Leics battle but Roy rallies for Surrey
Surrey 325 for 7 (Roy 76, Amla 71, Solanki 54) v Leicestershire
Leicestershire are accustomed to having the odds stacked against them. They've gone 24 Championship games without a win and are deeply rooted to the foot of Division Two. Such has been their affliction one would forgive them for skirting around the ropes in fear of more punishment but on a day when all variables pointed towards another one of toil, they gave as good as they got and landed a couple of body blows themselves.
Yet, as Josh Cobb led his battle-weary troops off at the close of play, a cursory glance at the modish Oval scoreboard evinced that Surrey, like most sides this season, had domineered the Foxes into further submission. For much of the day - from the moment Gary Wilson landed the first jab upon winning the toss - the hosts were in the primacy but Leicestershire can be content with their effort.
They exhibited the type of resolve and fortitude that has been absent in their endeavours hitherto. Cobb's hand is limited - they have arguably the least potent attack in the country, results would suggest so anyway - but there was a steely determination not to let their opponents leave them on the canvas as they fought to stay in the contest despite its infantry.
It should have been an indulgent day for a Surrey top-order that have in recent weeks hinted at something of peak form and while Hashim Amla, Vikram Solanki and Jason Roy all tucked into half-centuries, none could kick-on in favourable conditions - there was hardly a cloud in the sky, the boundary towards Archbishop Tenison's School was but a flick away and the pitch was as good as you're likely to get here - to hammer home the advantage.
That they managed to keep hold of that position of supremacy by the close was down to an unbeaten 82 run partnership between Wilson and Chris Tremlett in the evening session. The former was particularity strong square of the wicket while Tremlett used his long levers to thrash the ball straight, including one lusty maximum off Naik. They'll both resume on Monday unbeaten on 44 hoping to add their name to the lengthening list of players to score fifty in this match.
Amla has failed to earn his buck in the Championship this term - managing a high score of just 27 - but in his final outing for the club before absconding on international duty, he indicated that he may just have attuned himself to the county circuit. After Rory Burns was snaffled down the legside by Nathan Buck, Amla swaggered to the middle in a conspicuously purposeful manner.
He punished anything loose, and there was much fodder, both sides of the wicket as he added 41 in eight overs alongside Zafar Ansari, who was merely a spectator at the other end. His dismissal for 71 off just 77 deliveries, shortly after lunch, chopping on to the impressive Rob Taylor, changed the dynamic of the innings and Leicestershire's mood.
Up until then, he and Solanki ran Leicestershire's bowlers ragged with an alliance of pure mastery. This is only Solanki's second game of the season after an extended break from the game for family reasons but it's almost like he's never been away. The crunch off his bat from the outset could be heard as clearly from one side of the ground to the other and the effortless manner in which he prods forward and punches anything full past the infield had Cobb scratching his head and those beyond the rope purring.
Roy's innings was far less conventional but equally effective. He's never really instilled much confidence as a middle order batsman in the longer-format but all the signs that he's maturing as a player are there. Having scratched around, struggling to find any timing, for the first 20 minutes of his innings, he soon hit his straps and unveiled his array of shots. Just as Leicestershire had a sniff of bundling Surrey out for under 300, Roy exploded into life.
But there is always that nagging doubt at the back of your mind when you watch him bat. A couple of balls after gloriously driving Naik down the ground to move to 76, he took a couple of steps down the pitch in a moment of madness; his reaction after Niall O'Brien completed the formalities told its own story.
But the ease in which the Surrey batsman were allowed score was as much down to Leicestershire's profligacy as the bountiful conditions. Charlie Shreck and Buck are capable bowlers in their own right but neither offer anything different as medium trundlers. Taylor, however, has an added zip and he provided an added dimension and the varying angle of attack proved beneficial. Amla attempted to punch one that just nipped back and cramped him for room and then Solanki - shortly after passing 18,000 first class runs - was following his team-mate back to the pavilion reflecting on a missed opportunity.
Leicestershire's tails were up - characterised by O'Brien's effervescence behind the stumps - and as Steve Davies edged one that held its line from Taylor and Gareth Batty did similar to Shreck, Surrey's batting wobbles resurfaced. But this was a day of see-sawing dominion. As the shadows lengthened, the bowlers began to flag and Surrey took advantage.