Consistent Mason keeps pressure on Surrey
Worcestershire 308 and 13 for 0 Surrey 259
Albert Einstein famously remarked that 'the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and then expecting different results.'
However good he may have been at theoretical physics, however, it appears Einstein wasn't much of a bowler. For, as Worcestershire seamer Matt Mason demonstrated here, continuing to do the same thing over and over can actually prove to be a pretty useful tactic. Conversely, however, Mason has contributed very little to our knowledge of photoelectric effect, while his views on the perihelion precession of Mercury are unrecorded.
In some ways, Mason represents everything that is wrong with English cricket. As an Australian-born 36-year-old with a history of injury trouble (he's played just eight of Worcestershire's 36 first-team games this season and in one of those he only managed seven balls), he's never going to represent England and, it could be argued, is blocking the development of a young Englishman.
Life isn't that simple, however. Mason, who doubles as bowling coach at Worcestershire, also provides a decent example of how to bowl in English conditions and, in the absence of Alan Richardson, remains far and away the club's most reliable seamer.
Not blessed with the height of Chris Tremlett or the pace of Stuart Meaker, Mason simply puts the ball on a decent spot (or 'in good areas' as an ECB coach would say) as often as he can and keeps asking questions of the batsmen. While that may not always be enough to dislodge the best batsmen on the best wickets, it's enough to keep them honest. And to benefit if they make any mistake.
Here he claimed three wickets and, by applying pressure, may have earned more for his colleagues. Arun Harinath edged to slip after he was lured into pushing at one outside off stump, before, much later, Gareth Batty and Tremlett missed straight deliveries.
Indirectly he contributed to the key wicket of Mark Ramprakash, too. Tom Lancefield, tied down by Mason, called Ramprakash through for a sharp single only to see Alexei Kervezee swoop in from point and throw down the stumps with a direct hit. Ramprakash, who had already driven Jack Shantry for a couple of sixes, looked aghast at missing out, but really only had himself to blame. He dawdled through the first half of the run and replays suggest it was an excellent decision by umpire Steve Gayle.
Lancefield, a left-hander whose main attributes would appear to be patience and determination, did well not to let the episode bother him. While his innings was never fluent - his half-century took 127 deliveries - he battled hard to record his maiden first-class half-century and produced a few pleasing drives in the process.
He enjoyed a couple of moments of fortune. Ben Cox, Worcestershire's 18-year-old wicketkeeper, missed a tough chance off an inside edge when the batsman had just 13, while a few edges fell just short of the slip cordon. Lancefield was finally undone by a fine delivery from Shakib Al Hasan that turned sharply to pass between bat and pad.
The most fluent batting of the day came from Steve Davies. The left-hander, who left New Road for The Oval at the end of last season, is building an excellent record against his former club and, despite the sluggish nature of the pitch, produced enough pleasing shots to show the home supporters what they are missing. He passed 1,000 first-class runs for the season during this innings - the third time he has recorded such a milestone - and, in four outings against Worcestershire this season, has now scored 137, 69 not out, 81 and 68.
Surrey never got away from Worcestershire, however. Such was the discipline of the home attack, that run-scoring remained difficult and the run-rate lingered below three an over.
Such control creates pressure and Surrey's inexperienced batting line-up duly buckled. Stewart Walters attempted a horrid shot, against the spin, and ballooned a catch to mid-on, while Matthew Spriegel and Davies paid the price for trying to work the medium-pace of James Cameron across the leg-side. Cox, who missed a straightforward stumping off Davies when the batsman had 62, was surely the most relieved man on the ground.
Davies' departure precipitated something of a collapse. Surrey lost their last six wickets for 46 runs, with the final three falling in the space of just 11 balls.
That gave Worcestershire a first innings lead of 49 and, in the seven overs of the second innings before stumps, they stretched their lead to 62 without an alarm. It's not yet a match-winning position, but they've certainly earned the upper hand.