing the ball off his legs while playing second fiddle to Smith during their partnership of 77.
But his wicket then led on to a brace of departures inside two overs, thanks largely to some savvy captaincy from Foster. At the end of the 47th over, the umpires decided to take the players off, before Foster convinced them otherwise with the lure of slower bowling. Bopara was then brought on at the Pavilion End and, three overs later, Wilson tried and failed to hit Panesar over the head of Napier at mid-on.
Seven balls later, Mills was back in the attack and fired up, delivering a brute of a short ball that Steven Davies could only punch to Ben Foakes at short leg.
Graham Ford was by no means aggrieved at the decision to stay on with the quality of light questionable. He even commended Foster on the use of his bowlers during this passage of play.
While he remains hopeful that a positive result is still possible, bonus points will be the first port of call tomorrow. Both sides have shown enough to suggest this could have been a great tussle were it not for the weather.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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