Warwickshire 345-6 (Trott 123, Bell 66, Ambrose 53) lead Surrey 273 (Finch 110, Patel 5-62) by 72 runs
At 5:43 on a fine summer's evening at Guildford, Jonathan Trott essayed an exquisite extra cover drive for four. In so doing he reached his century. The warmth with which the crowd responded to Trott's matter-of-fact celebrations - nothing effusive, for this was just Trott doing as Trott does - spoke of the regard in which this fine cricketer is held throughout the shires.
It was a heartening moment indeed for those who had feared that the termination of Trott's international career last May would trigger his entire departure from the professional game. Certainly there were reasons to be fretful last summer: Trott averaged just 25.05 for Warwickshire, his worst return since 2007, and considered retirement.
So far, 2016 has been altogether more fulfilling. An April trip to Lord's brought a double century, and Trott's run-making has not ceased thereafter, even if they have paid measured in 50s rather than hundreds.
Ever since Mitchell Johnson harassed Trott three years ago, it has been almost de rigueur to greet Trott with a bouncer, just as Mark Footitt did here. Trott left that well alone, and did much the same when Stuart Meaker and the Curran brothers tested out this perceived vulnerability. In the end, they merely provided affirmation of Trott's enduring patience; certainty defined his every response, even when it was just to duck or leave the ball.
After a rather funereal start, Trott did plenty more than that. As the sun lit up a flat pitch, this innings assumed the air of a man batting on auto-pilot. This was a chanceless century underpinned by all Trott's trademarks - imperious defence, driving that eschews elegance for efficiency, and, more than anything, all those remorseless shuffles to the legside. Yet in the evening sunshine he still retained the capacity to surprise. Gifted width by Meaker just after reaching his first century against Surrey, Trott flatbatted a six over third man, and then unfurled a thunderous cut through point two balls later. It was a matter of considerable surprise when Sam Curran defeated Trott with a delivery that moved back in.
Trott walked off slowly, chuntering to himself and shaking his head. In a sense this was the most heartening sight of all: even in his 36th year, Trott's competitiveness and zest for self-betterment are undimmed. Were circumstances different one could easily imagine him lining up at number three - a position from which only Wally Hammond have scored more runs for England in Test cricket - against Pakistan this month.
That will not be happening. But instead Trott has the air of a man who will be accumulating runs for half a decade more in the shires yet.
The same could well be true of his Warwickshire captain. Ian Bell will hope otherwise, but he has not been able to turn the promise of 174 in his first innings of 2016 into the glut of runs needed to convince the selectors he is worth revisiting. Sixty-six attractive runs, ended by a top edged sweet, ultimately registered as a missed opportunity, no matter how sweet his late cuts.
In international cricket, Bell's most productive partner was Trott. The two shared seven century stands - although, rather curiously given the reputation of both players, five of those were in ODI cricket but only two in Tests. If their alliance here was a long way short of the double century that ensured England's victory in India four years ago, the 116 runs the two added have gone a long way towards shaping the match.
The upshot was a day's toil for Surrey, especially with Tim Ambrose, another Test match centurion, flaying the ball through the offside in forging another century stand with Trott. In isolation, Surrey bowled well enough, their spirit unbroken in a day elongated by morning showers. The trouble was that this day did not take place in isolation, but after Surrey had lost five wickets for 30 en route to being bowled out for 273. It was a score that always had the feel of being a hundred shy of par given the quality of the wicket and the shortness of the boundaries.
If there was a pleasing sense of familiarity to Trott's innings, there is a rather dispiriting predictability to Surrey's plight in this game. Woodbridge Road was host to their only Championship defeat last year; not since 2002 have Surrey won here. They should already be fearful of 2019, when the demands the World Cup will place upon The Oval might necessitate them playing two games here.