Everything seemed to be stacking up against Hampshire yesterday when their first innings ended abruptly, still 51 runs shy of Surrey's first innings total. Their England fast bowler Chris Tremlett was afflicted by back spasms which prevented him from batting but, more significantly, meant he could not bowl.
If Tremlett remains indisposed it is likely that Hampshire's captain Dimitri Mascarenhas will not be able to return to India to play for Rajasthan Royals should they reach the semi-finals of the Indian Premier League at the end of the month.
With a key player such as Tremlett, who picked up five wickets in Surrey's first innings, out of the attack it would leave Hampshire much weakened.
But if Surrey thought they could lay into what remained of Hampshire's bowling they were rapidly disabused of the notion. Mascarenhas gave the new ball to James Tomlinson and he was rewarded with a wicket in the first over when the left-arm fast bowler had Scott Newman smartly taken at third slip by Chris Benham.
The dismissal brought Mark Ramprakash to the crease in the first over for the second time in this match, and for the second time he was thwarted in his quest for his 100th first class hundred, lbw to Mascarenhas after the same bowler had accounted for the other opener, Jon Batty, in similar fashion a couple of overs earlier.
Surrey were in a sorrier state half-a-dozen overs later when Mascarenhas made what turned out to be an inspired bowling change. The former Zimbabwe Test all-rounder Sean Ervine was introduced to the attack and in the space of 17 balls claimed three Surrey wickets at a cost of one run.
Surrey captain Mark Butcher was the first of Ervine's triple whammy, lbw to a fuller length ball, Alistair Brown was caught behind and wicketkeeper Tom Burrows picked up his fourth victim of the match with a splendid dive to his left to take a fine one-handed catch off the edge of Usman Afzaal's bat. When Benham clung on to an edge by Chris Jordan to give Tomlinson his second wicket of the innings the Surrey lead was a modest 126 runs.
But the experience of Jimmy Ormond and Matt Nicholson steadied the ship and gradually Surrey were able to claw their way back into the game as the eighth wicket pair ground out a 76-run partnership over the next 26 overs before bad light ended the day's proceedings early.
lChampions Sussex were forced to follow on at Taunton and they face a tough task to save their First Division match against Somerset.
Ben Phillips and Peter Trego took three wickets each as the visitors crashed from 100 for 1 to 203 all out in gloomy conditions to give Somerset a first innings lead of 354. Wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter claimed five catches.
Batting again on a rain-interrupted day, Sussex lost opener Chris Nash first ball before moving to 36 for 1 when bad light stopped play at 5.50pm with 17 overs remaining.