Jamie Smith falls short, but Surrey solidifies command over Middlesex

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Surrey 380 (Smith 97, Burns 88) lead middle sex 209 (Robson 76, Malan 66, Worrall 5-48) and 128 for 3 (Holden 42*, Clark 1-3) by 43 runs

The weather apps lied to the roughly 3,000 people who showed up at the Kia Oval on Saturday. It was neither sunny nor warm. Exceeded the “real feel” by about 10 degrees. Of the things Saturday promised, this was the biggest lie. It was also the only one.

On day three of this encounter, the scope was for Surrey to assert dominance or show Middlesex a bastard. By the end, both were played out to a point. A lead of 171 in the first innings was established and then reduced to 43 in 41 overs of stubborn resistance that certainly raised the temperature under the collars of those on the pitch.

This London Derby always tends to surprise with its bad feel, and this was no different. Surrey had to work harder than they would have liked for three wickets in the second inning and the atmosphere in the middle was knotty, in the best possible way. This stuff is still important to these players. We get a reminder of how much on Sunday, when tensions will rise a bit more.

Surrey’s mastery of the game and the environment around it was primarily due to Jamie Smith extending his knockout from 55 to 97. Vigilant at first, especially in the face of stifling bowling typified by the impressive Ethan Bamber, Surrey expanded he expanded his repertoire to what seemed like a hundred.

Unfortunately, number seven will have to wait a bit longer, but the 42 added points formed the basis for Surrey’s score doubling to 380 overnight. The 22-year-old certainly set another season high by finishing his 88 beat against Warwickshire. a few weeks ago.

There was palpable dismay at his dismissal, especially as the crowd swelled as he approached what would have been a second century this year. The first came in Sri Lanka for the English Lions and alerted the rest of the country that this kid is going places. As such, an “I was there when Jamie Smith carried Surrey” was replaced with an “I was there when Luke Hollman tied Jamie Smith up and finally took him to York in a stumping”.

From Middlesex’s perspective, it was an overdue dismissal. Smith was dropped on 24 and then again on 55 from the last ball of day two. Even this morning there were enough plays and misses to make you wonder if Smith would win the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday.

Most if not all of that fear came from the youngster’s end as wickets came quite regularly at the other end. It took Tim Murtagh just six deliveries to take out Foakes, thanks to an exceptional catch from John Simpson standing against the stumps.

The Middlesex wicket-keeper spent most of the morning wearing his helmet, making things a little more claustrophobic for the batters. Will Jacks initially seemed unbothered, standing in his crease to lift Bamber wide over the sideline six times to level Middlesex’s score of 209 in the first innings for losing just four wickets.

Bamber would get his revenge, Jacks neither forward nor back with Simpson breathing down his neck, leaving enough room between bat and pad for a delivery to squeeze through and take off the stump. Similar indeterminate footwork was done by Jordan Clark, who knocked Ryan Higgins backwards.

On Smith’s departure the lead was only 74, but a long tail yielded as the last four contributed 101 with the bat. Abbott and Worrall were the main donors, albeit in completely different styles. Abbott was fine and tidy; no doubt offensive, especially when he danced down the court and slammed Higgins into the stands in front of the pavilion on the stroke of lunch, but in a calm, calculated manner.

Abbott came on after the break to take the lead from 82 to 131 before falling short a second half-century of the season, accidentally leading a pitch on his stumps. In tagged Worrall for something much more agricultural, freeing his front leg to ground Higgins first ball, then ground a six halfway through and a drive for four by hitting cover in successive deliveries from the next over of the all-rounder.

Roland-Jones finally tamed Worrall with a short throw to the keeper, after the Australian seemingly found a remedy with a guide over the top of the slips. A whack to Simpson (standing back) ended an exciting innings.

With 49 overs to go against a visiting line-up that had lost nine wickets in 21.1 overs two days ago, thoughts turn to a possible Sunday off with an Innings win. Sam Robson and Mark Stoneman got down on their knees and got through a 30-minute spell before tea so that Middlesex will fight at least another day.

The openers returned with the same patient approach, not quite talking about Surrey’s experienced seamed attack, but certainly doing enough to frustrate them into ball troubles. Halfway through the 13th over, that was complied with and a replacement was requested.

And yes, you guessed it – wickets followed. While it didn’t make sense for Middlesex to be undone by just a change of dukes, they were certainly out of luck. Not so much for Robson’s firing, mocked by the imposing Abbott, but certainly for Stoneman’s.

On 28, he went for a wild square drive to Gus Atkinson, as the ball darted through to Foakes. It turned out that the ball credited to the nick hit the ground through a bat, with replays showing a clear gap between the bat and the ball.

Of course there’s no DRS, although the presence of Sky’s camera meant Atkinson’s forefoot was monitored via a stub camera. There had been a handful of high-definition replays of possible stumpings and run-outs, then another came later when Max Holden was nearly sent off for 28 with a direct hit from Rory Burns. Nevertheless, it felt like a strange ad-hoc breach of the usual guidelines under which the County Championship is played.

On the other hand, if you have the technology, why not use it? They did that again to check Clark’s forefoot – this time with a parallel camera – as he cut off Eskinazi. It felt a shame they didn’t raise the stump microphones during the process, as Surrey and Eskinazi exchanged a few words before a second broadcast after the delivery’s legitimacy was confirmed.

You could feel the host’s frustration, which they might blame themselves for exacerbating after Jacks gave Holden a life at 18 by dropping a simple catch at Kemar Roach’s second slip. Burns then withdrew the umpires for letting Holden and Simpson walk off after 38 overs.

The light was bad, but Burns seemed to suggest that there was no communication that Surrey’s tempo quintet were trying their luck until Worrall fell short to Holden. Burns lured the batters back to center by offering a pace-off. After a few overs from Jacks’ off-spin with later a medium pace from Ryan Patel, Stumps was officially called.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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