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Roy musters a red-ball retort

Middlesex 247 (Robson 57, Meaker 3-55) and 15 for 0 trail Surrey 280 (Roy 79, Foakes 73, Roland-Jones 4-66) by 18 runs

A young Surrey side spurned the opportunity to run rings around a Middlesex XI that creaked in the field on day two of a match that is still anyone's when it really should be theirs. It may be putting too fine a point on it, but what sprightly exuberance the hosts displayed on day one to fight for every run in the field was countered by a batting display that began well and lost concentration as it went on. The wise heads accompanying James Franklin in the field managed enough of the game to ensure it was rarely beyond them.

Dismissing Middlesex inside 85-overs gave Surrey the luxury of batting at their own pace. Even with the loss of both openers, they began day two at their leisure: 69 runs scored in the entirety of the morning session, for the loss of just Scott Borthwick, edging Steven Finn behind, 10-minutes before lunch. The bulk of those runs came from Nightwatchman Stuart Meaker: booed for turning down runs the night before, was egged on after every boundary - three in a row were taken off Toby Roland-Jones - on his way to a more than useful 42.

Time was the real currency, here. Surrey's batting card had a club cricket quality to it: wiser heads dotted in and amongst the younger kids. Experienced spread about like policemen on street corners, making sure everyone ticked along nicely. When the peace needed to be disturbed, Surrey had just the men for it.

An older ball in the second session was flayed around, as Jason Roy and Ben Foakes made use of a slow pitch and a frustrated Middlesex attack, helping to put on 149 between lunch and tea. Naturally, England thoughts crept in. It doesn't take much at a county match for home fans to plug their own, especially when England are rattling through players like disposable razors.

In Roy, Surrey have a player who seems to command a Test place in newspaper columns rather than in his work against the red ball. For 91 balls, those two worlds collided.

In at four, he got off the mark with a cut off Finn through point. As scoring became tougher, he knuckled down, picking off singles at will. He didn't have to battle, but he did have to grind. Then, when he was 36 from 48 balls, he decided it was time to kick things up a gear and smashed Ollie Rayner into the Pavilion two balls in a row to move to 48 from 50. The half-century came up eight balls later. Thing is, it was only his second half-century of the season - albeit a season in which he has been limited to just five innings so far through white ball commitments with the IPL and England.

Once that was in the bag, Roy stepped aside for Foakes, who had played it cool for the most part, contributing 35 of their century partnership. Foakes was 33 from 82 balls before making his move: a brace of fours off Finn, one off Roland-Jones helping him to 50 from 94 balls.

From this point on, it really should have been a tale of two men reaching their first Championship centuries of the season. Instead, the story to tell is of an advantage spurned. When Roy had a brain fade and failed to clear mid off against Adam Voges' passable left-arm spin, and Foakes was trapped in front by James Franklin, it sent about a cascade of wickets that saw Surrey's secure a first innings lead of just 33.

The final four wickets would fall for just 49 runs, the last four with the new ball: Roland-Jones finishing with four for 66 and Tim Murtagh bagging his first two of the match. All the hard work of the fifth wicket stand between Roy and Foakes should have turned the match. In the end, it reads as a flashy 125 that simply got the game back to square one, with honours just about even.

At stumps, brought about by bad light, Middlesex were just 18 behind, Sam Robson and Nick Compton still in tact, with weather expected to play some part on day three. For the second evening in a row, they leave the happier despite Surrey having controlled most of the preceding play.