THIS was one of those sleepy, plug-away days that make you feel almost charitable towards the England selectors in their hour of convocation. For most of the time Middlesex plugged away as much in hope as expectation of a Surrey wicket, and even when Neil Williams eventually made the breach with 4 for 11 in 22 balls nothing shook the impression that the bowlers were waiting until the batsmen got themselves out.
Generally speaking, Surrey obliged, and unbeaten Middlesex will resume tomorrow needing another 189 runs to strengthen their position as Championship leaders with their fifth win in eight games.
With only eight runs separating them after two days, and the bonus points squared, it was probably asking too much for the first and fourth teams in the Championship to provide entertainment. But there are degrees of seriousness, even in a London derby, and for too long we were subjected to the third degree.
For just over four and a half hours Darren Bicknell occupied centre stage and a 77 off 248 balls indicates that he never bestrode it, but Surrey would have been in a fair old pickle without his doggedness. Graham Thorpe, an England contender, looked out of touch on a slow pitch before edging Mark Feltham to first slip, and Alec Stewart revealed the weakness in English batting that four-day cricket is supposed to eradicate. Having reached 50 off 78 balls with an easy fluency, he did not produce the century his side needed, popping a bat-pad catch to Mike Gatting off Emburey.
Martin Bicknell held Middlesex up for an hour before skying a wild heave off Phillip Tufnell. Thenthe Surrey wicket keeper did their prospects more harm when he trimmed Desmond Haynes' bails in the fourth over.