It is too early to tell whether this match will yield the victory Hampshire badly need as they battle to retain their first division status in the Specsavers County Championship but it has already produced a landmark moment for one of the county’s players.
Tom Alsop, a 20-year-old left-hander, scored his maiden first-class century as Hampshire closed on 213-3, 116 behind Surrey’s first innings 329 with two of the four days played.
Alsop looked thrilled and relieved after reaching his ton when a square cut squirmed away from backward point’s grasp for two, and well he might. As the hundred loomed and the shadows lengthened at the Kia Oval he had become increasingly nervous and might thrice have been dismissed.
It was a curious innings from the England under-19 batsman. He sped serenely to 55 off 60 balls but was then becalmed for 40 deliveries as Surrey gave him less width.
He began scoring again but was dropped in the slips off Stuart Meaker by Steven Davis on 72; dropped again at cover by Sam Curran on 92 - a much harder chance following a miscued drive at Gareth Batty; then, on the same score, almost run out by a piece of smart fielding by Dominic Sibley.
Having finally attained three figures, from 169 balls with 17 fours, he relaxed and was still there, on 117 at the close.
Alsop was given good support by Will Smith, who battled through a demanding opening spell from Tom Curran that claimed Jimmy Adams, but was then dismissed for 49, and Sean Ervine (30 not out).
While Surrey’s bowlers had to toil in the afternoon sun Hampshire’s had earlier had overcast conditions to work with. They took the final four Surrey wickets for 63 runs but with Ben Foakes, 47 overnight, quickly bowled by Ryan McClaren after adding just a single they will feel their efforts were only par for the conditions.
Dropping Tom Curran (17) twice in the slips did not help (Smith and Adams the culprits), but the main obstacle was Batty who scored a breezy 41 not out before running out of partners. Brad Wheal finished with 4-100.
This is Hampshire’s penultimate championship match and they began it still 14 points adrift of safety, a position currently held by Durham who are up against it at Headingley but have a game in hand.
Victory is thus imperative, but whatever happens in the long-term Alsop’s first century, nearly two years after his first-class debut, could prove of great benefit to him and the county.
Alsop dedicated his century to team-mate Michael Carberry, who was diagnosed earlier this summer with a cancerous tumour. “He has helped me a lot,” said Alsop.
“We’re good friends off the field as well, so to see what has gone through is tough. I’d like to say thanks to him, and tell him everyone is with him.”