Surrey 7 for 0 trail Nottinghamshire 446 (Mullaney 113, Patel 85, Wessels 81, Read 63*, Rampaul 5-93) by 439 runs
Who will win the County Championship?
Whatever Surrey expected when they asked Nottinghamshire to bat, it was surely not Arun Harinath running in from the Pavilion End six hours later.
By then, though, they had accepted that Plan A had not worked. They might also have realised – as Worcestershire, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire have found in recent seasons – that the margin for error in Division One is substantially smaller than that in Division Two. Steven Mullaney, with the first hundred of the Championship season, was quick to take advantage.
Nottinghamshire stated that they would have batted anyway, but there was nothing wrong with the decision to insert them. The pitch, understandably sluggish though it is, offered movement off the seam and there was, at times, lavish movement in the air. But the Surrey attack failed to take advantage and, in striving for wicket-taking balls when line and length might have sufficed, provided a great many scoring opportunities. There were 270 runs from boundaries (63 fours and three sixes) in the Nottinghamshire innings and, for much of the day, the run-rate hovered at nearly five-an-over.
That Surrey remain with a toehold in this game is largely due to a lack of ruthlessness from the Nottinghamshire batsmen. Both Riki Wessels and Samit Patel had dominated the bowling but will feel they squandered chances to record centuries. Wessels, attempting a late cut despite the presence of two slips, edged to the keeper and Patel clipped a leg-stump half-volley directly to the man on the fence at backward square leg. Later Brett Hutton left a booming inswinger that removed his off stump.
One unlikely beneficiary of such profligacy was Ravi Rampaul. Having not played a first-class game since March 2013, he was a somewhat surprising selection ahead of the home-grown Matt Dunn in the Surrey side. But while the thinking behind that selection – that Surrey did not want to go into the game with three inexperienced seamers – had some logic, the way Rampaul started was far from promising. Sedate of pace and broad of girth, Rampaul dropped short and over-pitched often and delivered seven no-balls along the way.
He retains those familiar skills, though. Mullaney was undone by an inswinger and the tail – and this Nottinghamshire tail is a little long for comfort – by full, straight deliveries. It was not, by any means, the most impressive five-for the County Championship will witness this season but Rampaul persevered and improved for the run. It was his first five-for since February 2013 and only his second this decade.
It was a mixed day, too, for his colleagues. Mark Footitt, on Surrey debut against his first club, gained impressive swing and at times generated decent pace from the sluggish surface. With a little fortune, he could have had dismissed Patel with his short ball – once the ball raced off the splice to third man; another time an involuntary jab saw it fly over the keeper for six – and might have seen edges from Mullaney fly to hand rather than into gaps.
The Curran brothers, meanwhile, had one of those rare but inevitable days when their inexperience showed. While both contributed a number of good balls, there were a few too many release deliveries for this level. Tom, though, dismissed both Greg Smith and Brendan Taylor with probing deliveries on off stump that drew a stroke and then nipped away to take the edge. Fine bowling by any reckoning.
But while Nottinghamshire may not completely have batted Surrey out of the game, this was a highly encouraging start for them. Despite missing Alex Hales (resting) and James Taylor (illness), to have plundered nearly 450 on an April surface represents an impressive achievement. Only once did they score more at Trent Bridge last season.
They owed much of that success to Mullaney. Pressed into service as an opening batsman a couple of seasons ago, he has developed into a first choice top-order player for the club and dealt with the early movement admirably. His technique is simple and he rarely looks hurried. It was a chanceless century.
This innings, characterised by glorious cover drives, was scored at a run-a-ball throughout with 18 coming from one early Footitt over with two edges to third man combining with two flowing drives. He eased the first delivery of the day, a long half-volley, through mid-off for four and, despite his quick scoring rate, never seemed to be chasing the game.
“I’ve worked with Peter Moores and Wayne Noon over the winter to protect the top of off stump and if it’s a bad ball natural instincts take over,” he said afterwards. “I didn’t feel like I went chasing it. I put away the bad balls.
“We’re confident that if we put the ball into good areas, we’ll put Surrey under pressure. We can’t say for sure what a good score is but we feel in a great position.
“We are a bit disappointed not to get 500, which we felt we could have done. But when you’re asked to bat on day one you’re taking 446.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo