Ansari heightens Surrey's persona
Surrey 400 for 5 (Ansari 112, Burns 97) lead Glamorgan 232 by 168 runs
Why do people dislike Surrey? Money and metropolitan envy might have something to do with it but there is surely little of which one can disapprove about their cricket at present. Gary Wilson's team went into this match against Glamorgan 20 points ahead of their opponents having played one game more; both counties have realistic promotion ambitions. Yet there is no doubt which has looked the stronger side in two days of mostly high clouds and high spirits on the North Wales coast.
The difference in the approach of the teams' batsmen has been particularly noticeable and it was epitomised on Monday by the slight yet substantial figure of Zafar Ansari. Whereas the Glamorgan batsmen had been more content to throw their bats and take their chances, Ansari preferred care and orthodoxy as he anchored his team towards a substantial first innings lead.
Beginning the day on 55 not out, Ansari, the 23-year-old Cambridge graduate, had faced 267 balls and batted for 339 minutes when a Will Owen misfield allowed him to scamper the two extra runs he needed to reach his second Championship century of the season. Ansari reached that landmark in mid-afternoon, by which time he had seen four partners dismissed, but the tempi of other batsmen's innings mattered little to him.
Rory Burns, for example, had faced 166 balls and was three runs short of his own century when he top-edged an attempted pull off Ruaidhri Smith to Jacques Rudolph at mid-off. That mid-morning reverse ended a first-wicket stand of 182 but it only brought in Arun Harinath who almost immediately began to score at a run a ball, hitting Dean Cosker straight for six and then sweeping the slow left-armer almost indecently.
Ansari looked on, chatted in mid-wicket and then returned to his own cocoon of concentration. In short, he batted with all the judgement and discrimination one would expect of a cricketer whose favourite television show is The West Wing.
Harinath, on the other hand, played as if intent on proving that there was far more to his game than his self-denying vigil at Chelmsford in May had shown. On that treasured occasion, he faced 231 balls in making 63; context is everything, of course, but against Glamorgan Harinath took 149 balls fewer to plunder 60 runs off an attack which buckled down rather more impressively than the home batsmen had managed.
The undisputed leader of Glamorgan's bowling cohort was Michael Hogan who had the left-handed Harinath taken at slip by Rudolph with the new ball before immediately inflicting the same fate on the right-handed Solanki, who pushed tentatively at his first delivery but could only edge it to third slip where Chris Cooke took a fine two-handed diving catch.
That fine piece of pace bowling left Surrey still prosperously-placed on 270 for 4 and a further 46 had been added, 37 of them in 47 balls by Steven Davies when the visitors' No. 5 played across a straight ball from Allenby. Still Ansari pushed, deflected and occasionally drove his way on.
Indeed, it took meteorology to remove him, albeit not permanently. It happened like this. On the first day of this game the wind turbines in Ormes Bay had been still as figures on a semaphore chart; by Monday morning they were waving like demented umpires in the latter stages of a T20 innings. At 3.15pm the breezes gusted a shower from the West and umpires Jeff Evans and Peter Willey made to depart. "Get on with it!" a bloke in the crowd yelled, as the rain briefly abated. The officials remained. "Oggy, oggy, oggy!" roared another chap helpfully, although whether he was in pain or ecstasy was unclear. No matter. The shower organised itself and 16 overs were trimmed from the day.
When the batsman returned Ansari added only six more runs, taking his tally to a career-best 112 before he chopped Allenby on to his stumps. But there was still enough time prior to a final shower for Roy to take heavy toll of both Smith and Owen in reaching a 55-ball fifty. By then, perhaps, Ansari was enjoying a well-earned shower and reflecting on another good day in what is proving to be an important summer for him.