Surrey v Yorkshire, County Championship, The Oval May 22, 2008

Rudolph responds to Butcher double

Yorkshire 292 for 3 (Rudolph 99*, Gale 70*, McGrath 54) trail Surrey 466 for 8 dec (Butcher 205, Nicholson 133) by 174 runs

Mark Butcher's double-hundred and Matt Nicholson's highest ever score helped Surrey declare on 466 for 8, but Yorkshire will be satisfied with closing the gap to 174 runs, with Jacques Rudolph on the brink of his century. Rudolph, Anthony McGrath and Andrew Gale reached fifties, while Rudolph will have to wait until the third day to try for his century after bringing up 99 on the last ball of the day. Gale is not too far behind on 70.

The pair forged a strong fourth-wicket partnership of 169 that was unbeaten by the close and their determination has left the game well balanced. And while not flawless, their efforts have given Yorkshire a solid base.

Rudolph gave a tough chance on 75, while Gale was dropped on 9 off Saqlain Mushtaq and then struck three quick fours to apply the salt. In the closing overs, Usman Afzaal thought he had Rudolph on 93 and he may yet be in trouble for his overzealous celebration (not quite in the 2001 Ashes-style, though). The umpire turned him down and then called him over to have a chat. Rudolph's own response needed no words; he merely drove the next ball hard - and just past Afzaal - for four. Rudolph and Gale will fight another day.

Butcher played six-and-a-half hours in all for his double which included 27 fours and a six and while the sun was shining, he worked past wide mid-on off Deon Kruis to bring up his 200. He fell five runs later, driving a low, hard catch to short midwicket which Adil Rashid snaffled tidily. His efforts were warmly applauded from the displaced members' end, which is in the OCS Stand for now.

Development may be stalled over Gas-ring-gate but there was nothing halting the hard-hitting and quick-scoring Nicholson, who now has four first-class hundreds, three coming in the last three seasons of his 12-year first-class career. Tim Bresnan finally yorked him but not before he and Jimmy Ormond had manoeuvred Surrey towards an assured declaration.

Ormond was also bowled missing a drive to one pitched up by Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, as bowlers profited from full lengths, although Bresnan was not shy of slipping in the short balls. Butcher's decision to make Yorkshire bat for a short pre-lunch session was also rewarded when Pedro Collins trapped a swishing Joe Sayers in front.

After lunch Yorkshire got the appetite to attack. McGrath was in full flow, while Adam Lyth, in his first Championship match, was also positive. Ormond's six overs went for 29, Nicholson's first four for 24, while Collins had 7 overs, 1 for 37 at that stage. McGrath brought up his half-century, which included 11 fours, from 46 balls with a drive through cover off Nicholson.

Then Collins fired in full again, this time from the Pavilion End, and McGrath couldn't quite get his bat down in time. He had made 54 from as many balls. Lyth was composed, bar the occasional edge, but when Saqlain Mushtaq forced the edge to second slip for a smart catch to Butcher's left, a livid Lyth swiped his bat in frustration with himself for falling for 40. On the evidence, though, this England Under-19 player looks one for the future.

Unfortunately, the immediate future for this match looks bleak with heavy showers forecast for Friday. But there have been many bright moments in the game so far and the promise of more to come.

Jenny Roesler is an assistant editor at Cricinfo