Surrey 213 for 6 (Burns 103*, Parnell 3-38) trail Worcestershire 336 (Whiteley 91, Fell 69, Barnard 63, Curran 4-61) by 123 runs

Rory Burns has his fourth hundred of the season and, for Surrey, the equation could not be more straightforward now. After Somerset's defeat against Hampshire, from which they accrued only three points, Surrey need only to add four more to the four they already have from this match to be confirmed as County Champions for 2018.

It will be the county's first title for 16 years, but you can't imagine they will have to wait that long for the next one. Surrey's history is notable for periods of dominance in the Championship and this could easily be the start of another.

A draw would do it. In fact, a full complement of batting points (unlikely) would do it, even before the result is factored in, but you fancy Surrey will want to rub in their superiority over the season by extending their eight-match winning sequence, possibly right through to the end. They go to Taunton next week to take on a doubtless shell-shocked Somerset before returning to The Oval to receive Essex, who can bring the pennant with them for a ceremonial handing-over.

Burns, rock solid throughout his 15th first-class century on a pitch which has offered a good contest between bat and ball, has added another layer of evidence to support his candidacy as Alastair Cook's replacement when England set off for Sri Lanka next month but Worcestershire, though, are still doing their best to ensure Surrey put in an honest few days at the coalface before cracking open the champagne.

Desperate themselves to claim as many points as they can muster in the hope that, somehow, they can escape relegation, they have the upper hand in the match and may yet even delay Surrey's celebrations, although one suspects that batting on this pitch for a second time against Morne Morkel and Co might be some test.

After a start delayed by rain, this was a good day in particular for Morkel's compatriot on the home side, Wayne Parnell. The South African allrounder, who joined Worcestershire in July initially as a T20 replacement when Travis Head was summoned to play for Australia A, began it by helping his team, recovering from 165 for 5 on the opening day, compile their biggest first-innings total at New Road all season and ended it with three wickets to his name.

He is staying on until the end of the season in place of R Ashwin, the India spinner, whose return to New Road was cancelled after he finished the Test series with a groin injury.

Parnell missed the early part of this year due to a serious shoulder injury. His first Championship match for Worcestershire last month was his first red-ball game since October last year but he appears to be finding his form again now, which can only be good news for Worcestershire in their struggle to stay up.

His left-arm bowling looks particularly sharp and he gave the champions-elect an almighty scare with two wickets in his first over, with consecutive balls in fact, bowling Mark Stoneman off stump with classic late movement off a middle-stump line before Ed Barnard took a stunning catch at gully as Dean Elgar fell first ball.

Surrey were 4 for 2 at that moment and would have been 4 for 3 had Daryl Mitchell, normally the most reliable second slip, not dropped a relatively straightforward chance just three balls later in the same over, letting Ollie Pope off the hook before he had scored.

Parnell, who was off the field at the end after splitting the webbing of his right hand (fortunately) intercepting a shot driven back down the pitch by Burns, got his man eventually, but the assertive Pope had made 48 before he edged a drive and was taken by Alex Milton behind the stumps.

Will Jacks, another of the homegrown talents around whom this Surrey side's planning for long-term success is built, was bowled by left-arm spinner Ben Twohig, Rikki Clarke was undone by a ball from Ross Whiteley that exploded off a length and Josh Tongue produced a good ball to have Tom Curran caught at first slip as Worcestershire continued the fight.

It is a good battle. But Burns, surely now ready for the senior England call-up that many regard as long overdue, was Cook-like in his willingness to wait for the right ball and super-efficient in making most of them count. He seldom looked in anything other than complete control.