It was a day of gripping, attritional cricket at the Oval today as Sussex worked hard to grind out a good foundation. They ended the day on 204 for 2 and are in danger of making Surrey's 351 all out look decidedly below par.
The morning session began with Surrey on 301-7 and searching for a fourth batting point. The men at the crease, Batty and Tremlett began well, moving the score along at a good pace. However Batty was caught off the bowling of Jordan for another dogged 37 (his best score since 2011) and Linley was clean bowled by the former Surrey man. With just six deliveries left in which to secure that elusive batting point Tremlett hoiked Chris Jordan for an enormous six to take the score to 351. The next ball however Jordan cleaned up Tremlett and in the process collected his first ever five wicket haul at the Oval. Even before Sussex had batted the Surrey total only looked par at best.
The Sussex innings began cautiously against some disciplined bowling from Dernbach and Tremlett. They looked to be coasting to lunch without alarm when Tim Linley, bizarrely introduced into the attack after Zander de Bruyn, trapped Chris Nash lbw in the final over before the break.
After lunch Luke Wells, who just loves batting against Surrey, set about building the score with Mike Yardy. Their partnership had reached 78 before Gareth Batty's golden arm intervened. I've lost count of the number of times Batty has been the man to break a big partnership. Wells though stood firm and joined by his captain, Ed Joyce, he began to build again.
The pair accumulated slowly but surely and were both still at the crease at the end of the day's play. Wells unbeaten on a fine 108, recording his third hundred in three Championship matches against Surrey. Precisely 50% of all his first class hundreds have been against us. For Alviro Petersen last week, read Luke Wells this. The Surrey bowlers will be sick of the sight of him.
Sussex are still some way shy of Surrey's first innings total, but they have a heck of a platform to build on tomorrow. With a solid base under them the trio next to come in - Hamilton-Brown, Matt Prior and Ben Brown can afford to play with more freedom. Because of the pace of Sussex's innings their best chance to force a result is to ensure they only bat once and then chuck the ball to Monty. And with plenty of batting to come, that's not looking too far fetched at this stage.
Its possible of course that Sussex could replicate Surrey's middle order collapse of yesterday, where we lost four wickets for 30 runs. In fact the respective positions of the sides after 80 overs are broadly similar. With a new ball to come in the morning, and a day slightly less conducive to batting we can still drag ourselves back into contention. Our seamers bowled well today without much reward, particularly Tim Linley who makes the batsman play more often than not and deserved better figures than the 1-23 from 13 overs he ended up with.
As ever the first session tomorrow will be crucial. If Wells and Joyce can see off the new ball Surrey will be under huge pressure, but if we can get among the wickets quickly Sussex may begin to feel the pressure.