Rikki Clarke took three wickets for just one run in his first three overs, and 5 for 13 overall in an outstanding and dramatic afternoon spell, to bowl Surrey back into their Bob Willis Trophy clash with Kent at The Kia Oval.
At 118 for 9 in their second innings, Kent lead by 182, but the third day of a fascinating contest was turned completely on its head by veteran all-rounder Clarke – with help from Sam Curran and Matt Dunn.
Clarke, who will be 39 at the end of next month, had final figures of 12-7-15-5, while Curran took 3 for 35 as Kent collapsed initially from 63 for 1 to 69 for 5 in mid-afternoon, and then again from 100 for 5 after a mini-recovery was staged by Grant Stewart and Marcus O’Riordan.
By tea Kent had slid to a shell-shocked 102 for 8, and after a short rain shower delay Curran had Matt Milnes leg-before for 7 with a superb inswinger. Rain, however, then returned and allowed just 5.1 overs to be bowled after the tea interval. Kent will start the final day with both Nathan Gilchrist and Hamidullah Qadri, the last pair, on 4.
The drama of the third innings began with Kent’s acting captain Daniel Bell-Drummond scoring his side’s first 18 runs before Curran, operating from around the wicket, skidded one into his pads to have him leg-before during a morning session which began with Surrey bowled out for 278 after resuming their first innings on 239 for 7.
Jordan Cox and Jack Leaning took Kent to 35 for 1 at lunch and went on to add 45 for the second wicket before Clarke came into the attack to such devastating effect.
Leaning was Clarke’s first victim, leg-before for 14, and then Ollie Robinson was bowled third ball for 0 shouldering arms to a nip-backer. Cox was bowled off an inside edge for a composed 32 in Clarke’s next over and Darren Stevens thick-edged an attempted offside force at Dunn to Scott Borthwick at second slip to go for a fourth-ball 0 when more circumspection was needed.
Then, shortly before tea, Clarke struck twice more – with the first ball of his ninth over to have Stewart leg-before for 22, and then with the fourth ball of his tenth over as Harry Podmore edged to Will Jacks at second slip to go for 2.
In between those two strikes, moreover, which gave Clarke figures of 9.4-5-13-5 at the interval, Curran had O’Riordan caught low down at first slip by Clarke with the 22-year-old departing for 9.
Earlier in the day, Ben Foakes’ first county red-ball hundred since 2017 could not prevent Kent from earning themselves a first innings lead of 64.
Foakes, on 88 overnight, was last out for 118 as it took Kent 17.4 overs to finish Surrey off, with the last two wickets falling in the first two overs with the second new ball.
Adam Finch added just a single before being pinned in front by Podmore for 10, in the morning’s sixth over, but Foakes went to the tenth first-class hundred of his career with a sweetly-timed cover boundary off Stevens, and he also punched Podmore straight for his 17th four before Milnes and Stewart wrapped up the innings in successive overs.
Milnes, with the fourth ball with the second new ball, had Dunn leg-before for 8 and Foakes, having faced 188 balls and batted for just short of five hours, tried to run a short ball from Stewart to third man and edged to Cox at slip.