Scott Newman and Rikki Clarke, two of Surrey's most exciting young cricketers, and Alistair Brown, the club's ultimate entertainer, yesterday helped lift a little of the gloom that has recently descended on The Oval. Following the early loss of the prolific Mark Ramprakash, and with a ball-tampering witch-hunt taking place in the depths of the pavilion, the pre-season favourites for the County Championship looked set for another miserable day.
But Newman, with a sparkling 117, Clarke, with a belligerent 84, and Brown, with another swashbuckling hundred, allowed the south London side to forget their problems and enjoy the task of batting on a faultless pitch.
Glamorgan, fielding an all-Welsh team for the first time since 1960, worked hard to keep their aggressive opponents in check, but protecting a 58-yard boundary on the Harleyford Road side of the ground proved too much for a side deprived of Matthew Elliott, Matthew Maynard, Simon Jones and Alex Wharf.
Robert Croft's depleted attack suffered another set-back when Darren Thomas limped off after three deliveries with a groin injury and Surrey finished the opening day of this Championship match having scored 284 of their 441 for 7 in boundaries.
Newman collected runs all around the wicket during his fourth first-class century, but it was his driving which stood out. Clarke was equally strong off the front foot, although he was nearly caught at deep square-leg when he attempted to hook David Harrison, Glamorgan's best bowler. The Surrey all-rounder struck Croft into the rows of empty green seats at the Vauxhall End of the ground, and played several sumptuous straight drives.
The pair had put on 185 when Clarke wafted at a short, wide loosener from Andrew Davies and the umpire Trevor Jesty raised his finger. In disappointment Clarke's head rocked back, but the sight of him swishing his bat and giving the umpires a disgruntled look as he made his way back to the dressing-room may lead to a reprimand.
Newman was bowled in the next over when a Croft arm-ball curved through his gate and suddenly, a Graham Thorpe-less Surrey were on 210 for 4. But Glamorgan's hopes of dismissing their hosts cheaply vanished quickly. Brown announced his arrival by cutting Croft for four, and then made his intentions absolutely clear when he clobbered Davies over wide mid-on for six.
In this sort of form and on this type of pitch the 35- year-old is a nightmare to bowl at. It does not seem to matter whether the ball hits the middle or edge of his bat, it still flies off for four. Brown completed his 37th first-class hundred with an inside edge for four, but by then he and James Benning were in the process of adding 114 runs in 17 overs of mayhem.