Emilio Gay scored a century, his first at Wantage Road, as Northamptonshire put together a handy first innings performance against Surrey on day one.
Opening batter Gay was fantastic in his 145, his third first-class century and second of the season, as he helped his side score 249 for four having been out into bat.
He was joined in a 77-run first-wicket partnership with Will Young and a 155-run fourth-wicket stand with Rob Keogh with a Kemar Roach and Dan Worrall-induced wobble in between.
Keogh ended the day on an effortless 75 not out but was outshone by Gay’s personal best.
The death of The Queen last week was marked with a minute’s silence and National Anthem before play, while there was a period of applause during a rain break in remembrance of Northamptonshire coach Luke Swann, who died aged 39 last week on a sombre day.
Gay started quickly, with a pair of glorious cover drives off Kemar Roach, but it was his play square of the wicket that dominated his innings – most aesthetically pleasing were his wristy flicks off his legs.
The elegant left-hander passed 50 for the sixth time this season in 69 balls, and he answered criticisms of his conversion rate – only one century this year – in emphatic style.
The 22-year-old reached three figures in 118-balls, before passing his previous best red ball score of 112.
His standing ovation, having fallen into a short ball trap to hook to deep square leg in drizzle, was well deserved for his high-quality innings – although it turned to frustration as his wicket saw the end of the day’s play.
Rory Burns had stuck Northamptonshire in but didn’t get the immediate movement and accuracy he would have liked.
Tom Curran made his first Championship appearance since April 2019 with figures of 11 overs for 39. The England international has returned from a stress fracture in his back this year, having been sidelined by a side strain for much of 2019.
After the rain delay, which knocked 10 overs off the day’s scheduled allotment, Surrey return to find swing on the agenda and made the more favourable conditions work with three wickets in 31 balls.
Will Young had been the antidote to Gay’s flair – scoring 20 of the 77 runs – before a backfoot drive off Roach found his outside edge and flew to second slip, before the West Indian had Luke Procter fending to gully.
Dan Worrell dragged Josh Cobb wide to drive an away swinger behind to put Northamptonshire in danger of replicating their woes at Hampshire last week. In each innings, Gay and Young had successfully dealt with the new ball, with stands of 68 and 98 before the team was bowled out for 175 and 221.
This time Rob Keogh entered to steady things, with Gay continuing his business. Keogh embodied class and experience for his 91-ball fifty and continued an equal 75 to the 155 with Gay. The heavy majority of his runs came behind the wicket, usually when opening the face of the bat on a good-paced pitch.
Surrey fast bowler Gus Atkinson said “Those three wickets were really important. They built up a big partnership after them so it was a shame we couldn’t capitalise on those three wickets. If we can come back in the morning and take a few quick wickets we are very much in this game.
“We opted to field and we felt that was the best way for us to win this game so we are sticking with that decision.
“A lot of our bowlers haven’t played any cricket recently, no one day cricket or anything, so for us to be back is good. We weren’t at our best but tomorrow we can come back and take a few wickets.
“We didn’t ease ourselves into the game. If we had batted first we could have gone through the motions but now we have that first day out the way we can come back and do well.”