Shantry counters Roy hundred
Worcestershire 272 and 12 for 0 trail Surrey 406 (Roy 103, Burns 91, Wilson 77, Davies 69, Shantry 6-89) by 122 runs
This is both a cricket match and a poignant reunion. Four Surrey players once sported the pears sable on their shirts and three of them, Vikram Solanki, Steven Davies and Aneesh Kapil are graduates of Worcestershire's academy. The trio therefore came under the tutelage of Damian D'Oliveira, a distinction they share with seven of their current opponents.
The game is thus a most fitting tribute to the ability and influence of D'Oliveira, who died, aged a mere 53, in late June. Probably the last time some of the Surrey cricketers visited New Road was for their former coach's thanksgiving service, which was held on the outfield and included a rousing rendition of the team song.
D'Oliveira would probably have found much to applaud on the second day of this game but also plenty to criticise. For a few players, the importance of the contest in resolving promotion issues seemed to be a trifle inhibiting.
A couple of cricketers who rose to the moment, however, were Jason Roy, whose third Division Two century of the season helped Surrey's establish what may yet be a match-winning lead of 134, and Jack Shantry, who took 6 for 87, thereby collecting his 50th Championship wicket of the season in the process.
Shantry's wickets, the last five of them taken in 30 balls for 15 runs, prevented Gary Wilson's side establishing what had seemed likely to be a match-defining advantage when they were 373 for 4. But the removal of Wilson himself, caught and bowled for 77 off a sharp drive, began an almighty collapse which saw the last six batsmen depart in ten overs for 33 runs.
Rather than going out tomorrow thinking that they might have to bat five sessions to save the game, Worcestershire batsmen will see 12 for 0 on the board and they know they have a chance of building a respectable lead in advance of the final day. Surrey may still hold the whip here but Shantry's spell has changed this contest markedly. It also, incidentally, ensured that Worcestershire gathered a full haul of bowling bonus points for the 27th successive match.
Four Surrey batsmen reached fifty but no one batted more fluently than Roy whose 105-ball innings included 14 boundary fours, most of them cleanly struck, and a magisterial six off Moeen Ali which disappeared over long-off at the New Road End of the ground and might have taken out a few Tour of Britain cyclists had it been struck only a little harder and a few hours earlier. (As it was, the lycra'd horde had passed in a pleasing blur.)
Arriving at the crease after Davies had been caught at slip by Tom Kohler-Cadmore for 69, the 24-year-old Roy batted with the easy assurance and command that has caught the notice of the England selectors. Regarded as a short-form specialist, Roy now needs 58 runs reach a thousand in the Championship; he is an exciting work in progress.
It would, though, be an error to think that there was anything inevitable about the establishment of Surrey's modest supremacy. They had lost the stabilising influence of Zafar Ansari in the fourth over of the morning when the opener's uncharacteristically sloppy drive only edged Mitchell McClenaghan to Ben Cox behind the stumps.
Vikram Solanki then stroked four boundaries in an hour-long innings of 28 but his innings was more a divertissement than the substantial sonata his team required, and his slash at Joe Leach's first ball of the day only nicked a catch to Kohler-Cadmore at slip.
Having added 127 runs in the morning session - this remains a wicket on which careful stroke-makers can flourish - Surrey lost Rory Burns for 91 three overs after the resumption when the opener shaped a drive at a wideish ball but only gave Cox another victim. Nevertheless, the opener could be comforted with the knowledge that he had reached a thousand first-class runs in a season for the first time in his career.
Forty minutes later Davies had gone, too, and Wilson was joined by Roy in the 151-run fifth-wicket stand which offered the many travelling Surrey supporters their very best watching of the day. Both batsmen played with fluent control on a pitch which had completely lost its early morning devil. Roy hit two commanding boundaries off Moeen, who had Wilson badly dropped by Kohler-Cadmore at midwicket when the Surrey captain had made only 21.
Ten overs after tea and the taking of the second new ball, that spill appeared more expensive than it was to prove. But Shantry's removal of Kapil and Gareth Batty with successive deliveries sparked a measure of panic among the Surrey lower order with Stuart Meaker following his colleagues to the pavilion and Matt Dunn being taken at slip by Mitchell off Moeen.
Yet the limitations of Worcestershire's top order had been exposed by their first-innings total of 272 when batting first on a good pitch. Equally worrying may be the likelihood that Moeen will be on England duty for most of next summer. It is these considerations that have prompted the New Road hierarchy to sign Gloucestershire batsman Alex Gidman on a two-year contract. In the short term Daryl Mitchell's side must also cope with the absence of McClenaghan, who is returning home to New Zealand at the end of this game following his father's death on Tuesday.