Ollie Pope continued his eye-catching early-season form by hitting a superb 113 not out against Hampshire’s highly-rated pace attack as he and Hashim Amla, who made 73, earned Surrey the opening day honours at The Kia Oval.
Hampshire were the only side in the LV= Insurance County Championship first division to record a win in last week’s first round of games, but Surrey certainly burst their balloon by reaching a dominant 312/3 by stumps.
Ryan Patel, who scored a fine 58, also played his part as Surrey made light of being asked to bat first on a green-hued pitch. The surface, actually, proved easy-paced but Patel and Rory Burns, who battled hard for 21, still did much to blunt the new ball threat of Mohammad Abbas, Keith Barker and Kyle Abbott.
Amla and Pope then added 114 for the third wicket, only being parted when Amla slashed at a short, wide ball from Ian Holland and edged behind after facing 173 balls across almost four hours.
Ben Foakes then arrived to help Pope put on a further unbroken 79, with Pope’s only false shot in a classy innings – following his 58 in last week’s draw against champions Warwickshire – a fortuitous top-edged six off James Fuller. In all, Pope faced 170 balls, hitting 12 fours besides, while Foakes struck four fours in his determined unbeaten 32.
Earlier in the day, Burns was beaten once by a beauty from Barker but clipped the next ball confidently through mid-wicket for three and, overall, looked in good touch during his 55-minute stay.
There were two fours in his 21, too, and it was a surprise when he departed in the 13th over, aiming an expansive drive towards extra cover against Holland’s fourth ball and edging to Liam Dawson at second slip.
The last ball of Holland’s opening over also saw Amla survive a concerted leg-before appeal as the medium-pacer darted one back sharply off the seam against the former South African Test star.
Amla was also close to being given out lbw a second time against Holland, before he had reached double figures, but he had got off the mark with a beautiful clip off his pads against Abbott and by lunch looked far more comfortable.
Patel, on 13, edged Abbott just short of third slip and he was fortunate when another edge, this time off Holland, flew through the gap between second slip and gully for four.
But, shortly before lunch, Patel flayed the returning Barker through extra cover off the back foot when the left-armer dropped a fraction short. It was a stroke which displayed both the easy pace of the pitch and the Surrey opener’s growing confidence, and Patel completed an excellent, combative half-century with another flashing cover drive for four, this time off Abbott.
There was just one more glorious offside boundary, though, before Patel fell in the 38th over – pulling seamer Fuller’s second ball to Abbas on the long leg rope. Amla, meanwhile, had needed some luck on 20 when Dawson failed to hold a fast-travelling shoulder-high edge from an attempted square cut at Abbas.
In the warm afternoon sun, Pope was soon into his stride with an extra cover drive for four off Fuller and a lovely whip through mid-wicket off Abbott. He then took fours from successive Holland deliveries with a leg glance and authoritative square cover drive. Best of all, perhaps, was a delightful late cut for four off Holland.
Both players reached fifty before tea, taken at 212/2, with Amla taking 116 balls to Pope’s 73, and it was a disappointment for a large crowd when Amla was out in the seventh over after tea. Pope and Foakes, though, made sure it was Surrey’s day.