The wisdom of Adam Hollioake's decision not to enforce the follow-on on Saturday evening will be brought into question on today's last day of play should Surrey fail to win a match they have dominated since lunch on the first day. Despite a first-innings lead of 173 - the follow-on margin is 150 runs - the Surrey captain chose to bat again, but following a day in which 50.1 overs were lost to rain and bad light, Hollioake must be beginning to rue his decision. The loss of so much time, and a forecast promising further bad weather today, has changed the reigning champions relaxed saunter to an inevitable victory into a more frantic and stressful exercise.
It is unlikely such an oversight will cost Surrey the championship - they are far too strong a team to allow this to happen - but it could prevent them winning a match they deserve to win. When play was eventually abandoned for the day at 6.10pm, Sussex, in pursuit of the distant target of 407, had gingerly made their way to 12 without loss.
Three factors would have affected Hollioake's decision. Through batting again Surrey could score enough runs to take a Sussex victory out of the equation and after a day's toil in Saturday's heat he could also give his depleted bowling attack - Martin Bicknell will not bowl again in the match after pulling his right hamstring - a rest. On a deteriorating pitch Hollioake would fancy his spinners to finish the job.
That Surrey had amassed such a healthy lead before rain began interrupting play at 2.25 was down to the efforts of Ian Ward. In a majestic display the opener notched up his second championship hundred of the season and played with the sort of freedom we failed to witness during his five Test matches for England against Pakistan and Australia in 2001. The left-hander still harbours hopes of playing again for his country, but at 29 he will have to bat like this most weeks to get ahead of younger talent.
Starting the day on 16, Ward, and his opening partner Jonathan Batty had to show patience against accurate bowling. In muggy, heavy conditions James Kirtley swung the the ball about and runs were hard to come by. It was Ward who broke Sussex's grip when he struck two gorgeous drives down the ground for four.
It was the front-foot strokes that impressed most throughout his 224-minute stay. Sussex quickly deployed sweepers on either side of the wicket, but this failed to prevent Ward finding the boundary and his hundred was brought up against the 136th ball he faced with a crashing square drive for four. By now the minds of the fielding side appeared more focused on what Surrey would set them rather than saving runs. Batty fell when he chopped Mushtaq Ahmed onto his stumps; Mark Ramprakash when he top edged a hook shot looking for quick runs.
The medium-pace of Kevin Innes eventually dismissed Ward, when, like Ramprakash, he top-edged a hook shot - bouncers were all Innes appeared to be bowling at this stage - and was caught at deep square-leg.
Making his way from the field he had done his job. It is up to Surrey's bowlers to do theirs and save the captain's blushes today.Reuse content