But the way they then grasped the initiative late in the afternoon suggested that they were going to make life extremely difficult for second-placed Hampshire to whip the Championship leaders on their own patch. Presented with what looked like a substantial deficit, the openers Mark Butcher and Ian Ward flogged the bowling to all parts as they knocked up a century stand in sadistic fashion, and in fairly quick time. And even after Ward fell, the momentum was maintained by Graham Thorpe.
Ward had looked a safe bet to reach his maiden first-class century, instead he had to be content with yet another 50, his seventh of the summer. It was a shame his dismissal was so tame. He was unable to give a Jason Laney full toss the treatment it deserved and was caught by a leaping Matthew Keech at midwicket. It was made worse by the fact that it gave Laney, an occasional off-break bowler, his first first-class wicket. He was only bowling because of an injury to Shaun Udal.
And the crowd was clearly not destined to witness a home century. Butcher had played magnificently in reaching 94 when he drove at Peter Hartley and John Stephenson took a fine catch leaping high to his left. Until then Hampshire had not looked like getting anything past Butcher and Thorpe.
The England pair had fairly rattled along putting on 118 in 31 overs. Butcher's innings, studded with crisp drives and delicate cuts, lasted the best part of four hours and contained 14 boundaries in the 175 balls he faced. Thorpe kept up the good work though, reaching 50 shortly before Butcher got the chop. By the close, Surrey had nosed into a lead of 87 runs with eight wickets in hand.
It had taken Surrey long enough to dislodge the remaining four Hampshire batsmen. And while they sweated through the morning session the sizeable crowd was regally entertained by Nixon McLean, who eagerly got on to the front foot at every opportunity to cart anything and everything all over the place. Hampshire had begun the day level with Surrey with just four wickets standing, but thanks to McLean, who hit a cracking 70, with the help of two sixes and 10 fours, and Udal and Peter Hartley, they established what appeared to be a comfortable cushion of 151.
Udal was looking very well set when he was hit by a lifter from Alex Tudor that bruised his left elbow. He retired hurt on 30, but re-emerged at the fall of the ninth wicket with his arm in a sling. He did not have to face a ball though because Ben Hollioake polished off the innings when he had McLean taken by Butcher in the gully.Reuse content