Youngsters give Surrey the edge
Centuries from Rory Burns and Arun Harinath completed a remarkable turnaround in the London derby to give Surrey a chance of beating Middlesex in their LV= County Championship Division One clash at the Kia Oval.
At stumps on day three Middlesex, needing 254 to win after Surrey were dismissed for a second-innings 341, were 45 for one after Gareth Batty had Chris Rogers lbw for 19. Batty and Murali Kartik, the Surrey spinners, will hold the key on the final day on a turning pitch.
Burns and Harinath, who made career-best scores of 121 and 109 respectively, added 217 in 69 overs for the second wicket, a Surrey record against Middlesex for that wicket and eclipsing the 184-run stand between Andy Sandham and Andy Ducat at the Oval in 1927.
The youthful pair had resumed on day three with Surrey 86 for one in their second innings and still two runs behind overall, but they saw off initial bursts from Toby Roland-Jones and Tim Murtagh, fresh from routing Surrey for just 144 in their first innings, and went past their fifties in successive overs.
Harinath, 25, and Burns, 22 later this month, then kept pace with each other as they accumulated steadily for the rest of the morning session, reaching their hundreds just three balls apart in the penultimate over before lunch.
Burns got there first, from 192 balls, and bowed to supporters and team-mates in the pavilion to mark his maiden championship hundred. Harinath, too, celebrated with clear emotion on reaching what was his maiden first-class ton from 198 deliveries.
The Surrey-born pair were finally parted in the eighth over after lunch when Harinath slashed at a ball from Steven Crook and saw Rogers, at second slip, cling on to the rebound with razor-sharp reflexes after wicketkeeper Adam Rossington spilled the catch diving to his left. His previous best in championship cricket was just 63 and, in all, Harinath faced 212 balls and hit nine fours.
Zander de Bruyn began aggressively, hitting slow left-armer Tom Smith high and straight for four and then stroking Crook to the extra-cover boundary as he helped Burns add a further 44 for the third wicket.
Burns, however, fell on 121 when Roland-Jones trapped him lbw in his first over with the second new ball. He had batted for just over five hours, facing 238 deliveries and striking 14 fours.
Roland-Jones, by some distance the pick of the Middlesex attack, then removed De Bruyn for 23 and Rory Hamilton-Brown in quick succession to leave Surrey in danger of falling away at 278 for five.
Jason Roy chipped in with 17 before being adjudged lbw to Crook, and Steven Davies scored a valuable 44 as Middlesex worked their way through the Surrey lower order.
Batty was leg-before to the accurate Roland-Jones, who finished with the superb figures of 5-39 off 24 overs, Crook pinned Kartik in front, and Jade Dernbach sliced to point for a duck immediately after Davies had perished in search of more quick runs - caught at long-on off Murtagh.