On a day that ultimately belonged to Surrey, Andy Flower was in attendance to cast an intense eye over two England fast bowlers representing both sides of the Thames.
Middlesex’s Steven Finn and Surrey’s Chris Tremlett stayed mainly in the shadows in front of the England coach. Instead it was two pretenders to the Test-match bowler’s throne – Jade Dernbach and Toby Roland-Jones – who enjoyed the spring sunshine.
Cricket does not often lend itself to footballing truisms but yesterday was very much “a game of two halves”. It first swung metronomically in Middlesex’s favour, in no small part due to Roland-Jones’ contribution, but by the close of play the local bragging rights all belonged to Surrey as did a substantial first-innings lead.
The home side have bowling riches, enough to induce pride but not yet cause embarrassment, but are particularly proud of 25-year-old Roland-Jones. In taking the crucial wicket of the overnight batsman Zander de Bruyn, he proved why.
Coming in off a run-up so distant he could have taken a slurp from a member’s Pimm’s, he unleashed a delivery of such ferocity that De Bruyn could only glove through to wicketkeeper John Simpson.
That left Surrey 311 for 6 and exposed a tail that has been wobbling, not wagging, recently. Middlesex carried out the docking operation with calm veterinarian precision to take the last four wickets for 27. After Surrey resumed on 267 for 4, a first-innings total of 338 meant advantage Middlesex. Especially with Chris Rogers, Australia’s great Ashes hope, to open.
The pendulum remained in Middlesex’s favour as Rogers glided to 21 from 36 balls, but with his 37th ball began its inexorable swing in the other direction. The Australian played-on to an innocuous wide ball from De Bruyn and, uncharacteristically for Middlesex, the rot set in.
Dernbach snared the wicket his bowling deserved, the umpire providing assistance when he gave Joe Denly lbw for 21. The Surrey man’s next two wickets owed nothing to fortune.
First he had Neil Dexter fending on the back foot to be well caught by Vikram Solanki for 16. The very next ball Paul Stirling was sent on his way with a debut duck and there was no doubt about the umpire’s decision this time.
Gareth Batty and then Tremlett joined the party to leave Middlesex suffering at the wrong end of the pendulum.