Surrey in a hurry as Harinath anchors free-flowing innings
Surrey 371 for 7 (Harinath 96, Davies 87, Roy 64) vs Durham
Spring finally sprung for the punters in South London, as a crowd of some 2000 weekend sun-seekers dotted themselves around the stands at the Kia Oval, lapping up the most determined rays of the year so far, and convincing themselves that the distinct chill in the air on those occasions when the shadows encroached on their seats was nothing more than a faint breeze on a mid-summer's afternoon.
Sure enough, for long periods of the day, most notably during an enterprising post-lunch stand of 135 between Arun Harinath and Steven Davies and again after tea as Jason Roy and Zafar Ansari traded strokes in their own fifth-wicket partnership of 112, Surrey took to the Durham attack - Chris Rushworth, Graham Onions and Ben Stokes included - as if the pitch had been prepared for the August Bank Holiday, not the May Day version.
And yet, by the close, a combination of Durham's refusal to yield and Surrey's own wastefulness in shot selection had redressed the balance of power a touch. Though it still remains a good toss to have won - and a toss was what we did indeed have, after Durham declined the automatic chance to bowl first - Surrey's total looks set to fall someway short of formidable.
Arun Harinath epitomised the combination of hard yards and soft focus that marred his team's performance. His 96 from 188 balls was a dogged, diligent anchor role that should, by rights, have resulted in his second century in three Championship matches, following his match-salvaging effort at Trent Bridge earlier this month.
Instead, having played a willing second fiddle to a free-flowing Davies, whose 55-ball half-century was the most fluent innings of the day, Harinath contrived to give away his innings only moments after Davies himself had departed for 87 to a fine stretching catch from Keaton Jennings in the gully.
Seeking a statement shot where previously he had been content to grind his runs, Harinath climbed into a pull and top-edged to mid-on to give Rushworth his second wicket in as many overs. "It was just a poor shot, a misjudgement of length," he admitted at the close. "I thought it was shorter than it was, but Durham have a disciplined attack and that can happen, unfortunately."
Nevertheless, Harinath had played his part in setting the scene for Surrey, not least in seeing off a typically testing new-ball spell from Rushworth and Onions, and a fiery burst from Stokes that resulted in the first breakthrough of the day when Rory Burns was bowled for 15 by a beauty from round the wicket that pitched on the left-hander's off stump and plucked it out too - shades of Flintoff to Gilchrist, as if any more comparisons were needed.
He hung around, too, after the biggest shock of the day's play - the insubstantial departure of Kumar Sangakkara, who got off the mark with a typically dreamy cover-drive only to be bowled off the inside edge for 26 by Brydon Carse, a South African-born 20-year-old with designs on an England future, and whose fourth first-class wicket was unquestionably his finest yet.
"The first aim tomorrow is 400 for maximum batting points, and another partnership to see how far ahead we can get in the game," said Harinath at the close. "If some of us, including myself, hadn't got ourselves out we could have put a few more nails in the coffin, but we'll have to turn up tomorrow and keep fighting as we have done for the last 12 months or so."
The punters didn't seem to mind - some of the slightly lax departures seemed a price worth paying for the entertainment on offer, particularly during the alliance of recent England internationals, Ansari and Roy. One Twitter pundit described their century stand as "deeply erotic", although it ended in a flaccid finish for both - Roy chipping a leading edge to mid-on for 64 as Onions appeared to stop one in the pitch, before Ansari flapped a back-cut off Stokes to the keeper Michael Richardson for 41 - another confident display in his successful return to the fray following his horrible hand injury last season.
Richardson was in action again as Tom Curran came and went for a duck, nibbling outside off to give Carse his second scalp of the day, but with Ben Foakes and Gareth Batty still in situ at the close, Surrey retain the upper hand in a contest that seemed to bloom very rapidly in the sun.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket