Curran leads Surrey fightback as Gubbins falls short again
Middlesex 298 for 7 (Gubbins 91, Malan 58, Robson 53) v Surrey
On a day of North London sporting collapses, Middlesex's subsidence against Surrey couldn't hold a candle to the tragicomic events up at St James' Park, where Tottenham Hotspur squandered the chance to finish above Arsenal in the Premier League for the first time in 21 years.
Nevertheless, the capture of seven prime wickets in the space of 65 overs on a blameless surface meant that, by the close of the first day at the Kia Oval, Surrey's threadbare attack had recovered manfully in their own game of domestic one-upmanship.
After winning the toss on another flat and straw-coloured deck - precisely the sort of surface that the ECB would have had in mind when they introduced their new spin-friendly directive - Middlesex made such hay in the morning session that their lunchtime scoreline of 126 for 0 seemed like a promise of the riches to come.
Instead, despite starts for each of their top four including a particularly classy 91 from Nick Gubbins, the day finished with a belatedly claimed new ball from Surrey, men around the bat, and quite a task in hand for Middlesex to secure their full allocation of batting points.
Surrey's cast of bowling absentees could fill most attacks in the land - Zafar Ansari (thumb), Mark Footitt (side), Matthew Dunn (hamstring), Sam Curran (A Levels - how dare he?), Jade Dernbach (stress fracture) and Stuart Meaker (groin, to put it euphemistically) - so when Kumar Sangakkara spilled Sam Robson on 9, a sharp but catchable chance at first slip, it felt like the sort of opportunity that wouldn't go unpunished.
Instead, Surrey stuck to their guns and chiselled out their wickets - two each for Gareth Batty, whose pumped-up performance refused to allow the standards around him to slide, and James Burke, and three for Tom Curran, whose key extraction of Gubbins after lunch was followed by two more in three overs before the close, to inject some urgency into the final moments of the day.
Surrey's first breakthrough came only four balls into the afternoon session, when Robson, on 53, was lured down the wicket by a wide delivery from Batty and beaten round the outside edge as he stabbed half-heartedly into the covers. Ben Foakes whipped off the bails to deny Robson a fourth century of a summer in which he had converted each of his previous three fifties to three figures.
Despite Robson's ongoing form, Gubbins had been the main man of Middlesex's morning, driving and pulling with particular ferocity as he closed in on a maiden first-class hundred that remains strangely elusive for a man of his talent. Twice before he had reached the nineties, and once again he fell with three figures in sight - a loose waft across the line to a full ball from Curran, and Arun Harinath tumbled at mid-off to scoop the looping chance. Both men had been awarded their caps during the lunch break, and together they took the crowd's applause again.
Adam Voges, back in the side after taking a blow to the head while fielding against Hampshire a fortnight ago, joined Dawid Malan in a third-wicket stand of 72, and at 238 for 2, Middlesex seemed back on course for their dominant first-innings total. But once again, the onset of an interval took some of the wind out of their sails. After the addition of six runs in 20 minutes after tea, Malan aimed a flat-footed drive at Burke to be caught behind for 58, and Burke was back in business soon afterwards as Voges propped half-forward to be sent on his way lbw for 47.
Despite the depth in Middlesex's line-up, and the sun on their backs throughout a near-perfect day for batting, their struggle for dominance continued as Surrey cranked up the pressure. Batty struck again as John Simpson shaped to sweep only to be struck in line with leg stump for 12, while Paul Stirling and Ollie Rayner were no match for Curran in the day's closing overs.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket