Just half an over and out: Graeme Smith fails on Surrey bow

Somerset 384 Surrey 98-4

The Oval

At just after 2.30pm, the Surrey and Somerset players scurried for the pavilion in anticipation of a downpour; a clear case of après nous le déluge. It proved to be a wise decision. Within moments of the players reaching shelter, a gale of a power unfamiliar to these parts ripped the attendant covers off course.

The players eventually returned to the field after three hours of inactivity with the 22-year-old young opener Rory Burns and old-hand Vikram Solanki looking to rebuild Surrey's innings after the morale-damaging departure of captain Graeme Smith for just two.

Just as volcanic eruptions cause tsunamis many hours after the event, it was easy to imagine the gale-force storm which ripped across the Oval outfield originating from within the pavilion two hours previous. It was at that point, not long after midday, that the South African reached the Surrey dressing room after a long trudge back in silence.

With 8,753 runs in 110 Test matches, Smith's had been the only name on anyone's lips as play started under sunny skies. On day one the locals sat through 96 overs, today they were kept waiting for another 13 in anticipation of Smith striding, all Protean girth, to the crease.

Appropriately, it was Smith who played a significant part in ending Somerset's innings on 384. Resuming the day on 344 for 8, the visitors lost wicket number nine in the fifth over. Alfonso Thomas, on 32, scooped a catch to Burns at cover to give Jade Dernbach a richly deserved five-fer.

Somerset's last-wicket pair of George Dockrell and Steve Kirby had resisted for 47 balls when Smith took matters into his own hands. He switched the previously lacklustre Stuart Meaker to the Pavilion End; Meaker found the edge; and Smith clung on with customary nonchalance.

Surrey's new captain returned minutes later in battle armour alongside Burns, who took the first over. After waiting 109 overs, the Surrey faithful were prepared to wait six more dots to witness Smith face his first ball for the county. It duly arrived on his pads and Smith clipped it into the legside for a single.

Two balls later and it was all over. Peter Trego found some away movement. Smith hung out his bat, James Hildreth hung on at second slip and a silence fell all around the ground. Arun Harinath, unlike the man he replaced at the crease, is not a batsman who will leave an indelible impression on the game. When he departed on the cusp of lunch to leave Surrey 30 for 2, his five runs from 33 balls had barely made an impression on this match.

Solanki joined Burns at the wicket with the perfect platform to convince a sceptical public that the county were right to sign a 37-year-old on a two-year deal. His poor dismissal – a mistimed hook into his stumps – will have done little to assuage the doubters. One thing is for certain, Surrey require many more runs today.

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