IF YORKSHIRE go on to win this match by five runs or fewer, Surrey will be kicking themselves all the way back from Scarborough to South London.
For the home side were awarded five penalty runs before lunch on day two, boosting their first innings score after its conclusion from 337 to 342, following two Level One disciplinary offences in quick succession.
First there was an incident in the field towards the end of the Yorkshire innings, believed to have involved the former England pace bowler Jade Dernbach, before ex-England opener Mark Stoneman reacted angrily on being dismissed at the start of Surrey’s reply.
The England and Wales Cricket Board will determine what, if any, action should follow, but it was a curious turn of events at a ground that, historically, does curious turns of events better than most.
It was a peculiar sort of day all round, not least because the North Marine Road venue was intermittently submerged by sea fret.
The mist, which put one in mind of the John Carpenter thriller The Fog, led to play being suspended nine times for a total of 25 minutes in the final session before the light eventually got so poor that the final 14.5 overs could not be delivered.
At other times, the day was sunny and warm, with a crowd of 3,909 watching unfold an intriguing contest that might yet rival Carpenter’s masterpiece for gripping storyline. For, in reply to Yorkshire’s 342, Surrey reached 219-7, the visitors finding themselves under the pump as they attempt to stretch their lead at the top of the table.
The sea fret was at its thickest in the hour or two leading up to play, which saw Yorkshire resume on 299-8.
Four leg-byes off the pads of Jack Brooks raised the 300 from the fourth delivery of the morning and gave Yorkshire a third batting point, Brooks then proving himself one of the best tailenders in the business by twice lofting Dernbach for four over cover towards the pin-striped deckchairs in front of the marquee.
Dernbach seemed to lose his cool around this point, repeatedly banging the ball in short as though the stumps were on stilts as opposed to in the ground.
Morne Morkel also seemed to think that the best way to remove the tail was to blast it out, but Surrey’s short ball tactics were given short shrift by Brooks and Steve Patterson, who soon turned their overnight stand into a 50 partnership raised inside seven overs.
The eighth-wicket pair had added 61 when Brooks eventually skied Dernbach to cover, Rory Burns sprinting round from mid-off to take a good catch.
The innings ended two balls later when Dernbach bowled Patterson to finish with his side’s best figures of 4-104, Yorkshire more than doubling their score after they had slipped to 166-6 on the first day.
When Surrey replied, Stoneman was given out caught behind off Ben Coad and took it about as well as someone who had wandered into their local newsagent to discover that they had just sold out of The Yorkshire Post.
Accoutrements appeared to be thrown in anger as Stoneman reached the pavilion, his frustration perhaps explained by the fact that he has yet to reach 30 in 11 first-class innings this season.
There followed a flurry of boundaries as Burns, in particular, and Scott Borthwick tore into the bowling, Surrey racing to 65-1 in 10 overs with 13 boundaries.
But Borthwick gave it away when he top-edged a pull from Tim Bresnan high into the sky, wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall taking the catch to leave the visitors 71-2.
Burns went to a 46-ball half-century shortly before lunch, but Coad got him after the interval, caught behind by the reliable Tattersall.
Bresnan struck again to have Ryan Patel caught at first slip by Harry Brook, and the visitors tumbled to 172-5 when Patterson had Theunis de Bruyn caught behind for 38.
Amid the stoppages for sea fret, which led to regular cries of “Gerron wi’ it” from the more impatient and ignorant sections of the crowd, Patterson claimed his second wicket when he trapped Will Jacks lbw not long after tea.
A word, in fact, for umpires Peter Hartley and Paul Pollard, who instead of resorting to the easy option of taking the players off whenever the fret came in did their utmost to keep the match going.
So much so that as they stood with the players waiting for the fret to blow across it put one in mind of children playing cricket on the street and waiting for cars or passengers to go by before resuming their game.
Bresnan certainly had no problem seeing the ball when he snaffled a sharp return catch to dismiss Rikki Clarke, Surrey slipping to 197-7.
There was time for Morkel to swat Patterson for six over mid-wicket, but it was Yorkshire who ended firmly on top.