Maybe it was last weekend's Benson and Hedges Cup triumph, or the inquiry by Pakistan about the availability of their coach, Keith Medlycott, to take over the national side; whatever it was, summer finally arrived at Surrey and put a spring in their step.
It has taken them long enough, but the champions finally stirred in the 10th match of their title defence. But it needed five wickets from Alex Tudor – his first major haul since last August – to get the home fires burning and induce a dramatic Northamptonshire collapse, which saw them crumble to their lowest Championship score of the season.
Surrey were also helped by a mature knock from their rookie opener Michael Carberry to further build on their superiority and a welcome return to form by Alistair Brown. Carberry's performance was all the more heartening for the home side in the light of England calls, which have robbed Surrey of the top half of their batting order for this round of matches.
Of course if Tudor carries on in this vein, he too could find himself whisked away to higher things, although he went through the mill before producing a magical spell of fast bowling on an excellent pitch that was full of bounce.
Indeed the day began in fiery fashion, with Northamptonshire opener Adrian Rollins steaming into the Surrey bowling in general and Tudor in particular. The England paceman was clouted and clobbered for two sixes and a fistful of fours in a morning session that belonged to Northamptonshire.
In that time the batsmen had their share of luck, Rollins had his edgy moments and wickets were lost, but with Mal Loye and Tony Penberthy digging in to lunch there was every prospect of a long, hard afternoon in the sun for Surrey. That impression was reinforced when Tudor, who had conceded 44 runs without taking a wicket before lunch, was dispatched for a third six, this time by Penberthy, in the first over after the interval.
Three balls later though the pendulum swung and Northamptonshire were peering over the rim of the pit. Fortified by his lunch of lasagne and apple crumble, Tudor entered a magical spell of 31 balls wherein he picked up five wickets for three runs and Northamptonshire lost their last seven wickets for five runs in 11 harrowing overs.
Penberthy was caught behind, Graeme Swann fell to a bat-pad catch, Toby Bailey jabbed and edged to second slip, captain David Ripley was beaten off the pitch by a good length Tudor ball and Michael Strong was caught behind; and somewhere in all that drama Loye was run out, hopelessly stranded.
And after Tudor came a flood of runs. Carberry exhibited immense patience and some stunning strokeplay in his two and a half hours at the crease and the 20-year-old was rewarded with a career best score.
And when he departed captain Adam Hollioake and Alistair Brown took charge, easing Surrey ahead some 40 minutes before the scheduled close with some clinical and, at times, brutal batting. The former fell before stumps, but Brown went on to pass 50 for the first time in eight innings.Reuse content