Surrey 289 for 6 (Harinath 120*) vs Glamorgan

Occasionally - just occasionally - county cricket provides a moment to gladden the heart. At 3.12 in the afternoon at a sun-drenched Woodbridge Road, as Surrey began to recover from the anguish of the previous day which saw two players taken to hospital after an on-field collision, Arun Harinath provided it.

It is not a shot on which he will reflect with much fondness. The foray down the wicket to Andrew Salter's offspin was impetuous. In his mind's eye the ball would have sailed, nonchalantly and emphatically, to the straight boundary.

Instead the ball dipped on him unexpectedly. Harinath had made a misjudgment and knew that his offstump was imperilled; even if the ball just missed, he faced being stumped. A furious, desperate attempt at a drive betrayed his anxiety. The ball could easily have rattled into his stumps. Instead a Chinese cut evaded his legstump by inches. Harinath had his century.

As he returned for his second run, so Harinath leapt exuberantly in the air. So immersed was he in his success that he did not realise until the end of the day that the ball had actually gone for four.

The hearty cheers from the Surrey dressing room spoke of the regard in which Harinath is held; respect for his unstinting professionalism at a time when many outsiders had assumed he was surplus to first team requirements.

Only the horrific collision that befell Moises Henriques and his friend Rory Burns at Arundel the previous day granted Harinath an opportunity.

Even then his selection was only confirmed 90 minutes before play, shortly before news began to break that Burns would be released from hospital later that day, but that Henriques would remain a while longer and would need surgery on a fractured jaw.

An hour and a half later, Harinath walked out to bat on what appears a typically pristine Guildford surface; a serene flick past square leg for four, off the final ball of Michael Hogan's opening over, was quite a start.

The applause from his team-mates much later in the day represented not just the refound stability of his county, but a significant moment in a quietly admirable cricketer's career. He is not a cricketer who, at the age of 28, should be languishing in the second XI.

Yet that is where he has remained all summer. Harinath had not even made a first team squad until this game. And he had hardly made an insurmountable case for elevation either, failing to pass 40 in his last ten completed innings.

Harinath is associated with stodgy, adhesive defence. Yet here he showed how his game has expanded in the past three years. He drove elegantly through the covers; used his feet judiciously - most of the time, anyway - against spin; showed off his improved sweep shot; and rocked back to crunch anything short through the legside. The upshot was that, while Zafar Ansari at times seemed almost strokeless, his century arrived in only 157 balls.

It was not an innings without fortune, even before the shot to bring up his century. Just after lunch, he survived a regulation catch to Jacques Rudolph at second slip. Several balls were also flashed past the slips, and David Lloyd almost reached a cut off Salter.

Still, no one would begrudge Harinath a little fortune, so diligent does he train and so unwilling is he to complain. His fourth first-class century had come two years after his third: a moment he feared would never come.

"It was quite emotional - a lot of pent-up energy. A bit of a release really," he reflected. "You deserve to be happy when you get three figures on the board.

"You've got to seize these opportunities - you don't know how many games of first-class cricket you're going to play, so every opportunity is a massive thing. It's good to get some runs."

He hopes it will be the prelude to many more - preferably at Surrey, his local club. "Everyone's aspiration is to stay and play professional cricket. Hopefully if I score a few more runs that will happen."

For most of the day it looked as if, together with Zafar Ansari, Harinath was assembling an insurmountable position for Surrey. The two added 200 in an alliance that was unbroken until tea.

And yet Glamorgan left the field feeling quietly buoyant. Their seam bowlers combined to snare six wickets after tea, including Dominic Sibley and Ben Foakes, flashing in consecutive overs against David Lloyd. It was an admirable effort from Glamorgan's bowlers, whose discipline never wavered. Indeed, to Jacques Rudolph it was the best Glamorgan had bowled all season.

When they return on the second day, Glamorgan will still be confronted by Ansari, unbeaten and unwavering but scoring at under a run an over. He is a peculiar batsman, equally comfortable at tuk-tuk or Ferrari speed - his strike rate in T20 cricket this season is better than Chris Gayle's.

Here he batted with complete certainty, but he was also utterly becalmed. At one point Ansari went a full 50 overs without managing a boundary - a feat that even England, in their miserable former incarnation as an ODI side, never approached.

Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts