Warwickshire 230 and 148 for 3 (Sibley 52*) trail Surrey 194 and 325 (Stoneman 71, Elgar 53, Curran 52, Miles 5-91) by 141 runs
Tight fourth-innings chases place stressful responsibility on the fielding captain, and Rory Burns will have an extra calculation to make as he tries to perm a way to deny Warwickshire the 142 still needed to secure what would be a terrific win for the visitors. When does he turn to Sam Curran?
This is Curran's first-team comeback for Surrey following the hamstring injury he suffered last month. As a centrally contracted player, he falls under England's control and he was made available on the condition that he bowls a maximum 30 overs across the two innings. He has only six left.
Surrey pre-empted difficulties by leaving Curran out of their initial squad. They wanted him to play a full, unrationed role, or not at all. Then Matt Dunn turned an ankle on the eve of the fixture and Curran, though presumably less than 100 percent, was still the fittest replacement available.
Burns employed him for 17 overs in the Warwickshire first innings. As head coach Michael di Venuto told a Members' Forum during the lunch break: "Hopefully Sam will be a genius in the second." Well, the all-rounder has bowled like a mortal so far, Warwickshire have chipped away tenaciously at their target and Dominic Sibley appears as solid as the gasholders outside.
Once again, Surrey could only lament some of their own dismissals. Di Venuto had used strong words to describe their careless first-innings display, and bear in mind that the Australian vernacular can be very strong indeed. Although the second-innings total of 325 represented a significant improvement on 194, it still featured moments of culpability.
This is to take nothing away from Craig Miles, whose perseverance and improvement through the innings brought figures of 5 for 91. He had been expensive on Monday night and wayward again on Tuesday morning, flattered, by a first ball that Ben Foakes carved to backward point. With Toby Lester also profligate, and plenty of time remaining, Surrey were on top until Miles fought back.
Dean Elgar mis-hooked a well-directed bouncer, completing his helicopter-like pirouette and still finding time to scythe his bat through the air in frustration before the ball arrived to long leg. Curran, too, had just passed fifty when he fell in similar style, the ungainly Oliver Hannon-Dalby taking a roundabout route towards the ball before holding on while sprawled on the ground.
Hannon-Dalby has become vital to Warwickshire as the injuries mount. He is a player John Arlott would have loved: a yeoman bowler neither aesthetically pleasing nor blindingly fast, but who does the basics undemonstratively well. His big feet kiss the turf as he runs in, like a man living in a top floor flat trying not to rattle the ceiling below with a heavy tread.
He deserved more than his two wickets, but would not have begrudged Miles the five-fer completed with thin edges, inside and out, from Jordan Clark and Morne Morkel. The manner of Surrey's final wicket said much for the effort as Rikki Clarke contrived to screw a full toss from Jeetan Patel into the off side. Clarke at least had held together the late-innings.
Burns opted to use some of Curran's overs with the new ball as Warwickshire set off towards the 290 required. Given the limited opportunity he might have better waited for evidence of swing, which did not arrive until after the early overs. Indeed, Curran did more with the ball when he returned for a second spell. Clarke, too, generated enough movement to threaten.
The game became all the more compelling for Surrey's failure to make an early breakthrough. Sibley and Will Rhodes were not an obvious opening pair when they came together last season, but they are increasingly ranking among the best in the first division. Sibley, resolute, showed why Surrey were so upset at losing him, while the left-handed Rhodes played a more forcing role.
Appeals went unheard, edges fell short or wide. With the floodlights shining it felt like a time to bowl and every ball seemed significant. Then, with the stand on 70, Gareth Batty hit Rhodes on the back foot to win an lbw decision. Rob Yates soon followed, but Sibley and Sam Hain showed their adhesive qualities against Nottinghamshire recently and were content to reprise that obstinate display.
How crucial, then, that the perennially competitive Batty should strike four overs before close. Hain pushed forward anticipating turn that did not materialise and Foakes completed a stumping despite pain in his right fingers that needed treatment a few minutes earlier when a rising ball from Morkel slipped through his gloves.
Not for the first time over the past three days, Foakes had demonstrated his style and skill. But talent comes in different forms, and while batting seems much more of an effort to Sibley, he is also a formidable customer. He will resume on 52 from 111 balls, and his wicket is the one Surrey need most in the morning.