Ice cool Sangakkara keeps heat off Surrey
Surrey 313 and 194 for 4 (Sangakkara 116*) lead Middlesex 411 (Malan 115, Franklin 112, Meaker 4-92) by 96 runs
Kumar Sangakkara's sense of occasion was evident once more in this London derby as he scored his second century of the match, while also passing 20,000 career first-class runs. Sangakkara's 60th century in the format, from 174 balls, was played out in a thick cable-knit sweater despite the glorious sunshine that accompanied him for much of his jaunt. The ice in his veins must have been working overtime.
This knock saw Sangakkara become the first Surrey batsman to score twin hundreds in a Championship match since Arun Harinath - a Surrey academy product of Sri Lankan descent who Sangakkara picked to play him in the movie of his life (true story). Both centuries in this match were brought up with a three through extra cover. Both allowed Surrey to rest a little easier.
The first-innings deficit was 82 when he came in with Surrey 16 for 2. Toby Roland-Jones, having removed Mark Stoneman for a 10-ball duck, squared up Rory Burns and trapped him in front. Even at stumps, Surrey were not quite home and hosed. They resume on the final day 96 ahead, with six wickets remaining but no full-time batsmen to come.
This is usually the part of the report which tells you about the cover-drives and cuts behind point: the ones you have probably seen a thousand times over. You know: feet still, weight decisively either back or forward, hands through the ball with the gliding devastation of a man carving an ice sculpture with a light sabre. Or the defensive shots, which are just as serene.
Every block is a cover drive without the malice, each leave a statuesque pose making a mockery of anything you might find in a Florentine piazza. By way of housekeeping, there were 14 fours in this innings (so far).
Instead, consider this a public service announcement. Go and see him. Somewhere. Anywhere. Find the time, the money and the moment to watch Sangakkara before he decides the game has nothing left for him. He is 39 years of age and, luckily for us, has decided county cricket is where he wants to be right now. Until he decides otherwise, English cricket has a global great in its back garden. All you need to do is look out the window.
Granted, if you are a Middlesex player, you are probably sick of the sight of him. Their valiant efforts with the ball were tempered by a Lord's pitch starting to play to type. An elongated 44-over session quelled any enthusiasm the quicks had.
But Ollie Rayner's enthusiasm is harder to stifle and he dug deep to remove Scott Borthwick for 49 - twice beating the left-hander on the outside edge before trapping him in front, as Borthwick shuffled across to combat the turn. With Sangakkara on 99, Roland-Jones removed Dom Sibley from the Nursery End with one that threatened middle but left satisfied with the top of off.
Middlesex had more to celebrate in the morning when their captain, James Franklin, brought up his 22nd first-class hundred - a third for the club. It was, at the time of scoring, a game-changing innings that began on Saturday when he joined Dawid Malan out in the middle with his side 109 behind. An enterprising fifty came off 43 balls before he took the scenic route for the remainder of his century: the final half coming off 91 deliveries, as he lost Malan and then Roland-Jones at the other end.
But as well as Franklin batted to secure an 98-run first-innings lead, Middlesex will rue that their last four wickets fell for the addition of just 23. Granted, it wasn't quite as tame an end as Surrey's last five going down for 48, but it meant that, despite Roland-Jones' early strikes, the arrears had been whittled down to just 18 when tea came, with neither Sangakkara nor Borthwick needing to risk much in their partnership of 123 for the third wicket.
The single to take Sangakkara to his half-century after tea - from 76 balls - brought Surrey to within a run of Middlesex, before Borthwick drew them level with a single and then thumped a four off Rayner to take them into the lead. This match has flowed back and forth, and we might hope for more of the same on the final day.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport