Roy marks himself out as man for the Bayliss age
Surrey 435 for 8 (Roy 143, Davies 86, Clark 3-73) v Lancashire
One of the reasons for Trevor Bayliss's appointment as England coach is his track record in limited overs cricket. The hope is that, after 23 years of largely anaemic ODI cricket, England can discover a dynamism and effervescence befitting the T20 age. The first ODI squad of the Bayliss era will be announced at the conclusion of the Headingley Test. While Bayliss will only take charge once New Zealand leave England, he has already let it be known that he would like a limited overs squad brimming with youthful vitality, unencumbered by World Cup failures.
A number of batsmen mark themselves out as suitable for this new age. Jason Roy is foremost amongst them. His rare talent has long been recognised at The Oval. One of the most intoxicating aspects of sport is the sense of a glorious talent being fulfilled. It is becoming ever more tangible with every Roy innings.
This was, by his own estimation, Roy's finest innings in first-class cricket yet. While he is not a batsman whose impact is easily measured by numbers, it was his highest score to boot, surpassing his previous best set a fortnight ago at Northampton. Arriving at 74 for 4, Roy departed having made 143 of the 236 added with Steven Davies.
The assault on Simon Kerrigan's left-arm spin was particularly spectacular. Attacking him with all the ferocity of Shane Watson in Kerrigan's last appearance at The Oval in the 2013 Ashes Test - or indeed Kevin Pietersen at Guildford in 2012 - Roy needed just nine balls to progress from 77 to his century. Twice he took a step down the wicket and lofted Kerrigan for straight sixes. He then showed off his range of shots by scything Kerrigan through point for four to reach his century, celebrating with a punch of the air before the ball had even gone over the boundary.
Still, there was more to come. As Roy's assault on all bowlers intensified - his ferocious, gun-barrel straight hitting was a particular hallmark - he surpassed 100 runs in the morning session. It was the first time that a Surrey batsman had added a century before lunch since Ian Greig against the same opponents 25 years ago. In the circumstances it felt churlish to complain when Roy lashed Kyle Jarvis straight to backward point just after the second new ball had been taken.
Rather like Virender Sehwag, Roy's first-class batting is imbued with self-belief and a refusal to over-complicate. "When I'm batting I've got no real plan of what I want to do, I just bat," Roy said, a philosophy rather reminiscent of Sehwag's, who once said: "If the ball is there to be hit, you just hit it. Don't worry that this is a Test or one-dayer or T20. You just hit it."
But, for all Roy's effervescence at the crease, there was much else to enjoy in Surrey's batting performance before a combination of bad light and forecast rain forced an early truncation to the day's play. Steven Davies showed maturity in not attempting to keep up with Roy in the morning - he added 16 runs to his overnight score in the time that it took Roy to add 87. Such was his serenity at the crease that it was a matter of considerable surprise when he nicked Tom Bailey to slip 14 shy of his third Championship hundred of the season.
No matter. With Davies no longer keeping, a decision fully vindicated by 633 runs at 90.42 apiece, and Gary Wilson on Ireland duty, Ben Foakes excelled on his Championship debut for Surrey.
In recent years the spectre of former Essex players - Varun Chopra, Tony Palladino, Adam Wheater and Chris Wright - excelling away from Chelmsford has become a familiar one. The departure of Foakes, unable to get wicketkeeping opportunities in lieu of James Foster, was a particular source of regret to Essex.
Compact, well organised, strong on the drive and with a flourishing pull, Foakes's unbeaten 60 contained enough to suggest that he will be a regular source of runs at The Oval for the next decade: he is just 22. Undemonstrative and calm at the crease, Foakes added 78 with Gareth Batty to secure full batting points before a truncated end to the day. Rain and gloom might well defeat Surrey in this game, but they could not override the sense of excitement at what their middle order can produce for the rest of 2015 and beyond.
Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts