Jamie Smith scored a career-best 138 as Surrey dug in on a Kia Oval shirtfront in search of a run-filled draw against Glamorgan to finish the LV= Insurance County Championship season.
Surrey, in reply to Glamorgan’s 672 for 6 declared, reached the end of day three on 387 for 2 but, on a bowlers’ graveyard of a pitch, the Welsh county will rue dropping Hashim Amla three times as he reached 87 not out.
Ollie Pope is unbeaten on 95, having dominated an unbroken stand of 140 in 40 overs for the third wicket with Amla, while Ryan Patel hit 10 fours in his 62 from 138 balls. Surrey will now aim to bat out the final day.
Pope has faced 135 balls, stroking 12 fours, and this is believed to be the first time a first-class match has featured scores of 35 or more from the first twelve batsmen to take the field. It is also the first time since 1995 in championship cricket that Surrey’s first three wickets have each put on more than 100.
Glamorgan, however, did have a clutch of chances to put Surrey’s top order under more pressure, with Patel dropped on 33, Smith dropped on 53 and Amla on 61, 79 and 87 but, in truth, the soporific nature of the pitch – offering no pace or bounce for the quicker bowlers, nor any real turn for the spinners – made the task of taking wickets extremely difficult.
Surrey resumed on 45 without loss, and Smith and Patel were soon accumulating steadily. There were also some pedigree strokes from both openers, with one early Smith clip off his pads for four off Michael Hogan being particularly memorable.
At 66, though, Patel was badly missed at first slip by Eddie Byrom and then Smith was put down above his head by Hamish Rutherford at mid off when he miscued a lofted drive at off spinner Callum Taylor.
Just before lunch Byrom atoned for his drop, claiming his maiden first-class wicket with his rarely-seen leg spin when Patel, pushing forward, edged to David Lloyd at slip.
That left Surrey 140 for 1 in the 48th over but Amla then joined Smith in a second wicket stand of 107, with the former South Africa Test great getting under way with lovely extra cover and square cover drives off Hogan that brought him successive fours.
Smith, who made 123 against Northants in his previous championship appearance in early September, reached his third hundred of the season, and fourth in first-class cricket, from 189 balls and – at the age of 21 – looks a fine prospect. Tall, powerful and well-balanced at the crease, he now has 656 championship runs at 43.73 this summer and also captained Surrey in the Royal London Cup.
His dismissal was freakish, as Smith managed somehow to get a touch to a short legside ball from Byrom that he was trying to flick away for more runs. Caught by keeper Chris Cooke, he had faced 236 balls, across four and a half hours, hitting 17 fours.
Amla survived a sharp caught and bowled chance to left-arm seamer Jamie McIlroy and was later put down by keeper Cooke, off Byrom, and slip Lloyd, off Taylor, in the day’s penultimate over.