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Stoneman's repeat performance maintains prolific start

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County Championship Round-up: Notts proving too good (1:20)

Catch up with the latest County Championship action as James Pattinson inspires Notts to a comfortable two-day win over Sussex. (1:20)

Surrey 299 for 3 (Stoneman 123, Sangakkara 98*) trail Warwickshire 332 (Westwood 153, T Curran 4-98) by 33 runs
Scorecard

It was just after tea when the question arose in the Edgbaston press box: 'Has any side ever lost their first three Championship games in a season by an innings?'

Whether they have or not*, the fact that the question came up provides a fair reflection of the mood around Warwickshire at present. Kumar Sangakkara had just reached his 50 with a pull so dismissive you half expected him to ruffle the bowler's hair and ask him what he wanted to be when he grew-up and Mark Stoneman had just reached his second Championship century against Warwickshire this season. Warwickshire still had a first innings lead of almost 100 but the sense persisted that, if Surrey decided to make pelts from the Warwickshire players before the end of this match, there wasn't much to stop them.

In the grand scheme of things, the Warwickshire performances this season don't even register in a 'top 10' of their shockers of the last 20 years or so. And, in a way, that is more of a worry. Because it's not that they're playing that badly. They're just up against sides that are substantially better than them.

The second day here exemplified it. Presented with a flat pitch and a strong batting line-up, Warwickshire's bowlers might have been a fraction tighter. But, basically, they put the ball in pretty good areas, they showed their variations and they demonstrated their heart. But they lacked the pace, the skill or the assistance to break through against a strong side and might reflect that, playing against Sangakkara with one boundary as short as this is like covering yourself in bacon and going to pet a tiger.

The truth is, Warwickshire failed to make use of a good batting surface in their first innings. While they undoubtedly had the more testing conditions on the first day, it is worth remembering that they were 126 without loss at one stage. And it's worth remembering, too, that they were 290 for 4 when Surrey took the second new ball. The final six wickets added only 42 and that included a tenth-wicket stand of 28.

Why? Because Surrey's bowlers - younger, hungrier and yes, a bit quicker - gained a little bit more from the surface and in the air. And Warwickshire's batsmen, all too often crease-bound and flirty, were not equal to it. Surrey will bowl much better than this in much more helpful conditions.

Perhaps Warwickshire were a bit unfortunate. The weather was substantially brighter on the second day and there was no need for floodlights. But by losing their final seven wickets for 69, they pretty much forfeited the opportunity to bat in such conditions. Besides, they still had four wickets in hand when they resumed on Saturday.

Most of all, they were unfortunate to come up against two fine batsmen. Stoneman, who has now scored three centuries in his last five Championship innings (he finished his Durham career with one against Hampshire), looked terrific. Having made 165 against Warwickshire on his Championship debut for the club a couple of weeks ago, he dealt with Keith Barker's swing expertly and looks hungry to ensure this move to Surrey brings the rewards he wants. That career average - in the low 30s - is no reflection of his class.

Maybe, on another day, he might have been dismissed without scoring. Certainly his first scoring stroke was his least convincing with Ateeq Javid, at point, flinging himself to his right but finding the sliced drive just out of reach, while later, on 83, William Porterfield at gully should have held on to a sharp chance offered off the admirably persistent Chris Wright.

Those moments apart, he looked wonderfully solid and unhurried. He played within himself and, when the bowlers strayed, either picked them off with deflections - he took 18 off one Barker over without needing to play a shot in anger - or cut or drove without fuss or trouble. He added 116 with Scott Borthwick, the pair of them running so fast that it proved impossible for Warwickshire to stem the flow, and then 140 with Sangakkara. It was some surprise when he was adjudged to be leg before and not just because it seemed a little high.

As for Sangakkara… to see him skip down the pitch and thread his drive off Jeetan Patel between the fielders in the covers; to see him pull and upper cut sixes when the seamers dropped short; to see him somehow cut Patel behind square so that the ball gained speed as it split the field… however many times you've seen him bat, however many centuries you've seen and whatever you think of the standard of county cricket, it was refreshing, it was classy, it was beautiful. If you're in the Edgbaston area on Sunday - hell, if you're anywhere near the Midlands - it may be worth coming to witness him reaching the 58th first-class century of his career. There won't be too many opportunities and they really don't come along like this very often.

Not that Warwickshire will be thinking in those terms. They have to believe they can turn around this match - they do still lead by 33, after all - and this season. We're not even in the last week of April. The sense from those watching, though, is that while they may not have sunk yet, they have struck the iceberg.

*Admit it, you were wondering about sides which had started the season with a hat-trick of innings losses, weren't you? Well, thanks to statistician Andrew Samson we know that Somerset (in 1899) and Glamorgan (in 1922) both lost their first four Championship matches in a season by an innings. But no team has ever lost three by an innings before the end of April. Warwickshire supporters will be hoping they are not on the cusp of history.