Surrey completed easily their best day one of the 2013 campaign as they reached stumps on 267 for the loss of four wickets at Lord's. Were it not for the loss of two quick wickets to the second new ball in the evening session the day would've been even better for Surrey.
A perfect blue sky greeted the players at the Home of Cricket and Graeme Smith's day got off to the best possible start as he won the toss and chose to bat. That was as good as it got for Smith though as he was out for the first duck (but third score of less than ten) in his Surrey career, edging Tim Murtagh to slip. His tendency to get out to sub-80mph seamers may be cause for concern, though I have no doubt that the runs will soon begin to flow. Interestingly after four innings he has precisely the same number of runs as Jacques Rudolph had at the same point last season.
That left Surrey 5-1 and memories of Lord's first innings past were in danger of flooding back. However Rory Burns and Arun Harinath, they of the match-winning 217 run partnership against the same opposition last year, put together a fine recovery.
As in games one and two it was steady rather than speedy progress to begin with. The average first innings run rate in the first 20 overs this season has been 1.76. Over the same period last year the rate was closer to three an over. Still, Burns and Harinath took Surrey to lunch on 45-1 without further loss.
It was a platform on which to build and where the more cavalier Surrey of 2011 and 2012 might have thrown their wickets away, this more restrained partnership continued to accumulate. They had their fair share of luck after lunch, Harinath was caught behind off a Corey Collymore no ball and Burns was dropped on 65 by John Simpson up to the stumps. Steven Finn also induced a couple of genuine edges from the bat of Burns but nonetheless they stood firm. The session between lunch and tea saw 99 runs and no wickets. A promising platform at lunch had been turned into the significant platform of 144-1 at tea.
However in the second over after tea Harinath was late on a cut shot to a Finn delivery and he was caught behind. In truth it was a poor stroke but he had shown why he deserves his place at number three. Vikram Solanki, playing his 300th first class match was next man in and while he took some time to get off the mark he was soon timing the ball expertly.
Burns meanwhile continued on his merry way and went to his second hundred of the season, and fourth of his career, off the 251st ball he'd faced. It wasn't his most fluid innings but he'd stuck at it and had given the side a superb start. In making his hundred he also passed 1,000 first class runs in just his 23rd innings at an average of almost precisely 50. At 22 years old he continues to look a special talent.
The Solanki-Burns partnership reached 64 at a good rate before the former was caught behind fiddling at a Corey Collymore delivery. Burns then fell facing the seventh over of the new ball, bowled by Tim Murtagh off an inside edge.
The late wickets took the shine off an otherwise excellent day for Surrey. They remain the better placed of the two sides and you'll remember that in this match last season, and in fact in Middlesex's game with Derbyshire in April where Derbyshire's second innings collapsed for just 60, the pitch became significantly tougher to bat on as the match went on. A 350+ total may well prove above par.
With de Bruyn and Davies at the crease tomorrow, and the in-form Gary Wilson to come, Surrey are well placed to post a good total. Middlesex will have a few overs of new ball shine left in the morning but once any early movement has been weathered it should be another good day for batting, and for Surrey.