Surrey 415 and 234 for 6 (S Curran 71*, Foakes 50*) lead Middlesex 293 (Gubbins 82, Simpson 58, S Curran 4-60) by 356 runs
As the evening shadows lengthened at Lord's, so ended a riveting day's cricket. It had contained eleven wickets, and dramatic collapses from both sides, yet was ultimately defined by a partnership that occupied almost half the day.
Sam Curran and Ben Foakes are two young players whose futures are brimming with possibility. Yet while they have been noticed more for their other skills - Foakes by his adroit keeping, Curran by his alluring left-arm pace bowling - their batting aptitude is palpable too.
They had to summon all their skill after Surrey had stumbled from 47 without to 108 for 6 - at one point losing 4 for 0 - albeit still with a lead of 230, against high-quality bowling. Curran and Foakes recognised the dangers of the situation, and responded assiduously: their first 49 runs took 22.3 overs, and were marked by impeccable defence.
But as Surrey's lead begun to approach, and then cleared, 300, the stand gained impetuous. Foakes pulled a six off Ollie Rayner's offspin, and added some efficient flicks of his hips; Curran unfurled some sumptuous late cuts and then a reverse sweep. If their batting strengths differ a little - Foakes favours the on-side, Curran the off - the two were united by their sagacious judgement of sharp runs, and haring between the wickets.
By the time they walked off, their alliance still unbroken, the two had added 126 in 274 balls, and reshaped the match to Surrey's will. That Foakes now has a first-class average of just over 40, and Curran one just under, gives notice of the resolve in Surrey's lower-middle order.
How Surrey needed it. After lunch the game seemed to be drifting inexorably away from Middlesex: Surrey's lead had moved to 169, with all their second innings wickets intact. In such positions prospective champions must show their worth, and Toby Roland-Jones had the look of one here.
Bounding in down the slope from the Pavilion End, he forced Rory Burns to play on, attempting to cut. Four balls later Zafar Ansari was caught leaden-footed and snared lbw. In James Harris' next over, Dominic Sibley's rather inert innings, 7 from 51 balls, was ended by flashing the ball behind; and then, from the very next delivery, Roland-Jones removed Aaron Finch, playing across the line, lbw. And so in 13 deliveries Middlesex had claimed four Surrey wickets for no run, and Roland-Jones had claimed three of them, enhancing his reputation as a man who can bring chaos out of order.
Jason Roy is not the sort to be perturbed by such a situation. He promptly thrashed his first delivery, from Harris, through the covers for four, and then did the same from his third and fourth balls: a distillation of the virtues of a counter-attacking No. 5. But Roy's dismissal, bowled round his legs attempting to sweep Rayner, just after Steven Davies had chipped the offspinner to cover, showed the risks of such an approach, too.
When the day was eventually done - it had been elongated by a sedate over rate, one downside of Roland-Jones bowling with such vim - Surrey could reflect on how, with stealth and skill, they had manoeuvred themselves into a dominant position. In Foakes' judgement, the wicket is keeping low and showing signs of variable bounce and turn. While his partnership with Curran showed that the pitch to be far from devilish, it is one on which Surrey, with their high-quality pair of spinners, will expect themselves to take ten wickets in a day.
A declaration within half an hour in the morning, with a lead of 400, seems probable. How far away such a position looked when, at 108 for 6, Surrey had a lead of 230, and Middlesex had designs of chasing well under 300 to extend their lead at the top of the County Championship.
But as grateful as Gareth Batty was to Curran with the bat, he had equal cause to marvel at his dexterity with the second new ball, which earned Surrey a 122-run first innings lead. Curran not only swung the ball considerably from over the wicket, but did so viciously late. The upshot was 4 for 20 from 5.3 overs, and, ably assisted by his brother Tom, a spell that changed the complexion of the match.
As Sam ended the day with his highest first-class score, still scampering twos that suggested that his vigour will be undiminished when it comes to bowling at Middlesex again, it seemed remarkable to reflect that he only turned 18 two months ago. Never mind potential; what a cricketer he already is.