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Surrey take charge at The Oval
Surrey take charge at The Oval

A late order assault led by Sean Abbott and Gus Atkinson was followed by Kent losing three wickets in the last three overs of the day as Surrey, who had totalled 362, took control of their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Kent at the Kia Oval. 

Kent slid from 78 for one to 80 for four in their second innings at stumps, still four runs behind overall, as Tawanda Muyeye, nightwatchman Wes Agar and Jack Leaning were dismissed in a dramatic finish to the day. 

A responsible 31 not out from Zak Crawley, featuring some lovely shots, was Kent’s only consolation after Muyeye skewed Tom Lawes to mid on, Agar was bowled for a duck by Abbott off an inside edge and Leaning bowled by Lawes for one. 

Muyeye had uppercut an Atkinson short ball for six over third man in an entertaining if streaky 42, dominating a partnership of 58 with Crawley after Jordan Clark had removed Ben Compton for one in the sixth over, caught by an alert Ollie Pope at second slip when Will Jacks, at third, parried the ball up. 

At 211 for seven earlier, Division One leaders Surrey were struggling for mid-game parity, but Abbott’s powerful 88-ball 78 and Atkinson’s blistering 55 not out from No 10, with three sixes and six fours, propelled them to an 84-run lead at the halfway point. 

It was also a day to remember for Arafat Bhuiyan, the Bangladesh-born seamer and UK passport holder who was last weekend playing in the Kent League for Blackheath but now claimed the wickets of Pope, Jamie Smith, Ben Foakes and Jacks in debut figures of 4 for 65. 

Fast bowling all-rounder Abbott, recently called up into Australia’s extended Test squad for this summer, came in at 180 for six and impressed with his clean hitting, striking a six and nine fours while Lawes also batted well for 20 in an eighth wicket stand of 53. 

But it was Atkinson who provided the main fireworks, first helping Abbott to add a further 65 for the ninth wicket and then plundering three sixes in four balls off Michael Hogan’s fast-medium, in an over costing 24, to rush Surrey to a third batting bonus point and himself to a 42-ball half-century. 

Atkinson’s first two sixes were swung over mid wicket, from down on one knee, and his third an extraordinary blow over extra cover.

The 25-year-old finished the over by smashing Hogan for a one-bounce four wide of mid off. Resuming on 88 for one, in reply to Kent’s first innings 278, Surrey initially found it difficult to shake off a hard-working Kent seam quintet in which 26-year-old Arafat produced the stand-out performance. 

Brought on at the Vauxhall End, after the first ten overs of the day had brought just twenty runs and some careful reconnaissance from the second wicket pairing of Dom Sibley and Pope, Arafat first struck in his second over. Pope, in his first innings since being installed as England vice-captain for this summer’s Tests, became a distinguished maiden first-class scalp for Arafat.

On 34, and having helped Sibley to add 84, he tried to whip a straight ball through mid-wicket but succeeded only in hitting it straight into the hands of Grant Stewart in the legside ring. 

And Arafat soon had his second wicket, when Smith – having just picked him up effortlessly off his pads for six over deep square leg – edged a drive at a widish ball to second slip to go for eight. 

Then, contentiously, Sibley fell for 60 on the stroke of lunch, edging an outswinger from Joey Evison and seeing Leaning dive to claim a low left-handed catch at second slip.

It was not clear if the ball had carried but, after consultation, umpires Nigel Llong and Rob Bailey upheld Llong’s original decision. 

Sibley had looked secure throughout his 172-ball stay, so it was a setback for Surrey to lose him at 152 for four, just when they seemed to be taking control of the contest, and another double-strike by Arafat in the first hour after lunch then put Kent on top. 

Foakes, trying to force, gave Leaning his third catch on 17 and Jacks, having hoisted Evison’s medium pace for a magnificent six over wide long on in a quickfire 24, spliced a pull at Arafat and looped up a simple catch to mid on. 

Clark made only eight before nicking Evison to first slip but then came the counter-attack from Abbott, Lawes and Atkinson.

In all, Surrey’s last three wickets added 151 in 25 overs – quite the response to the 160 put on by Kent’s own last three wickets in 32 overs on day one. Lawes, taken at first slip, and Abbott, caught behind, both eventually fell to the bustling Agar, who ended with 3 for 76 when he bowled last man Dan Worrall for six.

Surrey’s Sean Abbott, who top-scored with 78, said: “It’s been a good contest all day and Kent have fought hard so far in the match. 

“We really had to get together as a batting unit because it’s a tricky wicket with a few little dents in it. Both Gus (Atkinson) and Tom (Lawes) played well and together we managed to get us a good first innings lead. That was what we wanted from today.

“Dom Sibley and others also battled hard in the earlier part of the innings and to get close to a 100-run lead at halfway was a good effort.

“The three wickets at the end were great for us but Zak (Crawley) is still there and they have a couple of very good players to come so there is still a lot of work for us to do tomorrow and we need to keep the pressure on them and stay ahead in the game.”

Kent’s Arafat Bhuiyan, who took 4 for 65 on his first-class debut, said:

“To get Ollie Pope as my first wicket was obviously very nice and I am very pleased to finish with four. You always have to believe you are good enough to do well and that you are picked at this level for a reason.

“Surrey are a very strong team and we worked very hard as a bowling unit to bowl them out. We have to come back hard tomorrow morning with the bat and try to get as big a lead as possible.”