Somerset survive snow, Rampaul five-for
Somerset 353 (Trescothick 127, Rampaul 5-85) trail Surrey 463 (Ansari 53, Groenewald 5-94) by 110 runs
Two collapses - one top-order, one lower - ensured that the novelty of a snow delay in late-April did not dominate proceedings at The Oval. But while shots of sleet dancing across shiny outfield sheets provided many with pretty pictures, Somerset's Marcus Trescothick and Surrey's Ravi Rampaul ensured they added something valuable to their own personal collections.
For the second day in a row, Trescothick drank in the adulation of The Oval after completing his 59th first-class century. He held up Somerset's first innings of 353 like the west country's answer to Atlas with an innings of 127, without which his side might well have been padding up for the follow-on. Rampaul, with his ninth five-wicket haul in first-class cricket, had pushed them close to it.
Trescothick was unscathed in the first collapse, which saw Chris Rogers, James Hildreth and Roelof van der Merwe dismissed with just 45 runs added. Peter Trego came to the crease and, as well as fighting back with 41 in a fifth-wicket stand of 75, did the honours in congratulating Trescothick after he reached three figures off his 144th delivery. Trescothick had resumed his innings on 68 in the morning and played Surrey's attack with the same equal parts respect and malice. He now has three centuries in his last six Championship innings, having helped stave off relegation worries last season.
But both he and Trego were unable to avoid getting swept up in a second collapse of 3 for 8, which was instigated by Rampaul. The West Indian is regarded as a somewhat controversial acquisition by Surrey - a Kolpak signing brought in at the expense of younger, homegrown bowlers such as Matt Dunn, who had to make do with a bowl on a practice wicket during the lunch break. Match figures of 8 for 150 against Nottinghamshire, including 5 for 93 in the first innings, brought Rampaul some vindication. Here, he got the ball to move late and jump up off a length - no other seamer had managed either on this docile pitch.
After getting Rogers to play on to his off stump, he got one to climb on Hildreth, who gloved down the leg side where Ben Foakes took a brilliant diving catch. The wicket of Trego was perhaps the most impressive: the ball drawing the right-hander forward, before getting big on him. Unable to pull out of the shot, Trego continued on and the edge of his bat was found.
Surrey skipper Gareth Batty then removed Trescothick with the ball of the match. Coming around the wicket, the offspinner went wide and drifted the ball in, before it straightened enough to beat the left-hander's outside edge but still strike middle and off.
Once Ryan Davies had found Zafar Ansari at cover to give Rampaul his fourth and leave Somerset on 239 for 7, a sizeable first-innings lead and a Surrey win looked a sure thing. It perhaps should have come to fruition.
Somerset had not added to their score when Lewis Gregory, batting at No. 8, edged Batty to Jason Roy at first slip, where the chance went down. The reprieve allowed Gregory to bat through, unbeaten on 47, and help his side to 353.
It was Gregory's eighth-wicket partnership with Craig Overton that steered Somerset out of the gloom, putting on 78 at more than four an over and picking up two more batting points for their side in the process. Overton fell on 44 to give Rampaul his second five-wicket haul of the season, thanks to a stunning one-handed catch at cover by Ansari. And while Batty cleaned up the tail to give him three in the innings, Surrey will look back on a good day's work with some regrets.
More adverse weather meant the hosts were unable to start their second innings before the close. With a lead of 110, Surrey could yet force this game in their favour on the final day with quick runs - opening with Roy and/or Steven Davies might be an option - to give themselves a decent crack at bowling Somerset out once more. Then again, if the offerings from the heavens were anything to go by, frogs and locusts might be in store.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport