Stuart Meaker produced a spectacular spell of four wickets for six runs in seven deliveries just before tea on the second day to bowl Surrey into a great position.
At 174-3 with Andrew Hall and Rob Newton comfortable at the crease Surrey looked set to concede a first innings deficit before Meaker intervened and collect career best figures of 5-37. Tim Linley, as ever, chipped in with the final wicket after Pragyan Ojha had accounted for Chaminda Vaas. Only nine wickets were required as the injured Stephen Peters was unable to bat. With his side comfortable at one stage, Peters might have hoped he would not be needed today.
Meaker is one of those players who has a tendency to take wickets in bunches, much like Jade Dernbach in many respects, and when he is on song he complements Tim Linley perfectly. He now has 34 wickets at 21 apiece from just 8 games, and his strike rate of 35 is better than anyone in the division with 30 or more wickets. Impressive stuff.
That left Surrey with a first innings lead of 75, and importantly it deprived Northamptonshire of even a single batting point - that could well prove crucial in the final analysis. With two-and-a-bit days left in the game, Hamilton-Brown and Davies could set about steadily building on that lead. However the captain seemed to have other ideas as he raced to 22 off 21 balls before he was caught behind off Vaas.
Davies and Ramprakash then set about doing the steady job, a 75 run partnership had Surrey looking very comfortable indeed. Ramprakash though didn't make it to close, his score of 38 was his ninth score between 20 and 38 this year, and it was the 11th time he has been dismissed either LBW or bowled this season. Even the greatest are allowed blips in form, and I hope this is just that.
Linley was sent in as nightwatchman, a job he couldn't quite fulfill to the same standards he's set as leader of the attack as he was bowled by James Middlebrook for a duck. De Bruyn joined Davies and no further wickets fell.
That leaves Surrey with a lead just shy of 200 and fully two days left in the game. I expect Davies and de Bruyn will look to build steadily in the morning session and if they do so, Roy and Maynard will be able to come in and add plenty more to that if required. Any lead over 300 is probably going to be pretty tough to chase especially with Ojha wheeling away at one end.
Today Surrey showed a lot of character, at the time when we needed someone to step up and make an impact, Meaker did just that, and in fine style. Tomorrow I hope we can continue in that same vein and really put Northants under real pressure.
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