The sight of Jacques Rudolph early season in SE11 is certainly not one of Surrey's favourites. Indeed it can be regarded as an ominous portent if last year is anything to go by.
On that occasion Yorkshire's Kolpak signing began the season with a hundred against Surrey on this ground. Yesterday he was at it again, moving to within touching distance of three figures against the same hapless opponents.
There was no rush to three figures either – Rudolph was too canny to force things; he bided his time, content to watch for openings left by the toiling bowlers. He gave a chance, on 75, but was missed at slip off Saqlain Mushtaq and by the close was one run away from a century.
Surrey's first innings total, imposing on paper, was rendered eminently surpassable on grass by Rudolph's unbroken 169-run fourth-wicket partnership with Andrew Gale who, like Rudolph, gave one chance, early on in an otherwise untroubled innings.
Surrey's day was made worse by Usman Afzaal throwing the ball away after an appeal for a catch at short leg to dismiss Rudolph was turned down: he is likely to be reported by the umpires for his petulance.
The Yorkshire innings had been given a solid foundation thanks to a run-a-ball fifty from Yorkshire captain Anthony McGrath. It contained 11 boundaries and in all there were only 16 scoring shots in his 54-ball innings. McGrath found solid support from 20-year-old rookie Andrew Lyth, playing in his third first-class match. He made 40 – his highest score to date – in helping McGrath put on 78 for the second wicket.
The Surrey declaration had come half an hour before lunch, captain Mark Butcher duly reaching his double hundred, joining an illustrious Surrey Pantheon to have achieved the feat against Yorkshire – Jack Hobbs, Tom Hayward and Alec Stewart.
His sixth-wicket partner Matt Nicholson reached a career-best 133 and the pair's stand of 232 was Surrey's second highest for the sixth wicket against Yorkshire and the fourth highest in all first-class cricket.