Captain’s knock revives Surrey after table-toppers make early running
Surrey 285 for 5 (Amla 103*, Patel 62, Overton 50*) vs Gloucestershire
Those who made the pilgrimage for Surrey’s encounter with Gloucestershire were duly rewarded. Amla moved serenely to the landmark during the dying embers of the day, as if to order for those wishing to slip in for a glimpse of greatness on their way home from work. Some 2500 were in the ground, and the majority of them rose to their feet as he stroked his 12th boundary through the covers, then removed his helmet to salute the four corners.
Amla’s repertoire of silk and steel is well known, but there’s nothing wrong with playing the old favourites. His first boundary of the day was a wristy clip off Dan Worrall that perfectly bisected two leg-side fielders; a few overs later he eased on to the gas a little, pinging Worrall for four fours in 10 balls, daubing the canvas on either side of the wicket. Worrall, strong of shoulder and unruly of hair, looks rather like one of the bad guys from a 1980s high school movie – but the twinkling Amla nimbly gave him the slip.
The only blemish came during the evening session, when he attempted to back-cut the left-arm spin of Tom Smith only to edge a catchable chance to slip, which Miles Hammond put it down. Amla was on 76 at the time, and Gloucestershire may well have plenty more time left in the field to rue that miss.
Crowds had made their return in the previous round of the Championship, but here was a balmy south London day to create a genuine frisson of excitement among those trooping along the Harleyford Road, rucksacks full and straw hats in place, and plenty came to bask in late May conditions worthy of the name. One chucklingly referred to the hand “sataniser” dispensers dotted liberally around the ground; for Surrey, who have been off the pace in their group, the devil was in the detail.
The initial exchanges hinted at an Oval surface of the most benign variety – although, already somewhat worn, Surrey will hope it offers a crumble of comfort for their trio of tweakers (Jacks’ offbreaks being a genuine consideration). Mark Stoneman clipped and cut efficiently to add 50 alongside Patel, before Ryan Higgins succeeded in dragging him across his crease before angling one back to hit the pads in front of leg stump.
Patel, the 23-year-old allrounder making his first appearance of the season and opening the batting in Burns’ absence, was soon comfortably riding the mid-morning zephyrs on the way to a 100-ball half-century. He was particularly dismissive on the pull, and carved Worrall for back-to-back fours in bringing up his fifty – one slashed behind square, the other flayed through the covers. He had just swatted David Payne to the backward square leg boundary when a change of ball brought his dismissal from the very next delivery, a flying edge taken by the lone slip, Kraigg Brathwaite.
Gloucestershire had not done too much wrong during the morning session, with little in the conditions to assist their four-pronged seam attack. Reward came after lunch, as Patel became the first of three wickets to fall inside eight overs; Jamie Smith was undone by Payne’s left-arm angle of attack, steering a thick edge to slip, before Evans got a good one from Matt Taylor, which straightened on him from round the wicket. Jonny Tattersall, on loan from Yorkshire as cover with James Bracey set to become the first Gloster to play a Test for England drive 2006, plunged to his right to hold a thin edge.
Jacks then dragged on after a 48-run stand with Amla, a wide half-volley from Higgins leaving him on his knees. But with Amla immovable and Overton haring through to complete his half-century from the final ball of the day, it was Gloucestershire in need of a pick-me-up.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick