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    The combined centuries of Burns and Clark have given Surrey a clear advantage
The combined centuries of Burns and Clark have given Surrey a clear advantage
Rory Burns on his way to a century. Source: Getty Images for Surrey CCC

The combined centuries of Burns and Clark have given Surrey a clear advantage

In a display of contrasting styles, skipper Rory Burns and Jordan Clark led the champions Surrey to a strong position against Hampshire at the Kia Oval.

Burns' seven-hour 113 – his 25th first-class century but first since July 2022 – established a strong foundation, and Clark built on this with a run-a-ball unbeaten 106 as Surrey took a first-innings lead of 208 when they were bowled out for 359 on the stroke of tea.

Hampshire lost their openers, Ali Orr and Fletcha Middleton, in consecutive overs before the bad light and rain resulted in 20 overs being lost from the day's allocation. Hampshire will resume on 31 for 2, 177 runs behind.

Despite a relatively modest contribution with the bat of 631 runs at 27.43, Burns led Surrey to their second successive Championship last year. He had observed four teammates depart at the other end, leaving Surrey with 44 for 4 and responding to Hampshire's 151.

Having assisted in shifting the balance in Surrey's favour by contributing 75 runs with Ryan Patel, he ensured that they did not squander their advantage on day two.

The pitch had lost some of its previous effectiveness, but Hampshire's seam attack, particularly the outstanding Mohammad Abbas, continued to pose a significant challenge with their precise bowling lengths and strategic use of the short ball.

Burns found an unlikely ally in nightwatchman Kemar Roach with whom he patiently put on 66 in the morning session. The team had to overcome challenging opening spells from Kyle Abbott and Abbas. Burns would have been run out had Orr, running in from cover, hit the stumps with Burns, who was on 55, stranded well short of his ground.

Sub fielder Ian Holland was unable to hold on to the ball diving one-handed to his right at mid-off, allowing Roach to reach 12. Roach celebrated by clipping the 86th delivery he faced through mid-wicket for his only boundary.

Brad Wheal ended the stand when Roach (19) drove expansively at his outswinger. Cam Steel helped Burns take the lead past 150, upper-cutting Abbott for six over backward point to get off the mark before Abbott had him caught behind in the third over after lunch.

Abbas, who finished with 1 for 43 from 28 overs, appeared disheartened when Tom Prest dropped Clark at slip on 16. The all-rounder's contribution was pivotal, helping Burns put on 98 in 19 overs.

Burns performed exceptionally well, effectively neutralising Abbas and Abbott in particular, and was highly disciplined in his approach to loose deliveries. He then proceeded to hit the ball into the leg side for the single, which took him to his first hundred at the Oval in two years. At this point, Clark had begun to plunder a wilting attack. He achieved nine fours in a 53-ball fifty and then greeted Liam Dawson's belated arrival by launching the left-arm spinner's third ball over mid-wicket for six.

Burns' 424-minute marathon finally concluded at 113 (256 balls) when he attempted to accelerate the pace with a reverse sweep off Dawson. He was applauded as he departed, and in the next over, Abbott uprooted Gus Atkinson's middle stump. Worrall remained at the crease long enough for Clark to complete his fourth first-class hundred and third for Surrey, off 101 balls with 12 fours and a six.

Roach and Worrall then demonstrated Surrey's control by each taking a wicket with the new ball. Worrall's yorker-length ball was too good for Orr, and Middleton was caught at second slip nibbling at one from Roach that did just enough off the seam.

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