Surrey v Essex, LV= Championship, Division 2, Kia Oval, 1st day April 26, 2015

Surrey's top order graft healthy position

Surrey 293 for 5 (Burns 78, Davies 69*, Sangakkara 52, Ryder 3-54) v Essex
Scorecard

Rory Burns battled testing conditions to give Surrey a solid platform © Getty Images

Chilly and unrelentingly gloomy, this was the sort of day Kevin Pietersen thought he had left behind when his international career began a decade ago. A scene further removed from the razzmatazz of the IPL, to which Pietersen had said 'no, thanks' in an attempt to win back his England place, it was hard to imagine.

Not that it was any less challenging for that. Confronting a skilful seam attack and clouds that stubbornly remained perched after Essex inserted Surrey, it was a day for Pietersen and his team-mates to display resilience in technique and temperament. Indeed, the abiding memory of Pietersen's contribution of 32 was not of any flamingo whips to the leg side, but his leaves outside the off stump. Enticing deliveries were greeted by an exaggerated flourish of non-intent, Pietersen raising his bat above his head in a symbol of his commitment to the virtues required in first-class cricket on a day such as this.

With his first runs, a steer for two through gully, Pietersen had set a noteworthy record. He brought up 1,000 first-class runs for Surrey in just his 17th innings, surpassing Mark Ramprakash and Zander de Bruyn to create a new club record. It has taken five years, mind, but it came as a reminder of the seriousness with which Pietersen has always treated playing for Surrey.

But this did not prove one of his more successful days, even though he survived a chance to gully off James Porter when he had 27. Having provided the occasional hint of the destruction he wrought on this ground against Australia a decade ago, with a couple of drives lashed through the covers and an emphatic thump over mid on off Graham Napier, Pietersen fell victim to Jesse Ryder's burst with the second new ball, trapped lbw by a ball that kept low.

Jason Roy is often bandied about as Pietersen's heir - not least by Pietersen himself - and the comparison on this occasion extended to their modes of dismissal; Roy lasted just two balls against Ryder.

There is nothing demonstrative about Ryder's bowling. Ambling in off a few paces before swinging the ball at a gentle pace, he has spent a career mixing belligerent batting with useful partnership breaking ability: 62 games in New Zealand domestic cricket have brought 55 wickets.

Moving to Chelmsford has not only brought Ryder personal fulfilment; it has also moved his bowling onto unforeseen and utterly unimagined heights, from a bowler of shock to one of stock. He has often opened the bowling, using the new ball with a skill that few can rival. Here he was rewarded with quite the triumvirate of wickets: before his double strike, he had got a delivery to jag back to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara, who had coasted to an inevitable half century.

While Surrey's two marquee batting recruits made contributions that were important without being decisive, it was a locally produced player who played the most substantive innings of the day.

At his best, there is a deeply reassuring quality to Rory Burns' batting. His is a game based on eschewing risk and boring the opposition into offering width outside off stump - the cue for his square-cut through point - or to drift onto his pads. His technique and temperament underpinned Surrey's resolve after being inserted: only one wicket, that of Zafar Ansari, fell in the opening 50 overs.

The shame for Burns was that he departed to a shot completely out of kilter with the clinical accumulation that had come before it. Having witnessed Sangakkara deposit a six over long on in Monty Panesar's previous over, Burns uncharacteristically attempted to hit Panesar aerially too, merely scything the ball straight to point.

Perhaps Sangakkara was to blame. "That's exactly what I was trying to do - replicate what he produced," Burns admitted. "I just wanted that fielder back to give me another easy one option so I could knock it around a bit more. Obviously the execution didn't quite work."

But his team-mates were in no mood to let Burns' sterling work be frittered away. There are fewer finer sights in county cricket than Steven Davies in full flow and it was he who produced the most fluent batting of the day, his late-cuts and punches through the covers oozing supreme timing. After his double century at Cardiff last week, he will again have designs on three figures.

Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts

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