Surrey on top despite Madsen ton
Surrey 391 and 50 for 1 lead Derbyshire 237 by 204 runs with nine wickets remaining
Whisper it quietly, but Surrey may have turned a corner. After a few grim years when the club has plumbed the depths of mediocrity (and then kept digging), there are early signs that the first green shoots of recovery may be poking through. Not only has Surrey's Twenty20 form improved (after a poor start, they are now fourth in the South Group), but they're second in their Clydesdale Bank 40 group and here have shown that their dire position in the championship is likely to improve.
Perhaps such optimism should be tempered. There was a time, not so long ago, when a dominant performance against Derbyshire - and a weakened Derbyshire at that - would have been nothing less than expected.
Not anymore. Last season Surrey won just a single championship game, while they reached the halfway stage this year rooted to the foot of the championship table. The days when they could approach any fixture with complacency are long gone.
They are well on top in this game. They had a lead of 154 after both sides had batted once and, but for an injury to one of their seamers, would surely have enforced the follow-on. Still, with the pitch showing increasing signs of uneven bounce, their lead of 204 going into the third day already looks imposing. That Derbyshire are still in the game at all is largely due to the efforts of Wayne Madsen and Lee Goddard.
Coming together with their side reeling at 81 for 6, the pair added 137 in 36 overs for the seventh wicket, with Madsen recording his third century of the campaign and Goddard his first half-century. The next highest contribution was extras, with 16.
For some, the likes of Madsen will always represent everything that is wrong in English cricket. South African born, he is 26-years-old and currently qualifying to play for England. While international cricket may prove a step too far for him, he looks a decent county player. A tendency to plant his front foot will always make him an lbw candidate, but he leaves the ball very well, drives neatly and has admirable powers of concentration.
He needed this innings, though. He had scored just 77 runs in his previous seven championship innings but, while his colleagues paid the price for their fallibility outside off stump, Madsen showed the virtue of restraint.
Goddard hasn't enjoyed the best of form, either. The 27-year-old, who returned to Derbyshire from Durham in search of first-team cricket at the end of last season, lost his place to Tom Poynton a few weeks ago. Here, however, he neatly compiled the third half-century of his first-class career and seemed to have taken his side to within an inch of avoiding the follow-on.
Both Goddard and Madsen may feel that the manner of their departure undid some of their good work, however. While the reverse sweep has become an accepted part of the modern game, neither man had played the shot until the ball that dismissed them and, in other circumstances, falling five short of the follow-on mark would have had match-defining consequences.
The key moment of the day came earlier, however. Tim Linley had threatened to run through the Derbyshire batting with a well-controlled spell of medium-fast seam bowling, but suddenly pulled-up midway through his run-up and left the field in obvious pain. He was later diagnosed with ligament damage and won't bowl again in the match.
It was a completely different game after his departure. While Andre Nel and Chris Tremlett bowled pretty well, the support seamers - Stewart Walters and Younis Khan - allowed Goddard and Madsen to settle in with some comfort.
Until that point, Surrey had been utterly dominant. Linley, with 4 for 13, expertly exploited a small ridge on the pitch and, at one stage, claimed 3 for 3 in 15 balls. Though he won London CC's 'search for a star' bowling competition in 2005, Linley is never likely to be a star in the Surrey dressing room. He's not blessed with great pace or outrageous skill and, on the flattest of pitches, can look a little toothless.
He's a useful player, though. Here he landed the ball on the perfect length and gained enough bounce and movement to trouble all the batsmen. As Chris Adams, Surrey's cricket manager, put it: "maybe he'll never get the best in the world out, but he'll bowl up hill and into the wind all day. He reminds me of Mark Robinson."
Garry Park was undone by bounce, prodding outside off stump, Greg Smith lost his off and middle stumps when he missed one that nipped back, Chesney Hughes edged one angled across him and Wes Durston simply missed a straight one. Earlier Chris Rogers was also a victim of bounce, flashing a catch to point, while Robin Peterson edged to slip and Steffan Jones was pinned on the foot by a yorker.
Nel looked dangerous with the new ball and delivered more overs than anyone, while there was an encouraging display from Tremlett, too. While he didn't quite maintain the requisite control, he did generate decent pace and, at times, alarming bounce. He gave the impression of a man just coming to the boil. Perhaps his, and his new club's, best days may be yet to come.