Division One cricket looms larger and larger on the horizon as Surrey ground down a determined Derbyshire side today, 13 opposition wickets stand between us and victory.
Stuart Meaker and Tim Linley started the day in rather more sedate fashion than expected and they accumulated rather than biffed their way to a 73 run partnership. Meaker was left on 55 not out to underline his impressive return to form with the bat as Surrey were all out for 468.
That score looked even more impressive as Derbyshire, with 35 minutes to bat until lunch, were reduced to 17-3 before the break. Linley, as is customary now, made the breakthrough having Lineker caught at slip off just the third ball of the innings (Stuart Meaker was again denied the new ball, needless to say, I can only assume it's his preference as well as the captain's!). Linley had a second victim when he caught and bowled Wayne Madsen while Pragyan Ojha picked up the bonus wicket of Wes Durston with the third ball of his first over just before lunch.
Tim Linley had a third victim, Dan Redfern not long after lunch and Stuart Meaker then chimed in with the wicket of Rob Whiteley. There then followed a dogged recovery from opener Paul Borrington and captain Luke Sutton who put together a steady 90 run partnership. They looked like getting to the close without further loss but Chris Jordan, who had bowled just three overs in opening the bowling, returned to collect the crucial wicket of Sutton and expose the Derbyshire tail. Jon Clare provided some fireworks in his 21 from 22 balls before falling LBW to Ojha just before the close.
That left Derbyshire still 141 runs short of the follow-on target with only three wickets remaining. The spinners were getting good turn and importantly sharp bounce so batting is unlikely to get easier. If the last three wickets fall without too much resistance the follow-on will surely be immediately enforced.
The weather forecast is very sunny for tomorrow, meaning the interruption we had today is unlikely. There is plenty of time yet for Surrey to force the issue, and force our way into Division One. Northamptonshire had an impressive day but they may still live to rue not collecting their fourth and fifth batting points on day one. They dismissed Gloucestershire for 183 and have them 84-5 following on, David Willey taking eight wickets in the day. However the points situation is such that if we are able to overcome Derbyshire, we will be promoted ahead of them.
Tim Groenewald and Paul Borrington are likely to put up a good fight with the bat but once one of them falls Knight and Footitt shouldn't be allowed to add much more to the score. A first innings lead of 250 is not out of the question and Derbyshire could be batting a second time before lunch on the third day.
And yet we are still only half way through the game. I've seen too many Surrey games to call this one a foregone conclusion, but on the back of three and a half of the most impressive Championship performances in at least four seasons, I wouldn't bet against us wrapping it up tomorrow. One more big push, one more massive effort and what seemed so unlikely just four weeks ago will be within their grasp.
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