IMAGINATION and flair were in short supply here on a first day which cried out for an individual to stamp his mark on the proceedings. As it was, Surrey moved uneventfully to 322 and after six overs Middlesex had cut the deficit by five runs.
One of the advantages of adding a fourth day to Championship matches is that it gives batsmen the chance to build an innings and to go on to make the big scores which are so crucial in Test cricket.
But old habits die hard and this summer many batsmen have been playing themselves in only to get out when the hard work has been done. Five of Surrey's first seven did precisely this which all helped to give the play a rather dull symmetry on a slow pitch.
The best batting came from Alistair Brown, whose growing reputation as an exciting stroke-maker has already led to his inclusion in several lists of potential England batsmen. It was a surprise, therefore, to find that this was his first Championship fifty of the season and it will be an even greater surprise if England's selectors include him in their plans.
Brown started to bat as if determined to show a new-found sense of responsibility to befit this sudden elevation. It took him 45 balls to reach double figures and it was only then that he began to drive and pull as he likes, especially against Angus Fraser, and his next 40 runs came from 38 balls.
A long innings from Brown would have been a worthwhile solution to the day's problems, but on 67 he tried to turn John Emburey to leg and was bowled off his pads. Just before, he had on-driven the off-spinner for a sumptuous six.
After Surrey had won the toss, Monte Lynch lost his leg stump in the sixth over when he tried to drive Neil Williams off his legs. Three balls later, with the England manager, Keith Fletcher, watching, Graham Thorpe clipped the ball straight to Mark Ramprakash at backward square leg.
Alec Stewart now looked comfortable enough and, with Darren Bicknell, took the score to 78 before he charged down the pitch to Philip Tufnell and was stumped.
Bicknell reached a workmanlike fifty before driving Emburey to mid-off where Fraser held a two-handed catch above his head. Brown was the next to go and after that Andrew Smith and Martin Bicknell played some attractive strokes before falling to their old county colleague, Mark Feltham.Reuse content