Hampshire 398 for 9 (McManus 117*, Wheater 59, Ervine 52, Footitt 3-62) trail Surrey 637 for 7 dec by 239 runs
In situations like today at the Ageas Bowl, both sides go through their own toil. Surrey begin looking to whittle away 18 more chances. Hampshire's batsmen preparing to concentrate on and forget each delivery. Ticking off the arrears from the start of play wouldn't work: you can lose your way counting down from 564.
But with 15 minutes gone, both overnight batsmen had perished to the part-time leg spin of Dom Sibley. With Zafar Ansari absent from the field with a back injury - Surrey are awaiting the results of the scan - and with their batsmen relaying to their spinners that turn was available from wide, Gareth Batty gave the ball to Sibley to get spin into the left-handers. Ryan McLaren was trapped with the day's first ball before Tom Alsop drove loosely to Jason Roy at first slip.
That Surrey had made early inroads was an unexpected bonus. But they had prepared for a long slog. Before they took the field, coach Michael Di Venuto implored persistence, patience and other virtues that come in handy when trench work is on the horizon. "I may have thrown in a few swear words there, too."
For a while, it looked like they might just get away with grass stains and the odd scraped joint, as wickets fell at quick enough intervals to keep them on track. Adam Wheater and Sean Ervine put on 102 for the fifth wicket - Wheater going to his fifty with three pristinely timed fours through the off side in one Stuart Meaker over - but he chipped Mark Footitt to extra cover 10 minutes before lunch, giving the Surrey attack an unexpected aperitif.
They came out in good voice after lunch, reminding Hampshire keeper Lewis McManus that this is where the grown-ups play. Batty stuck himself and Aaron Finch in front of the bat to ramp up the pressure. It told.
In the midst of perhaps the spell of the match from Meaker, who had started getting some reverse swing thanks to Jade Dernbach, on as 12th man, relentlessly working on the ball between deliveries, beat McManus on the outside and inside edge.
McManus, with just one off 16 balls, finally managed to push into the off side for what he thought was a single. Ervine tried to tell him otherwise, but McManus called through, as Rory Burns gathered cleanly from cover point and threw down the stumps at the keeper's end. Ervine never stood a chance.
Gareth Berg came and went for an enterprising 40 which, in the grand scheme of the game, amounted to some glancing counter blows. When he was bowled by Batty, McManus still only had 14 from 49 balls and was playing like someone with five runs in his previous three innings this season.
It was at that point that his innings changed. He shedded what timidness he had carried onto the field and began finding the boundary. The 50 came up in 93 balls, but as the day wore on, he embraced the challenge of seeing how far he could push the opposition. Batty was sent into the stands over wide mid-on.
In July of last year, he held out against Durham, batting for more than 50 overs in the fourth innings of the match, with No. 11 Mason Crane for company. He drew on that experience when Brad Wheal came to the crease, at first shielding him and then, when satisfied that Wheal's technique could stand the test of a now wilting Surrey attack and the fourth batting point secured, had a dip for personal glory.
He was on 65 when Wheal came to the crease and evidently did not want to leave himself at the mercy of his partner. Shots were played: Sibley heaved over square leg and then dabbed fine, to the left of the keeper Ben Foakes.
There was a wonder if he would make it to three figures when Meaker returned to give him a once over again. But having got right behind each delivery and with a bit of extra pluck to summon on, he rode the bounce of one behind square on the leg side to move to his maiden first-class century off his 171st ball.
He walked off unbeaten, Wheal in tow, having spent more than four hours watching the overs tick down and the runs tick up. Elated post match, palms drenched from the sticky work and the hand shakes of every Surrey fielder, he could not quite remember just how many Hampshire were behind still: 239, if you're counting.
Tomorrow brings similar challenges. But as both sides showed today, neither are shy of the work required.