Sparkling Roy catches eye again
Surrey 382 for 5 (Roy 114*, Dilshan 69, Wilson 63*) v Hampshire
The cricketing Twitterati - including Kevin Pietersen - have taken to trumpeting Jason Roy's credentials for England in limited-overs cricket. Five half-centuries in seven T20 innings this season, the most recent Friday's 25-ball 63 - including switch hits reminiscent of Pietersen - are providing a compelling case.
But Roy is also finding first-class fulfilment in 2014. Mixing dexterity on his feet against spin, powerful hooking against pace and desire to hit straight, his century against the Division Two leaders oozed certainty.
If the three sixes down the ground against spin stood out, most impressive was the judgement Roy displayed. Even as he reached a 102-ball hundred, there remained serenity to his game: a top edge off Kyle Abbott on 81 was the closest he came to offering a chance. It looked almost as if he was holding back. And that is not as fanciful as it sounds - Roy's last Championship century came off 55 balls.
The balance between formats has not always come so easily. Last year Roy was dropped from Surrey's Championship side after averaging 8.16 in four games. Thankfully Surrey recognised that a 23-year-old of his talent did not merit premature pigeonholing as a white-ball specialist. With 586 runs at 53.27 so far this season, Roy is providing emphatic affirmation of the fact. Perhaps he is also benefitting from the new county schedule, taking the success of his T20 batting into the first-class game.
Even an excruciating wait - owing to rain rather than any nerves - was not enough to deny Roy his century, brought up with a lashed drive through the covers. His confidence was such that, even in the day's final over, a thumping hook bisected two men in the deep. It was hard to believe that, in his 44th first-class match, this was only Roy's third century. There will be plenty more to come.
So impressive was Roy's batsmanship that he lost nothing by comparison to Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Dilshan may have felt under pressure: in the last 12 months, Surrey fans have been treated to supreme innings by Ricky Ponting, Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith. But Dilshan showed he was a worthy successor as overseas signing. After beginning with a bull charge to score his first ever run in Championship cricket, he settled down to have the crowd purring. In a four-ball spell against Danny Briggs, Dilshan used his feet and bludgeoned the ball down the ground, caressed a late cut and then smote a third boundary through the covers.
The upshot was that Hampshire's spin twins - Briggs and 17-year-old Brad Taylor - were unable to maintain control. Both went for over four an over. Matt Coles, meanwhile, appeared devoid of confidence and his seven overs leaked 43 runs.
In fact, things became even worse for Hampshire after Dilshan's dismissal, nicking behind attempting another cut. In Gary Wilson, Roy found an ally almost equally inclined to attack; they have so far added 159 runs at 4.8 an over, including 46 runs in five overs of havoc, taking Surrey to the brink of earning a full house of batting points.
Wilson is a resourceful cricketer and, like Roy, is unperturbed by switching between T20 and Championship cricket. He now has 254 runs without dismissal across formats, and the manner in which he used Abbott's bounce to uppercut him over gully was particularly impressive.
But he will have an important decision to make on Monday morning. The time lost to rain means that Surrey are the only side who have a viable chance of winning. It is to be hoped that they thwack the ball around for an hour, reach 450 or so and then declare. To most players the challenge would entail shifting to 'T20 mode'. But not Roy.