Surrey v Kent, Guildford, 2nd day July 21, 2014

Roy goes incognito in fine knock

David Lloyd at Guildford

Surrey 303 for 6 (Roy 84, Wilson 80*) trail Kent 408 (Billings 82*) by 105 runs

Jason Roy might have welcomed a bit of anonymity on this ground a year ago. Today, though, the only tiny pity was that he played a top quality - and badly needed - counterattacking innings of 84 with the name "Solanki" on his back.

Still, being a proper shirt short of a full outfit is but a small error when compared to giving your wicket away in horribly careless fashion, as Roy did here against Warwickshire in 2013.

Relegation-bound Surrey were already reeling when the young batsman was caught after aiming a highly ambitious drive during the final over of the third day - to the undisguised disgust of batting partner Ricky Ponting.

Roy did not make another Championship appearance that summer. But what a season he is having this year with runs galore in the NatWest T20 Blast and now five scores of 70 or higher, including two centuries, from his last six innings in four-day cricket.

A hundred today, on his 24th birthday, would have been fitting reward for what might well have been the best knock of that handsome little lot - made, as it was, on a pitch that encouraged pace bowlers to bend their backs and against a Kent attack that gave everything. In the end, Roy had to drag himself from the middle after falling 16 runs short of three figures but his partnership of 121 with captain Gary Wilson went a long way towards repairing the earlier damage.

Surrey have come up strongly on the rails this season to present themselves as genuine promotion candidates - as many people thought they would. The same cannot quite be said of Kent but, having won their last two matches and with a couple of games in hand on the three teams immediately above them, anything is still possible. Or, at least it will be if they continue to turn in performances like those produced over the first two days of this match.

Although Sam Billings had to settle for an unbeaten 82, rather than the first century of the season he had in mind, the wicketkeeper's innings made sure that the visitors topped 400 after being put in. But it was their bowlers who really caught the eye today, with a couple of wise old birds in Darren Stevens and Mitch Claydon splendidly supported by 23-year-old Calum Haggett and 20-year-old Charlie Hartley.

It was Stevens, whose bowling seems to get better and better, who put the cat among Surrey's pigeons by sending back openers Zafar Ansari and Rory Burns. But well though he and the unlucky Claydon performed, Kent captain Rob Key was probably happier still with Haggett - playing his first match for the first team this season after battling a side injury - and Hartley, making only his second Championship outing.

True, they were encouraged by a pitch offering pace, bounce and carry with the odd delivery really taking off. But, as England's bowlers should need no reminding after Lord's, it's not much good licking your lips and then failing to put the ball in the right place often enough.

Today, at least, Kent's two youngsters asked plenty of awkward questions at a lively rate of knots - which is why Roy's innings, which included 10 fours and a slog swept six off spinner Adam Riley, was so impressive. Inevitably, he played and missed a number of times and survived a couple of strong appeals before finally being pinned in front by Hartley with 14 overs of the day remaining.

Wilson, though, simply would not be moved, fighting all the way to the close and remaining firmly in place to tackle the second new ball first thing in the morning. What a cracking day's cricket.