Sam Curran feeds off masterful Sangakkara
Surrey 334 for 7 (Sangkkara 177*, S Curran 90) v Essex
In the opening 50-minutes, Surrey were 31 for 5. The rest of the day? 303 for 2. What happened, you ask? Kumar Sangakkara. Again. The Sri Lankan, who just last week said he was giving up the game because, ultimately, he is worried success might go to his head, registered his 61st first-class hundred. If it hasn't now, when will it?
This was a fifth hundred in a row, a third in eight days and, without doubt, one of his best for Surrey. He sleeps tonight on his highest score for the club.
No other batsman in Surrey's history has gone five on the bounce. Only seven others have done so in first-class cricket, with Sangakkara the fifth to pull it off in the County Championship. CB Fry, Mike Procter and Don Bradman went on to six. Sangakkara would be no slouch even in such distinguished company.
As ever with the 39-year-old, he was playing a different game to the rest. Even Essex seamer Matt Quinn, who had taken Surrey's top order to the cleaners with 3 for 13 in his opening three overs, was thrown by the mere presence of the man, losing his line with a few down the leg side early on.
It was in Sam Curran, a man 20-years his junior, that Sangakkara found adequate support. Their partnership had a festival feel as they put on 191 - a new Surrey record against Essex for the sixth wicket.
Sangakkara was the headline act: fans on both sides of the fence cheering appreciatively with each classic stroke they've seen time and time again (the century, from 174 balls, was brought up with an on drive that you'd like to take out for a nice seafood dinner). But Curran was more than happy to make the side-stage his own. Those present will have left Chelmsford having learned more about Sam than Kumar.
Sam had learned a bit too from the last time he was close to a maiden century. This impressive innings ended on 90 when he skipped down the track and tried to send Simon Harmer out of the ground for a second time. Dip, turn and James Foster behind the stumps for his first Championship start saw him stumped. His walk off was slow, but nowhere near as slow as his departure on 96 against Lancashire last year. Then, he was emotional as he got back to the changing room. Today, he laughed.
"Ah you know," he began, "last year I was on 96 against Lancs and I got out defending. So this time I thought, well, it's almost risk and reward, so you know… Obviously I'm gutted but, hey, what can you do?"
A rush of blood to the head - let's face it, he's 19 - should not detract from a truly remarkable passage of play that he and Sangakkara embarked upon. The pair went into lunch at 67 for 5, with Curran nursing a bruised hand, yet returned to put on 147 in the afternoon session.
While Sangakkara did what Sangakkara does, Curran emerged unscathed from a hostile tussle with Neil Wagner to unfurl some sumptuous shots of his own: through wide mid-on and the covers primarily, before he hit Ravi Bopara into the pavilion at square leg for his first six. It is worth remembering that as he came through at Surrey, Sam Curran's batting was talked about more than his bowling. Today explained why.
The frustration for Essex didn't stop with him. Stuart Meaker (43*), masquerading as a No. 9, came in and hit his highest score in three seasons with such gusto that he shocked Sangakkara into a few shots of rage: twice he charged Wagner and thumped him down the ground. The morning's carnage seemed a long way away
Rory Burns, leading Surrey after an injured toe kept Gareth Batty out of the playing XI, opted for a toss, won it and then saw his side lose five wickets in no time. Mark Stoneman, Scott Borthwick (Surrey's only other centurions this season) and Burns himself fell to Quinn bounding in from the River End. All were undone by deliveries that went across them and bounced more than expected in Quinn's opening three overs, which saw him pass 100 first-class wickets. Not too shabby spread across 50 innings for Essex, Auckland and New Zealand A.
Then Jamie Porter got involved from the Hays Close End, undoing Dom Sibley with a cracker that took the top of off and coercing Ben Foakes into playing onto his own stumps. Given the disarray Sam Curran walked into, his innings seems all the more remarkable.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport