Surrey grateful for Harinath's slow show
Surrey 204 for 6 (Ansari 63) trail Essex 228 by 24 runs
They say the Tuesday after the Bank Holiday weekend is worse than any Monday. The additional recovery day almost implores a second, maybe even third night of frivolity. For those at the Essex County Ground today, tomorrow's inane chat about Saturday's barbecue and Sunday's heavy session - "What are you like?!" - can't come soon enough.
Just 121 runs were scored in the first 65 overs. The PA system blared out brass music and kettle drums around the ground throughout the lunch interval, as a cover of Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" taunted, attempting to administer a calypso shot in the arm. There was little response, as the rate flatlined at the ECG.
It was only in the last five overs of the day, before the rain arrived to wipe out the evening session, that something stirred, as 28 runs were scored thanks to a combination of the new ball and Jason Roy, always a ball of energy at the crease, regardless of the situation. He was dropped twice, on 0 and 2, by Ben Foakes at short leg. Earlier in the day, Essex also gave Zafar Ansari a lifeline, when he was dropped on 16 by Greg Smith at first slip, off the bowling of Monty Panesar.
Ansari went on to add 23 runs to his score, while Roy followed suit before departing for 25 to a ball that nipped in and kept a touch low to trap him lbw, giving new Essex signing Tom Moore his second first-class wicket.
It would be irresponsible to point the finger at either side after such a dull day's cricket. Of course, they do have a share to take from the collective gloom. Surrey's batsmen treated the part-time spin of Tom Westley and Greg Smith like they were throwing down bolts of thunder and pestilence. When Essex took the new ball in the 89th over, James Foster gave Matt Salisbury an odd field, with three men on the drive, a third man yet no slips. Foster himself may have been under international scrutiny, with Bruce French, coacher of England's wicketkeepers, taking the time to watch proceedings at Chelmsford, pen and pad in hand.
But, to be fair to both teams, the pitch had slowed to almost a crawl. Any movement off the surface for the spinners has been slow enough to be negotiated. Any bounce, Roy's wicket aside, dealt with in a comfortable manner. Steven Davies left Panesar many times on length alone, as the left-arm spinner struggled to find an optimum pace for the surface.
Perhaps the only player to become one with the docile track was Arun Harinath. Quite how someone can remain so patient throughout the day and emerge with their sanity intact is, quite frankly, amazing. You imagine Harinath would hold firm under torture.
Batting 172 balls for 42 extra runs, he packed away his drives - yes, he does have them - and played deliveries into pockets of space in front of the bat and around the corner to, eventually, reach fifty in his second start of the season, moving back to opener in the absence of Graeme Smith. All in all, he batted out 31 overs' worth of dot balls and you could not help but feel for him when he lost his wicket to Greg Smith.
It was far from a fluent innings and certainly one that will reinforce the notion among many that Harinath is a limited cricketer. But his runs have taken Surrey past 200 for a first batting point, with Davies well set on 36 and Gary Wilson at the crease to push on for further spoils in the remaining 17 overs of bonus scoring before they concentrate on establishing a lead.