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Josh Bohannon shines on debut but are lights set to go out on failed experiment?

Roy Burns drives Getty Images

Surrey 211 and 197 for 4 (Burns 70) lead Lancashire 247 (Vilas 61, Bohannon 52) by 161 runs
Scorecard

There is a strong possibility, verging on likelihood, that The Oval is currently hosting the last ever day-night County Championship match.

Surrey and Lancashire are the last two counties to endure the ordeal this season, and if reports from across the country are anything to go by, feedback on this experiment, which is into its second year, range from "what's the point?" at the positive end of the spectrum to "this absurd farrago debases the integrity of the competition and drives away fans."

The final piece of the jigsaw was tested at The Oval today. Situated in the middle of the largest city in Europe, within 75 seconds gentle ambling distance of a tube station through which over 35,000 passengers a day pass between the hours of 5pm and 7pm, Surrey made entrance to their ground free after 6pm. Around two hours and 40 minutes play could be enjoyed in the atmospheric surroundings of this historic stadium without spending so much as a penny.

Many a commuter, on their way to stations in South West London had the opportunity to watch that rarest of beasts; County Championship cricket on a work day, and to enjoy a short hop home after it was all done.

The figures, though, don't make great reading: 356 people turned up between 6pm and 7pm. Meanwhile, around 500 people left. Thereafter the crowd thinned out dramatically. The overall attendance of around 3,000 was pretty much par for a weekday.

If there is no notable upside in attendance and large numbers of fans drift off hours before the close of play, for whose benefit is this experiment taking place? If it doesn't work at The Oval, the most accessible ground in the country, it really can't work anywhere else.

Josh Bohannon, a 21-year-old Boltonian, making his debut for Lancashire may be the only person in favour of its continuation. With his side precariously placed overnight on 132 for 6, still 79 runs behind the league leaders, he batted for two and half hours and 108 balls to secure a maiden first-class half century. Conditions were at their best for batting, as the Kookaburra ball offers no assistance to bowlers during daylight and when it's more than 20 overs old, but despite the lack of Jade Dernbach, who was absent owing to an injury sustained on day one, Surrey still possess in an attack of considerable potency.

Bohannon was compact, assured and tidy, seldom offering a false shot. He took Lancashire into the lead. Surrey were beginning to get frustrated, but eventually Amar Virdi spun one back into his pads from round the wicket and Graham Onions fell shortly after. Nonetheless, a lead of 36 looked unlikely at the start of play.

Surrey had wisely rushed through 34 overs in the morning session which ensured they would have fewer overs to face in the darkness. On the first day play finished at 9.20pm. Today it was, mercifully, all done and dusted by 8.46pm.

The new pink ball poses exaggerated problems and Tom Bailey was a particular handful. For the most part though, Surrey's top order negotiated it skilfully. Aaron Finch launched a brutal attack on the legspinner Matt Parkinson, twice hitting him into the second tier of the OCS stand before being undone by Onions for 32. Onions should have had the country's leading scorer, Rory Burns, caught at slip for 44, but Steven Croft shelled the simple chance. Predictably his next ball was hammered for four.

Into the evening, Joe Mennie's hands were failing to make light work of Surrey but Burns would find himself raging, raging against the dying of the light when Bohannon was introduced into the attack as the crepuscular hour descended. Groping in the gloaming his off stump was plucked out of the ground to give the impressive youngster his maiden first-class wicket to go with that fifty earlier in the day.

This left an awkward eight overs to get through before the close of play with the match on a knife-edge, but Sam Curran was more than equal to the task, stroking an elegant 27 off 27 balls while Ben Foakes stood firm at the other end.

Closing on 197 for 4, Surrey have a lead of 161 with the promise of excellent batting conditions against a manky and unresponsive ball on the third afternoon and the chance to get at Lancashire in the evening session. It could be the last session under lights any of us get to see. If you're one of those 35,000 people passing through Oval station tomorrow, it has to be worth it, if only to say "I was there."