Surrey 318 for 4 (Pope 96, Foakes 86*, Patel 76) vs Kent
Sometimes you do just have to check yourself. Yes, Kent’s suburban secondary ground at Beckenham was bathed in deceptively bright sunshine as a brisk wind swept through the ground and stayed there, forcing all but the most optimistic of onlookers to counter shorts with a thick coat or team shades with a woolly hat.
Then again, that didn’t deter the considerable throng of spectators queueing to get inside and then ignoring the wind-chill factor as they basked in the light while sitting in the stands, on the grassy banks and atop the packed balcony over the bar.
Pope could have wallowed in his post-Ashes demotion to drinks-courier for England’s subsequent Caribbean humiliation and suffered a crisis of confidence, but he has well and truly checked himself this Championship season, only twice failing to reach fifty in six innings so far.
It was therefore a bit of an anti-climax when he fell four runs shy of his second century of the season, strangled down the leg side by Darren Stevens late in the day, after those bright skies had surrendered to thick but unthreatening cloud cover. It was the first time Pope had been dismissed in the 90s in county cricket, having scored 13 first-class centuries.
Pope, back after missing last week’s innings victory over Northamptonshire due to illness, had put on 178 runs with Foakes for the fourth wicket in an assured knock that helped put Surrey back on track after brief flurry of wickets post-lunch.
Foakes remained unbeaten on 86 at the close as Kent struggled to make further inroads with the second new ball and Jamie Overton ended the day not out on 12 with Surrey looking more comfortable again at 318 for 4.
Foakes, too, has been in good touch. Since finally emerging from Jos Buttler’s shadow to earn a ticket to the Test team auditions against West Indies, where his highest score was 42 from six innings, he has scored an unbeaten century against Warwickshire followed by another half-century and two more scores in the 40s. He has struck nine fours so far this innings, including two off the one Nathan Gilchrist over late in the day.
By lunch, openers Ryan Patel and Rory Burns had put on 105 runs for Surrey, who had won the toss, with Patel ticking along to a fine rhythm in the face of some Kent bowling that fell slightly short on the bouncier Beckenham pitch.
When play resumed after the interval though, Matt Quinn and Gilchrist broke through in eye-catching fashion as the visitors lost 3 for 17 inside eight overs.
Quinn struck first when he had Patel caught by Zak Crawley at second slip, and Gilchrist followed up in the next over with the scalp of Burns, lbw for 30. Gilchrist chimed in again a short time later when he had Hashim Amla caught behind by Ollie Robinson for just 12 and all of a sudden Surrey were 123 for 3.
Pope and Foakes then set about their task with a stubborn poise, however, and by stumps had guided their side back into a position of strength as the cloud cover and persistent breeze took over and the spectators started tumbling away accordingly.
“We couldn’t have asked for much more to be honest, after winning the toss and putting a good platform in up top,” Patel said. “For Pope and Foakes to bat like they did through the middle and end sessions was fantastic. Ollie and Ben played beautifully. I’m gutted for Popey that he’s just missed out on three figures, but hopefully Foakesy can get there. The only way we can really put them under pressure is to bat big and bat long.”
By 7pm the weather was as good as it had been all day with the clearest of blue skies and the wind subsiding noticeably. Anyone left at the ground to enjoy it might have remembered the old saying about good things and waiting. Perhaps Pope and Foakes were reminded today too.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo