But they were playing Durham. In reply, the masters of self-destruction contrived to lose their first five wickets while scoring only 60. A lead of 18, with the recognised batsmen back in the pavilion, tossed the advantage back to the visitors despite some lower-order obduracy, led by wicketkeeper David Ligertwood in the Jack Russell mood. His 44 enabled Durham to at least set Surrey a target - albeit only 141 with a day remaining.
It was a day that had begun disastrously for Surrey. They had been handily placed overnight but John Wood bustled into the first over. His third delivery clipped Alastair Brown's middle stump and two balls later Graham Kersey was run out.
Within 90 minutes, Surrey's collapse was complete, with their last nine wickets lost for 95, as Durham kept the deficit to 63. Such a shortfall should have been manageable but Durham's upper order is notoriously brittle. It snapped as soon as Martin Bicknell applied the pressure. Stewart Hutton unnecessarily slashed a wide one to deep point and Durham's stand-in captain, John Morris, having clubbed his 24th ball to get off the mark, edged his 25th to second slip.
With Joey Benjamin reducing Durham to 40 for three when his third shout in successive deliveries against Darren Blenkiron was upheld, it was left to Sherwin Campbell and Phil Bainbridge to steer their side into credit.
The conventional wisdom is that Campbell is giving himself a couple of seasons to get acquainted with English pitches before taking on the national side. Give him a couple more months in Durham's side and he'll be so despondent he'll give the game up. He looks ill at ease with himself at the crease, rarely timing the ball and angrily swiping the air with his bat when he against fails to penetrate the field.
When he and Bainbridge departed in consecutive overs, Durham had to look to their tail which in recent weeks has wagged with dogged determination. The sixth-wicket pair of Ligertwood and Paul Collingwood put on a presentable 61 and James Boiling scored 12.
As Brendon Julian finished off Durham with the penultimate ball of the day's penultimate over, Surrey will have to collapse catastrophically to fail to win their second championship game of the season.Reuse content