Smith wickets leave Ramprakash plenty to do
Surrey 189 for 5 v Derbyshire 451
Despite all the changes at The Oval over the winter there was one very familiar sight on the second day against Derbyshire - Mark Ramprakash making effortless runs. Surrey will need plenty more from him, too, after Greg Smith's three-wicket burst built on Chris Rogers' double hundred to leave the visitors in charge, although the fifth-wicket stand of 109 between Ramprakash and Steven Davies averted an imminent collapse.
Ramprakash's pre-season was a disjointed affair as he spent time on the road with the Strictly Come Dancing tour, then helped himself to some runs in Dubai before missing the MCC match against Durham for personal reasons. But Ramprakash has been doing this job for so long that he just slots straight back in. Although he had an escape on 10 when Graham Wagg overstepped and the ball seemed to take an edge down the leg side he barely looked in trouble.
By the close he had registered the first of what will be many fifties this season from 94 balls and alongside Davies had steadied the innings from a precarious 74 for 4. Davies, after spending the winter as a drinks waiter for England, played positively for his 70-ball half century although had a few uncomfortable moments against Robin Peterson's left-arm spin out of the footmarks. And three overs before the close it proved his downfall as he pushed forward and got a low edge to slip, a wicket that confirmed Derbyshire's position of strength.
The Surrey openers had a fair degree of luck in a stand of 44 as both Arun Harinath and Matthew Spriegel were given lives. Tim Groenewald dropped a tough return catch from a leading edge off Spriegel when he had 10 and Harinath was missed off a much simpler chance by Peterson at first slip. So it didn't come as a complete surprise when Spriegel pushed outside off to give a regulation catch to the keeper and Smith his first wicket.
Smith, a versatile cricketer who also bowls offspin, bustled in from the Pavilion End and found a hint of movement with his skiddy action to take 3 for 4 in 14 balls. An over after dislodging Spriegel he ended Harinath's fidgety innings when the left-hander skewed a catch to gully and Surrey were really in the mire when Usman Afzaal offered a simple edge to first slip.
It meant a daunting position of 53 for 3 greeted Rory Hamilton-Brown as he joined Ramprakash, someone who hasn't been overwhelming in the support of his captaincy appointment. Despite one pleasing cover drive Hamilton-Brown couldn't stop the slide when he was trapped on the crease by Groenewald so it was left to the man who made his first-class debut in the year Hamilton-Brown was born.
When play resumed the main interest was whether Rogers could register another double century and he duly reached the milestone from 318 balls - but not before a second let-off by Stuart Meaker who dropped a sitter a deep square-leg, then gave away four overthrows next ball. It was Rogers' third double in his last four Championship matches for Derbyshire, a conversion rate that most English batsmen can only dream of. However, he couldn't add to his tally before being trapped lbw sweeping at Gareth Batty.
Peterson had already departed when he was beaten for pace by Meaker to partially atone for his poor fielding, but Derbyshire's lower order frustrated the home side. Wagg struck the first six of the match during his 37, but Andre Nel finally found some deserved reward when he took the off stump and also added Groenewald.
Still, though, there was no swift finish as wicketkeeper Lee Goddard and last-man Mark Footitt added 51 in nine overs with some merry stroke play including a reverse sweep from Goddard. But despite their large total, Derbyshire missed out on full batting points which this season have to be collected within 110 overs of the first innings. Surrey, too, missed out on a point, but that soon became the least of their concerns.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo