Surrey edge it at The Oval
Surrey edge it at The Oval

Surrey had the better of a truncated and attritional day’s cricket at The Kia Oval, in which Kent failed to make the most of exaggerated movement before and after lunch.

Play started an hour late because of a wet outfield, following overnight and early morning rain.  And if the Surrey batsmen did not know how difficult conditions would be their innocence was dispelled after just two deliveries.

Rory Burns was dropped off the first ball of the day, by Sean Dickson at first slip – the first of two he put down – off the bowling of Harry Podmore. Podmore did not have to wait long to make up for that.  To his second delivery Mark Stoneman shouldered arms and was lbw.

Batting was to remain difficult for most of the day.  Even after lunch, when the sun came out and the sluggish outfield quickened, there was still humidity in the Oval air.   Darren Stevens, in particular, was outstanding.  But, desperately unlucky, he failed to take a wicket.  Instead it was Grant Stewart, easily the most expensive of the Kent bowlers, who ultimately proved the most successful, taking three for 84 as Surrey closed on 244-6.

Dean Elgar batted heroically to survive the most difficult of the conditions.  But he was lucky to escape when, on eight, he looked to be lbw to Podmore only to look up and see the umpire signalling a no ball.

In the 14th over, after 53 minutes play, Burns drove a delivery from Stewart – who had replaced Stevens – through the covers for the first boundary of the morning.  At lunch Surrey, with much playing and missing, had reached 35-1 from 18 overs, with Burns 18 and Elgar 13.

Surrey lost their second wicket at 73, in the 28th over, when Burns received a nasty delivery from Stewart which lifted and left him, and he edged it to the wicketkeeper.  His 30 had occupied 80 balls.

Elgar, meanwhile, was graduating from survival mode to something more commanding.  He reached his half-century when he clipped Stevens through the leg side for two.  But, without addition, he was dropped by Dickson off the same bowler.

Podmore and Stevens continued to bowl with three slips in place.  At 99, in the 38th over, Podmore pitched one up to Scott Borthwick, encouraging the drive. But the ball swung in between bat and pad and bowled him.

Surrey reached tea on 119-3, with Elgar 62 not out.  But in the second over after the break he was lbw to Stewart.  Sam Curran decided to play a different way.  His first two scoring shots were fours through the covers.  Then he jumped down the wicket to lift Ollie Rayner for six over long-on.

Curran hit six fours and two sixes in a belligerent 43 before he skied a hook to midwicket. Then Jamie Smith was lbw to Stewart for 14. But the resolute Ben Foakes was unbeaten on 57 when bad light brought play to an end with 9.2 overs unbowled.

Sam Curran (Surrey):  “Dean [Elgar] and Burnsy [Rory Burns] showed their class today, which is why they’re international players.  And they kept feeding messages back to the dressing room, which was important.  There was something in the wicket for the bowlers.  It got better as the day went on.

“We’re in a pretty strong position and hopefully we can put some pressure on with the ball when we bowl.  We would have settled for this. We’re pretty happy. Any time you get put  into bat and you lose only six wickets on day one you have to be pretty happy, even though there has been some time lost in the game.

“Foakesy [Ben Foakes] looks in good nick and Rikki has been in good form, so hopefully they can get to that new ball and get a score on the board so we can put pressure on the Kent batting order.”

Ollie Rayner (Kent):  “We would have liked a few more wickets out of today.  After Stoneman’s leave, which came back about half a foot this morning, we thought we might get through a few more of them.

“But I think the boys stuck at it really well.  There was only one stage, with Foakesy [Ben Stokes] and Sam [Curran] where they got away from us.  And we’re only a couple of overs off the new ball in the morning.

“It will be a big hour in the morning, and then hopefully it will have flattened out for our batters.  It will be interesting to see how the pitch goes from here.  But if we get them out for anything less than 300 it will be pretty decent from this position.  We dropped a couple of chances, but they batted well to be fair.”